Finding meaning at work can be complicated when there are a lot of distractions and a premium is often placed on multi-tasking. Recent research suggests that most of the distractions in our day are self-distraction. One study finds that people don’t work for more than three-minutes at a time because they are stopping to search the internet, send a text, answer the phone and checking email.
How creative can you be in three-minute increments? And, how creative can your employees be in three minutes? Unless you have a job where you are providing emergency services, most people aren't able to accomplish anything, creative or not, in such short a time. Research says that it takes 23 minutes to return to interrupted tasks. And, it says that up to four interruptions an hour are "major."
Below are interesting research and ideas for improving your focus and productivity. They are counterintuitive to many of us!
Take 17-minute breaks: One study found that 10 percent of employees with the highest levels of productivity didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else. Rather they didn't even work eight-hour days. What was their secret? Taking regular breaks. Specifically, they took 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work. During their breaks, they did completely non-work related activities, like chatting with a friend or going for a walk. However, they treated the 52 minutes of working as a sprint, applying themselves with purpose.
Use the first hour of your day wisely. Researchers at the University of Nottingham recently published findings from their exploration of 83 separate studies on energy and self-control. They found that how you spend the first hour of your day is critical. Self-control and energy are finite resources, tiring like muscles. But the trick isn’t just to spend your morning hours working; it’s to do the right things in the morning that will make your energy and self-control last as long as possible.
Reduce overtime that's not productive. John Pencavel of Stanford University found that employee output falls off sharply after putting in 50 hours. Think managers will think less of you if cut down on your hours? Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, found that managers often could not tell the difference between employees who worked 80 hours a week and those who pretended to do so.
Remove the iPhone to make your conversations more meaningful. When you are trying to focus, remove your iPhone from your sight completely. One study found that the mere presence of your iPhone can ruin a conversation. When a phone is present, the quality of the conversation was rated as less fulfilling and vice versa. In addition, people reported having higher levels of empathy and concern when the phone was not present.
Make socializing a priority. According to recent research, one friend at work makes a huge difference, with four friends increasing your happiness and loyalty even further. According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 89 percent of employees say that work relationships are important to their overall quality of life.
Meditate for five minutes. Mindfulness improves three qualities of attention - stability, control and efficiency. It's reported that half of our waking hours are spent wandering, and mindfulness can help us be present, enabling us to remain vigilant longer on both visual and listening tasks.