This article follows “The Interruption Industry” piece previously released. In that article, we touched upon the seemingly endless variety of external activities that distract you from optimum performance in your work environment.
It is universally understood that since the advent of the Internet, and subsequently email, instant messaging and social media, there has been an explosion of global communication channels that have embedded themselves into every modern society and have become accessible to anyone within reach of a personal computer or smartphone.
People today receive more information in less time than at any other time in history. Some percentage of that communication can be work-related. The rest is aptly named ‘junk’.
As a consequence of these wide-open channels of communication, we now have countless sources of self-inflicted online interruptions haranguing us at all hours of the day (and night) by way of instant notifications. Subscriptions to all manner of online sources of information, such as social media, give you that priceless opportunity to know exactly what your friends are doing, thinking and distracting themselves with – all to keep you ‘in the know’.
If these are allowed to hit you during working hours – how much are you really getting done?
As we covered in the previous article in this series, independent analysis of today’s average office worker found that “each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted,” and that it took, “on average, 25 minutes to return to their initial task.”
The Cause and the Cure
The underlying problem to all of this is that many people think this is completely normal—that continuous interruptions to production are part of the workaday world.
Repudiating that point of view, L. Ron Hubbard points out, in an article titled Ethics and Admin – Slow Admin:
“The secret of any executive success is the ability to Complete Cycles of Action Quickly.”
Before any solution can be presented to help overcome this ongoing cycle of interruption, it first has to be established that any individual who is suffering from this malady can and should personally want to do something to reduce this ongoing encroachment on productivity. If they don’t see it as a problem, it won’t fix.
L. Ron Hubbard outlined the steps one needs to take in order to address and handle dangerous situations in life and in the workplace—and continuous interruptions at work are dangerous. The article titled Correct Danger Condition Handling, Mr. Hubbard lists, as one of the steps to resolve a dangerous situation,
“Get in your own personal ethics by finding what you are doing that is out-ethics and use self-discipline to correct it and get honest and straight.”
Obviously, we are referring to allowing oneself to be interrupted from doing one’s work on a regular basis while on the job and getting paid to do that job.
If one comes to grips with the fact that they are losing a considerable number of hours every week, and that those lost hours reduce the overall production of the company for which they work—all the while increasing costs—the logical conclusion would be to take steps to prevent, or at least reduce, unnecessary interruptions.
To make the point about work interruptions, Mr. Hubbard states in the article titled Completion of Cycles,
“Only the most violent emergency should pull anyone off a cycle of action and he should be returned to it when the emergency is handled.”
The most desirable and easiest solution would be one that comes from each employee, i.e., to voluntarily turn off all, or at least most, notifications on their desktop/laptop and smartphone during work hours.
Of course, for those employers who cannot obtain agreement from staff to self-discipline themselves from engaging in online distractions, they have the option of resorting to blocking employees from going online to irrelevant websites, through the use of a web filter. A web filter is a program that can screen an incoming web page to determine whether some or all of it should not be displayed to the user. The filter checks the origin or content of a web page against a set of rules provided by the company or person who has installed the web filter. This stops people from visiting websites that are unauthorized by the employer during specified times.
Google the search term “web filtering software,” and you will learn more about this practical tool, as well as be provided with multiple vendors presenting various solutions for this not uncommon predicament.
Email is Your Friend—If Handled Correctly
Now, once you’ve conquered the “notification, look and reply” productivity killers (by employee agreement or by blocking websites), there remains another source of tremendous wasted time in the workplace—the daily onslaught of incoming email messages. I’m not referring to spam, either—those messages can easily be handled by filtering emails through a junk folder and other advanced spam filter technology—I’m referring to the many relevant business emails we get every day that do require our attention.
As you might imagine, L. Ron Hubbard was no stranger to a massive amount of incoming global communication on a routine basis. Yet, he was recognized as a model of efficiency and managed to produce unparalleled volumes of writings and recordings.
Mr. Hubbard states, in an article titled How to Handle Work:
“One of the reasons I can handle so much traffic is that I don’t do it twice. I make it a heavy rule that if I find myself handling a piece of traffic, I handle it, not put it into a hold or a later category. If I happen to be prowling through my basket in the message center stack to see what’s there, I do what I find there.”
That same rule can be applied to one’s email inbox today. Don’t open that next email message unless you’re ready to fully address it.
Mr. Hubbard further elaborates,
“In short, the way to get rid of traffic is to do it; not to refer it; anything referred has to be read by you again, digested again, and handled again; so never refer traffic, just do it so it’s done.”
The above few tidbits of wisdom should suffice to make a rather significant improvement in production.