What Interrupting Really Does

You know how it can take a while to ‘find your flow’ or ‘get into it’ when at work?

That’s our brain slowly getting into a focused enough state that allows us to fully concentrate on a task without feeling distracted.  Once we’re in the Zone, time flies and we GET STUFF DONE.  We’ve all been there, and its GREAT!

Until the phone rings, or your email notification pops up, or your mum calls in unexpectedly, or your chat messenger starts pinging away in the background.

Interruption kills our Flow.  Did you know that a task that’s interrupted takes 50% longer and has 50% more mistakes than an uninterrupted one?

When you interrupt someone, on average it takes them 23 minutes to get back into their flow and working productively.  And quite often, interrupting someone will throw them off course altogether (“Hey, lets go for coffee/lunch/beers”) so much so that they don’t go back to what they were originally doing.

Has anyone ever ducked their head in and briefly interrupted you and it’s resulted in you concluding that since you’ve paused working, you might as well go to the bathroom, check email, have lunch, run that errand, etc?

How many times has a quick question turned into a Friday Lunch? A seemingly minor interruption can derail your focus so much that it takes hours to get back to the original task, if you even get back to it that day – procrastination is a nasty beast to beat!

So, the next time you think about interrupting someone who’s fully focused and productively working away, stop and have a think about whether your question or comment may upset their flow and set them back on their To Do List today.  Even a brief interruption of a task results in additional time required to get BACK to that task.

Shoot them an email instead, if you want to catch up for a chat about something, send them a calendar invite with details of what you want to discuss.

Productive people know the importance of working in uninterrupted blocks of time with good focus and concentration. They take measures to guard against interruption, such as wearing headphones to discourage conversation (and likely listening to productivity music), closing their doors, working in different locations, turning off phones and notification services.

Being social is fine. But if someone is actively working, let them keep working. You can talk to them when they’re done during a tea break or over lunch.