Every single one of us is familiar with this scenario:
You’re zoned in, focused on important work — and then you get a text. And then an email. Then a coworker pops into your office to ask you a quick question. And before you know it, you’ve been pulled away from your work 10 to 15 times over the span of an hour, ultimately lengthening the time required to complete the task you were focusing on in the first place.
In the real world and the workplace, this is an issue that’s becoming increasingly apparent, thanks to the proliferation of social media, texting, email, messenger apps and more. In many ways, these tools make it easier for us to communicate and can be a huge asset to a team. But there is a downside, in that the ability to do “deep work” free of distractions is much more difficult.
According to author Cal Newport, deep work is “the activity of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It describes, in other words, when you’re really locked into doing something hard with your mind.”
Deep work is vital for many professions, including those in the fitness industry — e.g., when you’re putting together a personal training plan for a client or developing a marketing campaign for your business. In fact, according to a study by the University of California Irvine, it takes, on average, 23 minutes and 15 seconds to re-focus after being interrupted.
In order for good, efficient work to be accomplished, it’s vital for employers to begin tackling the challenge of employees staying focused in a highly distracting world. Here are a few things you can do to help set the tone:
Block out time for deep work. Just like we encourage members to schedule times for their workouts, encourage your employees to schedule out time for deep work free from distractions. Have them schedule one to three hours (depending on the work required to be done) where their email, messenger apps and social media are completely shut down — and let other teammates know they aren’t to be interrupted during this time except for emergencies.
Encourage employees to set “snoozes” on their emails so that they only come in at certain times, such as every hour. This way, employees won’t be tempted to answer/deal with every email as it comes through minute by minute, allowing them to focus on the task at hand.
Lastly, have conversations with your staff about distractions and the importance of focusing — what are they struggling with? You may be surprised to hear what’s drawing their attention or causing stress. Unless you know about a problem, you won’t be able to help solve it.
How are you dealing with the challenge of employees staying focused in an ever-distracting world? Share in the comments.