How Constant, Tiny Distractions Destroy Your Creativity

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BSG operates in a very strategic, high profile, trendy, prestigious location at the very heart and soul of Long Beach, California; the corner of Ocean Boulevard at the foot of Long Beach Boulevard. If I could open the windows the sea breeze would waft through the place invitingly. I have views of blue skies, the giant Port of Long Beach, the downtown high-rises, and the convention center. It is always a hub of activity.

The only downside is that I am strategically located within the office so that everyone and everything that passes through or by, to go anywhere or do anything, passes by me. Yes, as the communications person here, I am used to all sorts of things interrupting and impacting the day. I multi-task as a rule and that helps with all the motion about this place. However, others may find distractions to be…well, distracting. Little gets accomplished in a day.

Here’s the facts: A University of California, Irvine study revealed that employees working in open-plan offices (cubicles or around big tables) were interrupted 63% of their time at work on average (63%!!) Employees with offices were interrupted 49% of the time. That is still way too much! After each interruption, it took a full 25 minutes for each cubicle employees and 26 minutes for the office employees to get back on track, mainly because the interruption required an additional notation or task or some such thing that kept the worker untracked.

However, (and here is the real point) typically, employees turned to 2.26 OTHER tasks before getting back to the original task from which they had been interrupted. Which means, if each interruption costs you that much time to get back to the original task, it doesn’t take many to eat up your entire working day. Stop and just think about that a moment. The productivity simply stops.

And guess what? Another study indicates that technology isn’t always the villain. The Wall Street Journal reports that face-to-face interruptions account for a third more intrusions than email, voice mail, or phone calls. Yes, while we can control our phone and email interruptions, it’s much more difficult – especially when it’s a supervisor – to ignore face-to-face interruptions, because employees don’t want to appear rude. I have worked with people who put post it notes on doors and cubical edges in bold print — “Stop! Don’t Talk to Me or You Will Die!” and other subtle message.

But more than simply numbers, research done by Bing Lin, at Portland State University indicates that constant interruptions and distractions cause increased exhaustion, physical strain, and anxiety.

The bottom line? In a digital world, distractions and interruptions are here to stay. If you’re not intentional about finding focus, and shaping your work environment to help you minimize these interruptions, your work will suffer, and according to research by Bing Lin at Portland State. Newsflash – your whole life will suffer as well.

In my opinion, being a creative person, I think this is particularly true of creative work. When it comes to imagination, a deep dive is required. Sure you can have spur of the moment “eureka!” ideas, but for breakthrough creative work, sustained focus is the key. So start being intentional about protecting your creative time from the distractions that surround us everyday.

Think about it: What are the distractions you face daily at the office, and how can you adjust your work environment to find better focus?

Now, excuse me. I have to get back to work…

to your success…


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