Leadership

Protect their focus

Did you know that when we are interrupted during a task it takes us 40% longer to get back to the point we were at before the interruption?  Frequent interruptions are known to lead to higher rates of exhaustion, stress-induced ailments, and a doubling of error rates.

Along with interruptions, multitasking is another feature of modern life that doesn’t serve us.  Our proficiency is dramatically affected when we are required to multi-task.  Our brains just aren’t built for it.  In recent years physicians are even reporting that people are presenting to them complaining of poor memory, wondering if they are starting down the road of Alzheimer’s Disease or that they have undiagnosed ADHD. Sometimes, upon examining their lifestyle, it’s discovered that they just had too much going on.  When they are given the tools to slow down and be present with one task at a time, their memory improves.

If you lead people who have to focus sometimes to get their job done, what are you doing to help reduce unnecessary interruptions?  They may not be able to bat away intrusions, but you as their leader can create the environment and culture that protects them so that they can get the job done.

  • It may be that you take special care not to interrupt them unnecessarily but instead agree specific times to check in with them.
  • They might need a physical space with a closed door and their phone diverted for deep focused work.
  • In the US, nurses doing medicine rounds often wear brightly coloured sashes. This indicates to other staff and patients alike that now is not the time to, for example, ask them the time! Do you need to do something similar?

This coming week, I invite you to ask your staff and colleagues if they are interrupted a lot.  Encourage them to answer honestly.  Ask them what effect it has on their work and energy.  Then see what you can do to protect their focus. 

Imagine if you had been asked this by a manager earlier in your career?!

Then, of course, have a look at what interrupts you.  What do you need to put in place to protect your focus?

Until next week, take care

Lisa.