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Recent studies show that most people in the workplace spend 28% of their day dealing with unnecessary interruptions of all kinds. Some are self-generated; some come from co-workers and colleagues and some originate from a disruptive environment. No matter where they come from, though, we spend a great deal of time complaining about them. In fact, if you listen to what people say about interruptions you’d believe they were the sole reason for the lack of productivity and focus that is rampant in today’s workplace.

Of course, what we say about something is often very different from what we do about it.

And this very much applies to managing interruptions. If you watch people’s behavior, very few people actively resist being interrupted. It could be they don’t know what to say or do to resist being interrupted. Or maybe they don’t want to seem inaccessible. Or maybe they don’t want to appear out of touch and not monitoring many things at once. The reasons vary, but the fact remains – most of us allow ourselves to be interrupted constantly. And then we complain about it. Loudly.

Could it be, that on some subconscious level, we actually like to be interrupted?

Yes. New studies confirm that the more we are interrupted, the more we want to be interrupted. We get used to switching tasks every ten minutes or so and we begin to crave constant distraction as we train ourselves to have an ever shorter attention span. Unfortunately, this craving comes at a high price as we trade efficiency and focus for the thrills involved in juggling many things at once.

So next time you’re faced with an interruption, ask yourself if it’s really a drop-everything emergency that needs your immediate attention. Chances are good that it’s not. Then ask yourself how you can shift your behavior and your environment to train yourself to have a longer attention span.

Shawn McNalis

Practice Advisor Trainer / Curriculum Director

Shawn McNalis is a former Imagineer with the Walt Disney Company and credits her 15-year career with Disney for her creative, collaborative approach to advising attorneys. In partnership with Mark Powers for 20 years, Shawn is a senior practice advisor, director of curriculum, and a trainer for Atticus.

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