The True Cost of Interruptions

Why it's critical for business owners to schedule a little nothing into their day

Written by Mira Shenker

We know excessive emailing can sap our productivity. Some have gone so far as to instate a company-wide email ban to protect workers from time-wasting behaviours. But the constant interruptions that are part of our day-to-day cost us more than a few hours of productivity; they take away our ability to strategize effectively, a skill no business owner can afford to let languish.

Last year, app developer Red e App teamed up with marketing firm Nowsourcing to breaks down the amount of time that Facebook, Twitter and email suck out of your day. They found that the average worker is interrupted approximately once every 10.5 minutes. (See their infographic below.) The more important stat: it takes an average of 23 minutes for someone to regain focus once they’ve been interrupted. When IBM’s “social business evangelist” Louis Richardson spoke to a group of Rogers employees this June, he said, “Creativity is like sleep. If you’re woken up when you’re almost in a deep sleep, you don’t go right back into that deep sleep, you start from the beginning. The creative process is the same.”

The founders of collaboration software company 37 Signals (authors of Rework) suggest that, rather than trying to get digital noise down to a manageable level, you should shut it out completely for fully half of your day. They write: “Set up a rule at work: Make half the day alone time. From 10am-2pm, no one can talk to one another (except during lunch). Or make the first or the last half of the day the alone time period. Just make sure this period is contiguous in order to avoid productivity-killing interruptions.”

Sound indulgent, not to mention impossible? CEO of LinkedIn Jeff Weiner argues that he needs uninterrupted focus to do his job properly. In a post on the importance of scheduling nothing, Weiner writes that he schedules between 90 minutes and two hours of what he calls “buffers” every day (broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks). He writes, “It’s a system I developed over the last several years in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think.”

Weiner’s argument boils down to this: sure, you can knock tasks off your to-do list in between meetings, emails and phone calls, but you can’t do any deep thinking; the kind that allows you to be creative and strategic. As an entrepreneur, especially as your business scales, it’s your job to think about big-picture, long-term goals and strategies. And that kind of thinking needs to be done in more than10.5-minute intervals.

What do you think? Could you schedule nothing into you day? Leave your responses in the Comments section below.

Social Media Monster [Infographic]
Courtesy of Red e App

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com