The buzz of a text message, the ding of a Facebook notification, the pop-ups letting us know we have mail — these push notifications have become part of office life. Whether you’re a CEO trying to remain plugged in to every aspect of your business, or an employee trying to tackle three different projects at once, these bells and whistles may seem like useful tools. But the facts are clear: Notifications are costing you time and money.
The reason many of us tolerate these digital interruptions is because of the myth of multitasking. “Why not jump over and answer a few emails while finishing this project?” we ask ourselves. “It will save time.” But the truth is our brains simply aren’t wired to shift tasks so rapidly. Daniel J Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, has found that attempting to multitask causes stress, mental fog, and difficulty focusing. Researchers at UC Irvine found that there is a tangible cost to this mental drain, and he estimates that it takes us 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand.
Think about how many notifications you receive in a day. All that stress and lost time can add up. In fact, Psychology Today reports multitaskers can lose up to 40% of their productivity, meaning you’re working harder and accomplishing less. So, what can you do to stay on task?
Turn off notifications. As hard as it sounds, this is the best possible method to protect your productivity. Trying to simply ignore the tantalizing ding of a social media update or a rapidly filling inbox is a recipe for failure. Using settings like Airplane Mode, or notification-filtering apps like Freedom, you remove the temptation to stray off task. You don’t have to keep yourself entirely in the dark — scheduling regular breaks to check notifications and respond to emails will keep you connected while preserving a healthy work rhythm.
Managers can play a big part in helping their team fight task-switching as well. Setting expectations for how long responding to emails and other communications should take, as well as providing windows of uninterrupted work time will boost productivity across the board. You’ll find that team members get more done with less stress, and that’s something everyone can be happy about.
Thanks for reading,
Randy Sklar, CEO
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