Updated: Aug 12
We have spent the last 2 months collecting and analysing the results of a study across the world, observing distraction and focus. The results are in - and here they are.
Working from home, social media and multiple notifications has created any number of new distraction challenges for us and our employees across the world. I noticed that an increasing number of my coaching clients, leaders and other coaching sessions, want to work on how to maintain focus on goals and avoid a bombardment of distractions.
In order to understand how to maintain this unwavering focus we may be looking for, I wanted to examine the challenges people are having in more depth, what drives distraction and how adaptations are being made. How can we enable ourselves and others to reduce stress during challenging times, as our attention is being diverted more and more?
The respondents are a cross section of ages, nationalities and locations as well as all other demographics. I will be carrying out a more in depth study relating to other specific parameters in the future.
We have surveyed over 100 people to find out how distraction affects them - here are the results!
A staggering 41.58% people are easily distracted. Showing how easy it is to draw us away from give tasks. With nearly 21% stating they are always distracted.
Not surprisingly social media scores as one of the biggest distractions, especially now most of us plan our days without a Manager looking over our shoulder. How has this affected you and your team? Can you ignore the incoming Facebook or Instagram notifications and avoid the internet rabbit hole of alternative interesting information?
Results for "other"distractions include 5 responses of "children or kids" and also boredom, phone calls and proactively searching for something to do other than the specific task you are supposed to be carrying out. Does this sound familiar? :)
18% of people found it difficult to go back to their task, with 42% stating it was neither easy or difficult. A study found that although people could go back to their tasks and complete on time, especially with tasks relating to a deadline, stress levels were significantly higher. The main reason people may find it more challenging to return to the task would be the level of complexity and difficulty requiring greater focus and more time for return to the same place on the task.
Over 41% of the participants mind being distracted. This shows the need for strategies to focus and the ability to maintain focus, throughout potential distractions.
Q5: What is your favourite form of distraction?
26% people said that interactions with other people via conversation, messaging or in person as their favourite distraction. Not surprisingly social media came up as number 2 with 22% stating that some form of social media was their favourite distraction.
Q6: What is the best technique you use to focus?
26% of people turn off notifications in order to focus. Many others use music and put in headphones to reduce distraction. Only 7% stated willpower. Having the ability to notice a distraction and still remain focused on the goal or task to be completed.
I would certainly want to check the responses here to the demographic of age and location as this may determine different responses. However in this case Facebook appears to be a winner.
Possibly one of the most important factors in distraction is our stress response. 40% agreed that distraction causes a stress response. How can this affect us for the remainder of the day? This can cause inaccuracies, health issues and other potential threats to our well being as well as our careers and ability to carry out our job.
We teach time management, we teach how to organise our day, but how many of us really understand distraction and how to avoid this OR ensure we maintain focus on our goals?
Q10: What could your Leader or company do to help you be more focused?
The top answers are below. Do you notice any common themes?
More private space
Be mindful about when interrupting people via instant messaging
Not overload us all with communication tools and work
More official short breaks to avoid self taken breaks
Encourage all employees to make it a habit to get their projects as far along as possible before asking questions so they can be asked all at once. Open space office makes it too easy to just randomly ask questions to each other.
Give more breaks - encourage social interactions and ban phone use in an allocated space
More focused goal setting
Check in more and give more feedback
Reduce number of internal meetings
Set more breaks to talk about other things/ go to the bathroom/eat or drink
Leave me to manage my own workload
Create focus / silent areas in the office where people can go when they need to focus
Designate times for specific tasks.
Breakout or meditation area
Respect busy icons
Do not follow up unresponded emails so quickly to check if I received the email.
Motivate their team and not just give them work to do.
Silent working area
Have scheduled non contactable days unless in an emergency or urgent issue
Set timescales for task completion
Quiet spaces when concentration needed
Individually and as a group we are finding focus more and more challenging. We can avoid the distractions by switching off notifications, but is this a long term solution? Is there a way to CHOOSE if you want to move towards your distraction or towards your goal? Coaching and training your brain to do this is possible. It just takes practice. The article HERE gives you some techniques and an overview of how you can teach your team to focus or maintain self focus.
To book in for a coaching session on avoiding distraction and how to focus on your goals contact caroline@successCL.com.
Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an executive, personal and career development coaching company in Hong Kong, with her partner Patrick Bennett founding the practice in New York. She is also the Founder of Recruiters Give Back, a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is a Certified Professional Coach at International Coaching Federation standards. Certified Team Coach and is also degree qualified with further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level. www.successCL.com www.recruitersgiveback.org