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Staying Focused

If you’re like me, you have a difficult time with focusing and staying focused at work. There are so many distractions with our desk and cell phones ringing, emails popping up, coworkers stopping into our offices, meetings to attend and the maddening water cooler conversations that can penetrate a concrete bunker.

That devious internet keeps calling us to surf in an ocean of wasted time then lunchtime arrives and a new wave of distractions soon follows. It can make you feel like the day was squandered with little accomplished.

How often do you hear someone proclaim that they are great at multitasking? Not very often. Our brains process sequentially and research clearly shows that distractions reduce productivity and dramatically increase mistakes. When it comes to paying attention, our brains cannot multitask well, if at all.

To reinforce this point, it’s been drilled into our heads how distracted driving can have disastrous consequences. One study showed that simply reaching for an object while driving a car increases the risk of a crash by nine times. We know too well that talking on cell phones or texting can be deadly while driving.

More than 50 percent of the visual cues spotted by attentive drivers are missed by cell-phone talkers. Not surprisingly, they get in more wrecks than drunk drivers. So why wouldn’t these same principles of distractions apply to our productivity in the workplace? THEY DO!!!

Numerous steps must occur in your brain every time you move from one task to another. Its time consuming and it’s sequential and that’s why our brains can’t really multitask. Our brains can handle multiple jobs when it comes to walking and chewing gum, or breathing while keeping our hearts beating, but not when it comes to paying attention.

Find a single college student who can listen and sing along to the lyrics of their favorite song while concentrating on their studies for the exam in accounting theory and research. They might tell you they can do it, but research shows otherwise. It’s not happening and at best, the music is a mask to all the other distractions around them. 

People who believe they are good at multitasking likely have good working memories. They remember the previous task quicker instead of struggling as most of us do with “now where was I?” Or the tasks they are working on are fairly simple and don’t require complex brain function.

Why is this important? Research shows that a person interrupted takes twice as long to complete a task and can make up to 50% more mistakes. How that for lost productivity?

For me, I need to do a brain download and create a “to do” list to stay focused. Otherwise, fifty tasks will be swimming around in my head all day and distract me from accomplishing a single thing. Can you say A.D.D.?

To be productive we all need to find a way to keep the blinders on and eliminate distractions. Close your office door, shut off your cell phone, close your email and internet, work from home or work in the office when nobody is around. Then you can give your full attention to one thing at a time while reducing mistakes and accomplishing your goals. 

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations.  If you promise not to distract him, you can reach him at mike@pbirestores.com