Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Keep Interruptions at Bay

Despite sophisticated spam filters in place, the typical executive still receives 90 to 120 emails per day based on a variety of studies conducted in 2011. Most of those communiques –– 75% or more –– are considered spam or non-essential. Thus, within the course of a 10 hour time frame, from 8 a.m. in 6 p.m., professionals encounter seven to eight messages per hour that they need not have been exposed to at all.

Even if it only takes a few seconds to identify the irrelevancy of the message and delete it, the constant assault on one’s cognitive capacities takes its toll. Now add in the extraneous phone calls, voice messages, text messages, and other non-essential communiques, and you have the prescription for a working environment in which one is never free from the next message and the next message, and the next.

Such distractions can be mildly annoying, but for most career professionals, they do not represent major impediments to productivity. After all, we’ve learned along the way the importance of quickly deleting messages and ignoring distractions that lie outside of our interest area. When a distraction actually pulls us off of the task at hand, perhaps for an extended delay, then it rises to the level of interruption.

The Workplace Dilemma of Our Time

Interruptions are the bugaboo of career processionals everywhere who want to achieve and sustain high productivity. A study by the Basex company shows that interruptions account for 28% of the typical career professional’s workday. Worse, on average, employees typically get only 11 minutes to focus on any task before encountering another interruption.

Astoundingly, another 25 minutes, on average, are then consumed before returning to the original task or project, if it happens at all on that day. Other studies show that interruptions typically occur between every three and eight minutes and, that once a worker is interrupted, there is almost a 25% chance that he or she won’t resume the original task until the following day.

As interruptions themselves are normally not long in duration, they don’t represent the underlying productivity problem that workers face. It is what else the interruption can lead to that is the problem: the time off of the chosen path, the meandering, and in some cases the struggle to return to where one was. Thus, it behooves each of us to “condition” our work environment so as to minimize the potential for disruption and avoid the predictable chain of events that follow.

Safeguard Your Environment

Here are ways to safeguard your environment for selected stretches of time throughout the day or week to ensure that you have an opportunity to give your undivided attention to the project before you:
  • Surround yourself with everything you need to engage fully in the change process, which might involve assembling resources, people, and space as well as ensuring that you have a quiet environment free from distractions.

  • Give yourself the hours or days you need to read, study, and absorb what is occurring and to make decisions about how you’ll apply new ways of doing things and new technologies to your career, business, or organization.

  • Go “cold turkey,” which is not recommended for most people! Suspend whatever else you’re doing and engage in whatever it takes to incorporate a new way of doing things. This is enhanced by ensuring that you’ll have no disturbances, by bringing in outside experts, and assembling any other resources you need to succeed.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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