Problem: Interruptions

One of the most common frustrations voiced by the participants in our PEP® Program are the continuous interruptions in their working environment making it difficult for them to concentrate.

Not all interruptions are bad. A client calling to place an order is a desirable interrupt and a social interaction with a colleague after you have been looking at the computer screen for the past couple of hours is often welcome.

This Blog is about those interruptions we would rather not have. The most common sources are:

  1. Colleagues with a question
  2. The telephone
  3. Ambient noise
  4. The “beep’ announcing that an email has arrived

There can also be a separate category of interruptions stemming from the reputation you have created in relation to those you work with. There are colleagues to whom you can send a request or delegate an action and it disappears into a black hole never to be seen or heard of again and there are colleagues who you trust will do what you have asked them to do correctly and on time without further follow up. Poor work organization and poor planning are a major cause of interruptions resulting in frustration and stress.

From our PEP® Efficiency Survey database where our PEP® Program participants give their input, we have been able to conclude that interruptions have a remarkable impact on our stress level. Through the cross tabulation of the input from several thousand PEP® Program participants we can actually measure how much stress is caused by a specific amount of interruptions.

In 1924 the EEG apparatus was invented and used by Scientists to measure brainwaves. They have defined four levels of brainwaves with specific characteristics:

  1. BETA: these are our most powerful brainwaves active in reasoning, discussions and activities in the outside world.
  2. ALPHA: this is a pleasant and relaxed state ideal for learning, absorbing and understanding information. You have a high level of concentration and focus. This can also be described as being in your FLOW.
  3. THETA: a state of deep relaxation between waking and sleeping.
  4. DELTA: a state of sleep and unconsciousness.

We are interested in the state of ALPHA. This is where you are mentally most productive.

Now here you are at your desk, in your FLOW, working on that very important report that has got to be finished today, when Peter walks up to your desk and asks “have you got 2 minutes?” It’s never 2 minutes and when Peter leaves half an hour later you pick up that report again and look at it.

How many minutes are needed until your concentration and focus have returned? Most people will say 3 or 4 minutes and yes, you have once again started reading it but you are not yet in your ALPHA state, not in your FLOW.

It will take you 15 to 20 minutes to get back to that state of concentration!

But in today’s normal working environment we can expect to be interrupted every 3.5 to 7 minutes the whole day through. So how can we ever get any productive work done?

See our Blog next week for the solution.

Eric Magnusson PEPworldwide

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPworldwide Norway, Redaktør.

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