Skill #1 – Distraction Management

Skill #1 – Distraction Management

Thomas Frey in his latest blog ( ) states that distraction management is one the 12 personal skills you will need in the future to be successful.  Really?  How did something like distraction management get to be such a big issue?

What has technology done to us?


In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone.  This was the first “smart” phone capable of carrying applications other than just phone calls and voice mail.  At the time, it didn’t seem like such a big deal.  Now it seems to have grown into a many-headed, uncontrollable monster.

Smartphones now deliver text messages, email, twitter feeds, Instagram messages, video streams, and instant news updates.  Phone calls and voice mail now are a minor part of the service.


Why is this a bad thing?


Turns out we are paying more attention to our smartphones and other electronic devices than is good for us.  Frey, in his blog post says, “The average smartphone user checks their phone over 220 times a day.” In addition, “The average Millennial exchanges 67 texts a day. It takes 90 minutes to respond to email, most will respond to a text in less than 90 seconds.”

Here’s another quote from Frey, “An average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes a day perusing these networks.”

What this all adds up to is a state of constant interruption throughout our day.   And…when we are constantly interrupted, our productivity declines. Drastically!


But, I’m a Great Multitasker


Well…maybe not.  It turns out multitasking is actually bad for you.  I wrote a blog on this some time back (  ).  In it, I cited studies showing multitasking decreases your productivity by around 40%.  This means it takes much longer for you to complete each individual task.

Further, studies show multitasking increases stress and increases the chances you will make a mistake.  Added to that, it turns out once you’re interrupted it will take about 25 minutes to return to your original task.   Talk about ways to waste your day.


So, How Can I Fix This?


Slow down.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive.  But, if you slow down and concentrate on one task at time, you will actually complete the task faster with fewer mistakes.  Doing this will also increase your productivity because you will complete more tasks in a day,

Couple this with planning your day to control distractions.  Here’s a good list to start with:

  1. Turn off your cell phone. Or, at least, put it on “do not disturb” and stick it in a drawer.  Most calls don’t have to be answered right away.  Set aside time to return calls twice a day.  The same goes for text messages.
  2. Only read emails once or twice a day.  Set aside time to read and respond.
  3. Shut down your internet browser.  Again, pick times to review social media and news sources.
  4. If you are in an environment where there are other people around, find some soothing instrumental music to listen to with earbuds.  Baroque classical or a program that promotes relaxing alpha waves is best.  This shuts out background noise.  Also, if others see you listening to something, it discourages them from interrupting you.


In Conclusion


These time-consuming distractions will only get worse in the coming months and years.  If you want to increase your productivity and decrease your stress levels, you have to start now to take control of your day and your workflow.


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