From insistent emails to querying colleagues, many things can disrupt our focus at work. But distractions aren’t all bad – they can boost your creativity, too
The world is full of distractions. Unfortunately, the world also requires us to work. Coping with the first while still doing enough of the second is… sorry, where was I?
Ah yes, the world is full of distractions. If you work in an office, it might be emails, phone calls or colleagues with queries; if you’re at home, the contents of the fridge or a sudden fixation on dust mice under the sofa. Sometimes it takes even less. “If you’re sitting and doing work and someone near you says something particularly interesting, like ‘sex’ or maybe ‘Brexit’, that can pull your focus,” says Adrian Furnham, a psychologist and management expert at the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo.
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So how can we rein in our wandering minds? Switching off email and messaging services helps. And put your smartphone and other extraneous screens away – they attract our attention even if they are off. “If you’ve got a screen, that’s not good if you’re trying to process information,” says Furnham.
If you are tempted to pop on headphones and use music to shut out distractions, avoid listening to anything familiar: knowing the words or tune well will distract you even more.
“If you use music to shut out distractions, make sure it’s music you don’t like”
Furnham’s own research shows this effect is most pronounced for introverted people. “The worst distraction of all time would be introverts doing complex word-processing tasks with loud, familiar …