How Distractions Ruin The Most Important Thing You Can Be Doing At Work

We live in the most distracting time in history. When else did people have access to so much information with so little effort?

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It’s a phenomenon that can be both beautiful and terrible. You can easily stumble upon a new favorite song or a link to a book that changes your life. You can take personalised Portuguese lessons with a native speaker without leaving your house. Or . . .

Cats. So many cats. One click on a Facebook link can send you down the rabbit hole of lost time and missed productivity. Who knows how many hours and pounds you’re costing yourself in the long run.

Even worse, we’re most susceptible to these kinds of distractions at work, where our attention and energy are at their most vulnerable.

Distraction is taking away your time, and it’s taking away your money. But worse than that, it’s taking away the most valuable, important thing you can be doing at work: It’s taking away your flow.

Gloria Mark, at the University of California, Irvine, has done some of the most in-depth studies on digital distraction and how it impacts workday productivity.

We’ve written before about how Mark’s research shows it takes an average of about 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.

That’s a lot of lost time.

It gets even worse.

“I argue that when people are switching contexts every 10 and a half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply,” Mark has said. “There’s no way people can achieve flow.”

What is a flow state, and why does it make us the best we can be?

Steven Kotler, director of research for the Flow Genome Project defines a flow state as an

“optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”