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The Seemingly Harmless Habit Is Killing Your Productivity


Stashed in: #lifehacks, Practice, Productivity, Flow, Attention, Awesome, Multitasking, Rituals

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Picture this scenario: You come back to your desk after a meeting. You sit down. You start doing something on your computer. But what, exactly, do you do?

Chances are, you go through some sort of transition ritual. You probably check email first. If there’s a link to something interesting in there, you follow the link, then go from there to a few other favorite sites: a news source, Twitter, or maybe to check sports scores. After that, you finally settle into real work.

There’s nothing wrong with these rituals per se. Human beings need a way to transition from one activity into the next. The problem is that we get interrupted frequently in the modern workplace. Rituals become habits, and that means we run through the transition cycle every time we stop doing what we’re doing. One famous 2007 study found that when people responded to email or instant messaging alerts, it took them 10 to 15 minutes beyond time spent on the interruption to really get back into their original tasks. Those 10 to 15 minutes of headline checking add up.

Mapping the steps of distraction

So how can you get a grip on it? The first step is to be aware of it. Next time you find yourself in the midst of your transition ritual, write down its steps.

That way you can analyze how you might shorten the cycle--either by skipping one of the steps (hiding social media alerts, for instance) or starting a time-tracking app, and thus forcing yourself to watch the seconds of your life ticking away as you scroll through the same blog comments you already read 30 minutes before.

I make an effort to NOT go into email, IMs, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc, when I'm in work mode.

I try to avoid it too, but the lure is so tempting! I wonder how much productivity is lost to the internet?  It is pretty common for me to walk through my office and see screens on solitaire, facebook, and words with friends.  This article is a great reminder to be more mindful of how we spend our time. 

Patricia, well said. A LOT of time is lost to the Internet.

Example: http://time.com/6107/how-much-time-have-you-wasted-on-facebook/

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