Why, distracted from work for 2 minutes, we spend all 25
Why, distracted from work for 2 minutes, we spend all 25

Remember how many times you get distracted during your workday? Now multiply this figure by 25. You lose so many useful minutes a day.

Why, distracted from work for 2 minutes, we spend all 25
Why, distracted from work for 2 minutes, we spend all 25

According to research by Professor Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, a person spends 25 minutes, or more precisely, 23 minutes 15 seconds, to focus on the task he was doing before the break. This means that every time, being distracted by something, you waste time on it, plus another 23 minutes and 15 seconds. Let's say you wanted to read Twitter for two minutes, but in the end you lost almost half an hour of productive work time.

It is not only your performance that suffers, but also your emotional state. Prof Mark argues that constant distraction lowers productivity, leads to stress and bad moods.

How We Are Distracted and Why It Is Harmful

To conduct the research, Professor Gloria Mark assigned observers to unsuspecting employees of several technical and financial companies for three and a half days. They meticulously recorded the duration of any employee activity to the nearest second. And it turned out that people switch from one task to another every 3 minutes 5 seconds.

In addition, the researchers noticed that in half of the cases, employees interrupted themselves by looking at Facebook, for example. Cases where an employee was distracted to discuss a work issue with a colleague were not counted.

It's like we are playing tennis, using the brain as a ball and tossing it back and forth. But unlike a tennis ball, the brain takes a little longer to return to its original position.

By being distracted, we are redirecting all our resources in the other direction. It takes some time to delve into what you are distracted by. Then it takes the same amount of time to get involved in solving the problem again.

And the problem is not only in time costs, but also in the fact that in such a situation we cannot deeply immerse ourselves in work. If a person jumps from task to task every 10 minutes, how can they focus on it? He simply does not have time to reach the state of flow.

Don't think you're an exception

Let me guess, you are just now thinking: “Well, someone cannot jump from task to task, but I do a great job with it. I can multitask while staying focused. Don't be fooled.

One of the most influential management theorists of the 20th century, Peter Drucker, warned of this in his 1967 book The Effective Leader.


Peter Drucker scientist, economist, publicist

Mozart could work on several compositions at the same time, and each of them turned out to be a masterpiece. Yes, Mozart was an exception to the rule. But other great composers - Bach, Handel, Haydn, Verdi - took on only one job. And either they finished it, or put it in a drawer for a while, and only then they took up a new one. It is impossible to imagine that every leader was a Mozart.

Let's take it as an axiom that we are not Mozarts. So how do we focus on the task at hand and not get distracted?

Learning to focus

You need continuous blocks of time to immerse yourself in a task. Only work on one thing. Even brilliant professionals need to focus to get the job done perfectly.

By now, you’ll say for sure that distraction from work can be planned. For example: "I will focus on work and only check my mail at three in the afternoon." But the point is, by truly immersing yourself in your work, you can completely forget about checking your mail. And once you've made a plan, you can easily fall into the trap of checking your email all day instead of working. And this is a problem for many.

For example, the same thing happened at Intel. The employees did not have time when they could dive deeply into the solution of the problem and give it all their strength. Then the company's managers legally set aside four hours a week for reflection. During these "thinking hours", employees should not respond to emails or be distracted by anything that can wait. This idea was a great success, employees began to keep up with what they had been postponing for a long time. For example, one of them has prepared a patent application.

Now you know the true cost of distractions and understand that working hours should be planned so that interruptions are minimal. Let your colleagues know about your hours of continuous work and do not bother you at this time, but better - learn from your experience.

And don't worry that you are not Mozart. Maybe you are the next Bach.