Focus And Attention – Avoiding Interruptions At Work


Sometimes, when you lose your focus from the task at hand, don’t you find it difficult to get back on track? Don’t you struggle to get back to the important task that you were supposed to pay attention to? The brain wanders and the mind has its own agenda as well. There are always a set of distractions to sway you from the job at hand, be it external factors or internal factors. These are commonly known as interruptions and a lot of studies have been going on to find out the causes and the impact it has on a person’s attention.

Though you may feel as if it’s your own shortcoming, there may be several factors in play and all of them together contribute to the loss of time, energy, and attention. Let’s talk a bit about these interruptions, what they are, how they influence your decisions, and what can be done to overcome them.

So what are interruptions? The literal meaning of the word holds true while describing it. An interruption is anything, either external or internal sources that lead you away from focused thoughts. These sources quite often are very common and often not considered as problematic. Interruptions can broadly be divided, as mentioned, into two: external factors and internal factors.

External vs internal

This sounds like divisions of a science textbook. It’s actually a very simple concept to understand. Here are a few examples of external interruptions: gadgets and associated technology gizmos, people, list of things remaining on your schedule, to name a few. Getting notification messages and emails are the most common examples. Many times, while working on an important deadline, the constant ping of messages and applications tends to greatly make a person lose his focus. You must realize that some things are better left to a later time. But it is seen that once there’s a distractive sound from your phone, the urge to know what it is about, overpowers the task in front of you. Other times, even though you’ve picked up the phone only to check on that message, it often leads to surfing the internet or mindlessly scrolling through the phone, owing to more time wasted. Even though you don’t realize it, time flies quickly and then you’re left with less time to finish the work. What does this ultimately cause? – to compensate for the lost time, you often feel the time crunch. You’re obliged to complete with less time, which converts into working in haste and with the added stress. This has been found to affect your work in a negative way and in turn proving costly to your company. This kind of work mode is highly anxiety-provoking and detrimental.

Internal interruptions, also known as self-interruptions are those that arise from within yourself. Different thoughts, anxiety and worry about other aspects of life or just your mind wandering because of boredom; all them contribute to you getting distracted. These internal conflicts are much more difficult to tame since the flight of ideas that evolve from the mind is created at lightning speed and one thought leads to another. In such cases, there are higher chances of your work getting affected. It can go so far as to make you procrastinate or worse, completely avoid the job!

A few points on how to contain these interruptions

  • Having an idea about interruptions and understanding the need to keep your focus while working. It might seem daunting at first but make it a habit to practice and control these interruptions. A simple method of developing a habit is by doing it consistently.
  • Setting a doable task list. Try to incorporate tasks that can be achieved in the given time frame. If you already feel overwhelmed with it, you are more likely to get distracted and uninterested.
  • Keeping all non-essential gadgets out of reach. If it’s possible for you to keep unnecessary messages and calls blocked while you’re working, that would yield better concentration and hence, optimal results.
  • Maintaining a clear mind, away from distractions might sometimes be the toughest step to conquer. However, today, there are a lot of options that help in finding the focus, like practicing yoga and meditation, being mindful of your situation and surroundings with help from groups, and measuring the progress as you incorporate these subtle changes.

It’s difficult to keep these interruptions at bay, but with a little awareness and slight adjustments, they become manageable.