Overcoming distraction is your key to improved cognitive functioning, efficiency, and performance.
Distraction is one of the biggest issues related to work efficiency, productivity, and mood.
It is estimated that the average smartphone user receives up to 46 notifications to their phone per day. That means 46 opportunities for distraction from what you need to do.
When we are distracted, this interferes with our attention, memory, and decision-making ability.
This often leads us to work longer and less inefficiently, which may interfere with things like sleep, personal relationships, and overall confidence.
Learning to decrease distraction in the workplace is one of the best ways to boost efficiency, productivity, and accomplish your goals. We do this by:
1) Understanding the basics of attention
2) Identifying reasons for distraction
3) Implementing strategies to reduce distraction
Overcoming Distraction: Understand Attention and Distraction
In order for us to be productive, efficient, and successful in the workplace, we need to strengthen our attentional abilities.
Attention is the process of giving our thoughts, energy, and time to what is happening in front of us. This allows us to bring information to the brain to help us decide how to act next.
For us to be attentive, we need to be present with what we are doing.
When we are not able to fully focus on the task in front of us because of distraction, our ability to perform that task suffers due to poorer memory retention, slower reaction times, and a higher number of errors.
Additionally, every time we have to refocus our attention to the task at hand, valuable cognitive resources are being used. This is especially true for more challenging tasks that require a high level of attention.
Each distraction comes with the cost of diminished time, cognitive resources, and energy. Each distraction, and an accumulation of distractions, decrease your performance and efficiency.
So, learning to overcome distractions in the workplace is one of the best ways to increase performance, work efficiency, and confidence.
4 Reasons for Difficulty Overcoming Distractions
While there are many reasons that we are distracted in our day, there are four main culprits that cause frequent and disruptive distraction that take away from our ability to perform in the way that we would like:
Multitasking is frequently discussed as a helpful skill in the workplace. However, multitasking requires a high level of cognitive shifting and flexibility.
As mentioned above, every time we must cognitively shift and refocus our attention, this is utilizing valuable cognitive resources that we need for high focus, memory, and decision making.
Multitasking activities that do not require a high level of cognitive attention and focus, such as cooking and cleaning at the same time for example, may be useful.
However, multitasking between tasks and activities that require a higher level of cognitive functioning, such as working on a project, reviewing literature, or tasks that require problem-solving and decision-making, can have the opposite effect of decreased attention, higher distractibility, and less efficient use of the workday.
Technology offers many great benefits, but one of the downsides is the constant barrage of distractions that comes with it.
Constantly getting alerts about new emails, notifications from various apps on your phone, text messages, and other external distractions is one of the greatest sources of distraction.
Every time you receive a notification, your attention is being diverted away from the task that you are doing.
If you’re getting notifications throughout the day, imagine how many minutes or hours your attention is distracted, and how much time you are having to spend to refocus it.
And this is time that is being taken away from high focus and productivity.
One of the less talked about sources of distraction is high stress and anxiety. When the stress response is activated in the body, a series of physiological changes occur due to activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
The more this response is activated, the more distracted, unfocused, and unproductive we are. We are also less likely to have the cognitive capacity for high cognitive functioning and performance.
Additionally, high stress causes the mind to be active with unhelpful and negative thoughts, further distracting us from what we are doing.
Another reason for distraction and difficulty with focus is poor sleep. Quality sleep improves attention, consolidation of memories, and focus.
When we sacrifice sleep or are unable to sleep due to high stress or other reasons, focus will always be negatively impacted. A common reason for distractibility in the workplace is low energy, irritability, and poor focus due to poor sleep.
How to Overcome Distraction for Better Productivity and Efficiency
The good news is, there are many ways to improve focus and reduce distraction for better productivity and efficiency. Focus on the following four areas:
Focus On One Task at a Time
Focus on one task at a time during a selected time period. Avoid checking your email or working on other tasks at this time.
Focusing on one thing at a time is a great way to train your attention and see results.
A helpful strategy to do this is time blocking. Time blocking allows you to set aside a specific amount of time that you will engage in an activity to help you stay focused and productive.
The time you set may depend on the task, but generally 45 minutes is a good block of time for focus on one task or activity.
Reduce and Silence External Notifications
It is highly recommended to mute all notifications from the various apps that you have on your phone. Unless they are critical for you, silence all notifications that are not absolutely necessary.
If you do not feel comfortable doing this, utilize the do not disturb or other functions on your phone that prevent you from getting notifications during a specific time. This will allow you to check notifications once you have finished what you need to do.
Prevent and Manage High Stress
One of the best ways to improve attention, memory, and efficiency is to manage high stress getting in your way. Identify the clues that you are getting stressed and personal triggers to high stress.
Then, implement a variety of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological strategies to help you prevent and manage high stress, so it is not getting in your way.
Improve Your Sleep Quality
If you want to focus at your optimal performance level, it is crucial to improve your sleep quality. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep per night.
Identify factors that are interfering with your sleep so you can address them and sleep better for improved focus and attention.
Distractibility in the workplace is one of the biggest culprits of poor efficiency, performance, and confidence.
Address the factors discussed today that are getting in the way of your attention and follow the tips to make changes so you can stay focused, attentive, and accomplish all your goals.
Sick of poor focus, low efficiency, and self-doubt getting in your way? My Master Stress Method can help you address the lifestyle factors in your way of functioning at your optimal potential.
Book a discovery call so we can talk about how to step into your most confident and efficient self, asap.
-----About Dr. Julia
Hi! I'm Dr. Julia. Health psychologist, stress and sleep expert, and creator of the Master Stress Method.
I have worked with thousands of individuals in major hospitals, university medical centers, and primary care settings to improve their stress levels, sleep, and overall emotional and physical well being.
My current focus is helping busy professionals prevent and manage the high stress that is getting in the way of their productivity, mood, sleep, and their ability to reach their full potential.
My 8-week, 1:1 coaching program has helped hundreds of stressed out, overwhelmed, and burned out clients significantly reduce their stress and anxiety, improve their sleep, and maximize their productivity, in just 8 short weeks.
I can't wait to help you stop the struggle with stress, for good. Let's chat :)