For meeting planners, being interrupted by competing priorities is a way of life. But did you know it takes, on average, 23 minutes to refocus your mental effort and energy on a task after being interrupted? (According to a study by the University of California.)
Consider this: If you spend a total of five minutes, five times per day responding to text messages and reading social media, you’ve spent (or wasted) 25 minutes of work time. But when you consider that it takes our brains 23 minutes to refocus on the task at hand for each interruption, you realize those five simple tasks actually cost you almost 2.5 hours in lost concentration and productivity. How do I know this? Because I have been guilty of this, too.
You see, a distraction costs more time than just the activity. It costs us mental space and time to refocus afterward.
A study performed by info-tech researcher Basex found distractions cost U.S. companies $588 billion per year in lost productivity. Imagine how much of that money could have been saved if employees were able to avoid interruptions.
Crazier still, a digital distraction researcher at the University of California, Irvine, found approximately 50 percent of distractions were self-induced! Our curiosity to know what is going on in the world via digital media, texts and emails, not to mention constantly trying to stay on top of attendees’ comments on social media, is killing our productivity.
Attention is key, so protecting your concentration is vital. A few steps toward mindfulness can help you save time and boost productivity:
1. Count your interruptions. For one day, keep a running list of distraction types and the number of times they occur (you will be shocked!). Start proactively finding solutions to stop the self-induced time killers.
2. Master your schedule. Choose brief, 15-minute increments within your calendar that permit you to take a break, respond to others, and allow your mind the downtime it deserves (and craves, especially when you are onsite for an event).
3. Utilize technology to save you from technology. Use apps on smartphones to silence distractions. Better yet, turn them off or use the Do Not Disturb feature until a time you’ve chosen to take a scheduled recovery break. I love the Freedom App.
4. Prohibit devices. Create a no-phone policy for some meetings and important conversations.
5. Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. Implement tools that manage your time spent online, such as the Freedom App.
6. Do Not Disturb. Allow your team members to create Do Not Disturb work times on their calendars in order to truly unplug from email, visitors, and disruptions.
7. Go public. Get accountability. We have conditioned ourselves to be available to others all day and every day. Stop. Send messages to your friends, family, and colleagues sharing your commitment to productivity. Explain your new schedule has time allocated to respond to their needs. Reset their expectations for your return phone calls, text messages and mid-day visits. This is especially helpful when you are onsite or at an important event when you know there will be delays getting back to the important people in your life.
8. Unplug from social media. Consider taking a social media detox to help clear your head of the need to be plugged in. If that seems too radical, consider establishing one or two 15-minute periods of time in the early morning or evening that allow you to log on and play. Read about my social media detox here.
9. Choose one “check-in” day per week. We all want to personally check in with coworkers and establish relationships with our peers. So, do it! Only, limit it to one day per week. For instance, Wednesdays allow you to find out how their weekend was and hear about their upcoming plans.
10. Weekends are for fun. When you make focus and attention a priority during the workday, make fun and relaxation a priority on the weekend. As meeting professionals we don’t have a typical work week or weekend so that makes it even more important to find a day in your calendar each week that allows you to have more fun. This will give you the time needed to recalibrate and rest, which will improve your attention and focus throughout the week.
With a few changes and a commitment to focus, your productivity will soar. When you choose to become the Attention Ambassador at your event, others will begin to see that Paying Attention Pays.