While I'm clacking away on my keyboard, a tweet has just popped on to my screen. It's teasing me, trying to get my attention away from this blog post. That's the type of distraction I face most of the day, every time I set out to be productive.
In the last year, I feel like interruptions have proliferated. How long do you think you could go before your phone rings, someone talks to you, an email arrival distracts you? The average time, according to a study by the market research firm uSamp, is 15 minutes. That's barely enough time to type out a well thought out email.
But what would happen if you went an hour or two without interruptions? Would you feel less important? While solitude sounds appealing, is there something in the back of your head that seems a little scary about a complete lack of pinging, ringing or talking?
Still, a big part of being productive is recognizing the interruptions that we chose versus the ones that are pushed on us. If we can get the big stuff done without interruption, we can allow ourselves the diversions that help us feel like we're in the loop. Experts say do the big stuff first.
"The temptation is, 'Let me take care of all the little things people need from me, and then I can relax and focus. That's misguided because the little things never stop," explains Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check E-mail in the Morning, in a recent Ijustworkhere column.
With the pace of communication speeding up, I'm realizing that now is the time to figure out interruptions that I'm allowing into my work day and to decipher which ones are preventable.
What are the interruptions you can't ignore — maybe someone tapping on your boss calling a meeting? What are the interruptions you can ignore — maybe an instant message or incoming email?
I'm embarking on a new path…training myself to shut down interruptions for a block of time each work day. No more peeking at tweets when I'm supposed to be writing a blog post. I think I can do it. I hope I can do it…guess I better keep Twitter closed, just in case I'm tempted.
Readers, what's your biggest interruption? Could you work without interruptions if you really tried?