Market musings

Stay in the Zone: Good vs. Bad Interruptions

by Sasha Viasasha
December 30, 2017

Working without interruptions can be an incredibly productive habit—even if it’s never been harder with all the digital distractions around us. Fortunately, the same technology that has been guilty of interrupting you so often can also be deployed to create a productivity bubble around you.

Everyone wants to improve their productivity but the search for a better way can actually get in the way of doing your job. Your smartphone is probably loaded with apps that are supposed to simplify everyday tasks -- allowing you to pay a bill, order a car or schedule an appointment with a few swipes. Thanks to applications that have vastly simplified these processes, our lives have been make easier.And yet...most people are still struggling to be more productive.

Time savers vs. time drainers

Growing, either as a business or as a person, means getting more done, or doing it better. And yet, for every time saving hack or application, there is also a potentially time-draining disruption to call us away from the task at hand.

AI is promising to deliver a productivity boost by automating routine, repetitive tasks—freeing us to do more important and high value work. And yet the biggest obstacle to better productivity might be how we use and interface with the very technology that is supposed to deliver these benefits.

Do we serve technology or does it serve us?

Flow in the age of disruption

Interruptions are the quintessence of our digital age, the age of disruption. Everyone is hunting for attention or searching for a diversion, and there are many, many different rabbit holes to fall down. The tiny dopamine hit we get each time we send or respond to a message, notification or ‘ping’ fractures our attention and ultimately compromises our performance.

Each time we turn to a new task before completing the first one or follow the next white rabbit our cognitive power diminishes. The ability to reason, make decisions and exhibit emotional control is reduced.

Researchers have found that multitasking depletes that oxygenated glucose that the brain uses as fuel. The distracted state that many of us perpetually find ourselves in may be making us less effective, more tired, and further reducing our attention spans, making it harder to find that optimal state of “flow” where we function at peak performance and seemingly without effort. 

The more we respond to interruptions, the less capacity we have for truly mindful and attentive work. Furthermore, the environments we work in are inherently disruptive: the average office worker is disrupted or switches tasks every three minutes! And since it can take about 25 minutes to get back to the state of focus prior to the interruption, and calculating in the effects of task switching onto cognitive performance, it becomes clear that interruptions are not just gobbling up a few spare moments of our time, but swallowing whole entire hours and days of our life.

Outside the office, it’s possible to create more tailored and personalized working conditions that allow workers to focus and also take productive breaks. The brain focuses best when it can concentrate on a single task for about 50 minutes and then take a break that allows unstructured wandering. The difference between an interruption (a disruptive break in attention) and a productive break is that the productive break is taken when we’ve maxed out our concentration.

Refresh and reboot

A productive break allows our brains to renew and replenish, while an unproductive break places more stress on our mental reserves.

Here are some examples of productive breaks:

  • A brain-fueling snack -- Top choices based on taste, cost and easy mobility include blueberries, nuts, pumpkin seeds, avocado (toast optional), coconut oil, kale chips, spinach.
  • Taking a walk or stretching -- The old 9-5 world of sitting in front of a computer all day was unhealthy for people and businesses. The mobile workforce is more productivity in two ways. First, walking and stretching improve brain functioning; secondly, healthier bodies are more resistant to illnesses of all kinds. 
  • Doing light physical activity like washing the dishes -- Meditation and mindfulness are keys to concentration and blocking out distractions. Working through light chores as you train your mind to stay on task is the ultimate in productivity boosters.
  • A face-to-face social check-in (not on social media) -- Why is social media so bad, if a social break or chat can have benefits? On social media, we can’t control what we will see or the information we’ll take in, so it’s a dangerous place to try to unwind. An unending newsfeed is designed to keep you engaged and away from work. 

Time sinks and energy vampires

Instead of clearing your head and powering up your motivation, the some breaks tend to be productivity killers.  These include:

  • Too much multitasking
  • Saying "yes" to too many side projects
  • Letting a connection go without following up
  • Enduring the frustration of inefficient tech
  • A variety of energy-draining practices that are slowing you down

It doesn't have to be that way. New technology can turn all that around and help you do more in less time. 

Designed for a faster world

The future of work is mobile, and speed is its currency. Technology that is agile, flexible and intuitive enough to serve the mobile user can boost productivity significantly. Technology that's too complex will only slows the mobile user down and compromise company performance.  

At Spoke Phone, we’ve designed a business phone system that you can set up and use in three minutes. Check out how easy it is:

We’re working on intuitive features that help you manage all your call needs within a simple application that can run in the background. A shared call log, smart directory and smart geo-routing eliminates the need for complex menus and programming.

We’re also building a suite of next generation productivity features that can help you easily follow up and document outcomes from phone calls, all within the application, using voice UX to share and save pertinent action items. Want to learn more about Spoke Phone, and how it works? Sign up for an interactive demo and see how simple a business phone system can really be.

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