While a 5 minute walk to the nearest coffee shop pales in comparison to your commute, it quickly adds up with all the other task-switching. And there are serious costs to this: research shows that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. With just four interruptions, you could easily lose an hour of your day.
When you’re interrupted, you don’t immediately go back to the task you were doing before you were interrupted. In fact, findings from Microsoft’s corporate office show that 40% of the time, workers tend to take on two additional tasks in between the interruption and returning to whatever it was they were doing before.
Former VP of Product Development at Facebook, Sam Lessin, recently reflected on the benefits of a workplace configuration that offers as little resistance as possible:
While I worked at Facebook, I had one big tax on time—a roughly 45 minute commute from San Francisco to Menlo Park every day. What I didn’t appreciate is the time I saved moving between activities.
I underestimated the benefits of a corporate campus that reduces time-spent traveling between meetings and procuring food and services, among other things.
While a high-traffic commute can feel like a soul-crushing waste of time, I have to admit that I probably am not saving a meaningful amount of travel time staying in San Francisco, where instead I am dealing with piecemeal bit-by-bit friction among various activities that were once all in the same place.
Increasingly, workplaces are finding inventive ways to reduce the time and energy tax on their employees. Assess where the 168-hours of your week are going and think about the amount of friction that exists during your daily routine. Walking here, biking there, and the frequent interruptions all quickly add up. Instead, take your breaks purposefully. Find ways to streamline your day, reduce friction, and ultimately reduce your chances of burning out.