Siren designed by Hélène Bertholier from the Noun Project

Siren designed by Hélène Bertholier from the Noun Project

How easily do you get distracted? If you’re like most of us, the answer is, well, pretty easily. According to new research from Michigan State University, it takes only three seconds to get distracted to the point where we lose flow and become unproductive. Over on New York Magazine, Melissa Dahl breaks down the impact of the research for us:

This means that “it’s not just a phone call that counts as an interruption — just the ringing counts … even if all you want to do is find your phone and shut it off,” the study’s lead author, Michigan State University psychologist Erik Altmann, said in an email.

Obviously, I don’t know what your office culture is like (or if you even work in one), but if you can, try dedicating 60- to 90-minute chunks throughout the day to totally distraction-free work. (Studies have suggested that’s about as much time as your brain can bear to produce quality work before needing a break, anyway.)

Whether you work in an office setting — where the occasional “quick question” from peers can be a more-than common occurrence — or solo from your home or a cafe, if you’re not blocking even slight distractions you could be opening yourself to breaks in flow.

Things like text messages, social media notifications, or a random email notice may be all it takes to distract you. Even if you don’t read the messages, check the notification, or open the email, as this new research shows: all it takes to break flow is a quick chime from your browser or buzz from your phone.

To really get in-the-flow and produce your best work, do what Dahl recommends in her article and find a way to set aside 60 to 90 minutes of pure, completely distraction-free work.

Read the whole write-up covering the research right here.

Related: What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space

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