Digital distraction, 23 minutes to refocus

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Workplace Distractions: Here’s Why You Won’t Finish This Article – WSJ article on the “epidemic” of distraction at work, what it’s costing, and what can be done about it.  Much of that distraction comes from digital devices.  It’s prompted academics to study the problem and companies to experiment with ways to reduce it.

Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupt—roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms. Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who studies digital distraction.

Some of the strategies companies are coming up with to reduce costly interruption at work are limiting or eliminating internal email, picking up the phone instead of emailing for complex messages, instituting regular scheduled “think time” without email or meetings, and reducing the number of tasks to enable better focus.  The article leads off with a 3-min interview with Rachel Emma Silverman on The News Hub in which she brings up the balance required between collaborative space and space for individual concentration.

Another article, Shutting out a world of digital distraction, focuses on how distraction effects people doing creative work.  Both are mentioned in Battling Digital Distraction, a post on the excellent but subscription-only information practice newsletter FreePint.



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