Attention is a limited resource

Attention is a limited resource. Studies show that each task you do tends to make you less effective at the next task, and this is especially true for high-energy tasks like self-control or decision making. Every time you focus your attention on something in your life, you use a measurable amount of glucose and other metabolic resources. Research indicates that distractions can eat up approximately two hours a day and employees spend an average of 11 minutes on a project before being distracted.

Interruptions can create an unproductive day or days. Some interruptions are valuable and need to be attended to. However, there are many interruptions which are not important. You need to be vigilant to differentiate between these two.

After an interruption it takes them 25 minutes to return fully to the original task, if they do at all. People switch activities every three minutes, either making a call, speaking with someone in their cubicle, or working on a document. So distractions really take their toll.

So learn to actively ignore or postpone all interruptions that are irrelevant or not immediate. This includes your daily fix of social media or television. Even meetings, emails and telephone calls should be meted the same treatment. For instance, make it a rule to check your email not more than twice a day. Block your social media sites during work hours to avoid temptation to post yet another status. Avoid meetings or calls during work hours that do not have a set objective and defined end time.

Some days, no matter how disciplined you are, there will be unimportant interruptions and curve balls. You just cannot get started. You can get upset and try to bulldoze your way through the maze or write off the day. However, if you keep calm, delegate some work and remain organized, you can still have a productive day.

Just like in sport, it is not over till it is over.

(Adapted from the book, Business, Balance & Beyond by Azim Jamal)

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