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Staying On Track in a Distracting Workplace


If you work in an office setting, it can sometimes be a minefield of would-be distractions, both personal and digital. From email, voicemail messages and drop-ins from your boss or co-workers, it can be a tremendous challenge to stay focused on a project when there is so much competition for your attention.


How bad can it get? A University of California, Irvine, researcher found a typical office worker only gets to work uninterrupted for 11 minutes! And it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task at hand.

Christopher Lloyd

Christopher Lloyd


How we work today

Part of the issue is the everyday nature of the modern workplace. But much of it is also how we’ve trained ourselves to always be available to our clients and colleagues. Not answering a text or email immediately can be viewed as detrimental to a professional relationship.


Couple that with the increasing popularity of open-office plans without dividers and an emphasis on collaborative give-and-take, and many feel afraid to say, “No, I’m busy right now.”


Delays=Lower quality

But don’t people eventually adjust to the hectic new workflow? In one experiment, a journalist and a scientist conducted a study in which people were asked to read a short passage and answer questions about it, while being interrupted a certain number of times.


They found those expecting an interruption that never came initially did poorer than those who were never distracted, but made up the gap on subsequent efforts. So it is possible to “train” yourself for distractions. Though being left completely alone is still the best option.


Coping with distraction

There are some suggestions out there for handling distractions. Not all are possible for every situation, but you can mix and match to find the best system for you:


  • Andrew Marsh, CEO of Fifth Column Games, actually gave employees a literal “cone of silence” they could place on their desks to let colleagues know they were in an “uninterruptable” period.
  • Take frequent breaks. Human bodies are said to have a 90-minute energy cycle. So this operates as a handy guide for how long people can work straight before needing to recharge.
  • Know your own energy rhythms. Some people are at their creative best first thing in the morning. Others don’t really get humming until after lunchtime. Learn when you’re at your best, and try to set that time aside for your most intense tasks.
  • Not every email really needs an immediate response. And when you do write back, keep your replies short and sweet.
  • Have a go-to phrase to let people know now is not the right time. It can be as simple as, “I can’t talk now, can you send me a meeting request?”


Being able to cope with and reduce distractions in order to focus on the task at hand has become a necessity.


Another great solution is to delegate some of your communications needs to an agency. Coles Marketing certainly has the experienced team to help!


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Categories: 2014 May Newsletter, Newsletters | Tags: Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,