Do you know your biggest performance opponent?

Disturbances... Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, SnapChat – the list is endless. Social media, e-mails, phone call and even colleagues who demand your attention in the middle of a work assignment can seem very disruptive. It makes it hard to find your focus and come back to your workflow and concentration ability, when the battle for your attention comes creeping into everyday life…

This is how disruptions affect you

You may need to think twice the next time you are on your way to pat a concentrated colleague on the shoulder. You have probably experienced it yourself, several times a day, over and over again, someone will ask you something, talk to you or complain… And if it is not a colleague, it’s your phone and the endless stream of e-mails and notifications that you receive through the day. But is this happening without consequences? During a busy day, the interruptions can be extremely disruptive says Kim Steen Nielsen, who has a master’s in psychology.

Your mental performance is suffering

It puts the brain on overtime when we are bombarded with information and it starts from the first glance at your smartphone in the morning. Not only does it affect your working time to use energy on disruption, but a study by an Americans scientist Gloria Mark showed that employees on average switched between different overall tasks approx. every 12 minutes and more often – approx. every 3 minutes employees switched between e.g. checking e-mails, writing in Word, talking on the phone, talking to a colleague etc.

In the study, it took a total of between 2 and 40 minutes before the observed employees were back to their prior focus on the task they were doing before they got interrupted. Many studies, however, point to the fact that it takes 15 minutes to get back to your focus if you are solving a work task on your computer and suddenly read and e-mail or text. In other words, it is very costly for your mental performance and concentration when you get disturbed.

How does it affect you?

But how do the interruptions affect you outside of work? Even when we are off work, we experience being constantly interrupted and disturbed by social media and digital devices. Kim Steen Nielsen points out that there are countless influences that are constantly fighting for our attention. This is due to the fact that our brain processes all inputs that it gets exposed to and is easy to lure when constantly tempted. The price that you pay is that we disappear from the present and the presence of our fellow human beings. If you do not consciously maintain a good mental health and performance both in your work- and private life, then we have a better feeling of stress, our concentration ability suffers, mental performance is declining, and our presence disappears.

What can you do? – 3 tips for controlling disturbances

  1. Identify your disruptions

What really bothers you the most in your everyday life? Is it your phone? Facebook? A colleague? E-mails? Spend some time thinking about what is creating the most disruptions in your everyday life, both at work and outside work.


  1. Define what disruption you can do something about and which ones that are out of your control

For example, put your phone on silent and go in and turn off notifications on the apps that bother you during your work hours. This is an example of a disturbance that you can act on easily, but there will also be disruptions that are out of your control. Identify them and write them down.


  1. Accept uncontrollable interruptions and avoid frustration

For example, if you work in an open office landscape, it is about getting used to and learning to accept noise from your surroundings. In contrast, if you feel that a colleague is disturbing you often, then it is important to talk to your colleague about changing their behavior. By accepting and expressing disruptions, it is easier for you to accept them in your everyday life and thereby avoiding using your energy on being frustrated.