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The Results Curve: How to Manage Focused and Collaborative Time

Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

Brain, Interrupted by Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson (New York Times, 5/3/13); summary + commentary by Melissa Sweat, Online Community Manager

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 @ 12:02 PM

Heard about our summary+commentary (s+c*d) format? Learn more!

Summary

describe the image“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work.” –C.S. Lewis. Today, we live in an era of constant distraction: a fast-paced digital age of multi-screens, electronic alerts, instant messages, and alarms, social media, and near-infinite web search & surf possibilities. At work the temptation toward distraction is a very persistent reality; and it’s making us not only less productive but less smart, too.

In a Carnegie Mellon experiment cited in the article (“Brain, Interrupted,” NYT), it turns out that an interruption made test takers “20 percent dumber” than the control group. In the second part of the experiment, a portion of the test takers were interrupted again, and yet improved to 14 percent (still lower though than the control group). Meanwhile, the other portion of test takers, who were told they’d be interrupted and were not, improved by 43 percent—even outperforming the control group.

Commentary

The authors conclude this last group may have focused to “steel themselves” against the interruption that never came, or that an awareness of imminent interruptions better prepared them. People-OnTheGo helps professionals develop this exact power of “micro-level focus,” and offers many strategies and webinars to this end. Here are 3 tips to help get you focused right now:

  1. Create a distraction-free work environment.

  2. Use a Micro-Plan™ and timer.

  3. Quickly “capture” any distracting thoughts in a paper journal so you can remain focused on the task at hand.

Discussion

How do you handle distractions at work? What strategies and techniques are you currently using? What are your greatest interruption challenges? Do you feel you’d be more productive if you learned to better manage interruptions?

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Topics: summary-plus-commentary, time management tips, interruptions, productivity, webinars, information overload