We tend to blame others when we can't concentrate on a project, and there's some validity in that. After all, the average business person is interrupted about every three minutes. Interruptions commonly stem from the telephone, email, or a colleague. These are easy to pinpoint, but there is another one to add to that list. We interrupt ourselves frequently.
Why do we interrupt ourselves? Some reasons are:
- We're bored with the project.
- We're procrastinating on starting a difficult task.
- It's our habit.
Each interruption, whether from external or internal sources, consumes not just the time expended on the interruption itself, but then it can take 20 minutes or more to regain focus. Eventually you may give up even trying to concentrate during the day and just wait for the next distraction, knowing it will come along soon.
Two big problems begin to develop:
- While you may feel very busy in the office, what suffers most is actual efficiency in the workplace. Putting out fires all day while neglecting to work on the big projects that make a difference in the growth of a company or the bottom line ends up yielding minimally productive results.
- You become so inured to being pulled in multiple directions that you may lose your ability to be present in the moment. Even when your attention is not overtly sidetracked, your mind continues to jump. You are already moving onto the next task without stopping to enjoy or examine the current situation.
How can you begin to make changes? Start by setting aside a block of time each day and choose one project on which to concentrate. Even it it's just for thirty minutes at the onset, let the telephone drop to voice mail and turn off email alerts. Close your office door, or put a note up on your cubicle asking not to be disturbed for x# of minutes unless there is a real emergency.
It may seem strange at first, and you will find your mind wandering or your hand edging toward the email inbox. Fight the urge. You have set a specific time, and as soon as that is over, you can go back to your normal routines for the day. Once you have developed this habit, add 15 more minutes at a time, until you can work up to an hour and a half per day uninterrupted.
Your daily productivity at work will soar, and you will also find yourself more in the moment when dealing with family and social events