Want to get more done at work? Then temporarily distract yourself! That’s the conclusion of a new study done by researchers at the University of Copenhagen. They found that when we’re forced to give up all distractions - and focus on a single task - we tend to become LESS productive, not MORE! How?
In a key experiment, two groups of volunteers were asked to count the number of times people passed balls in a video. Before they began, one group was shown a funny video, while the 2nd group was told NOT to watch it. Believe it or not, participants who followed the rules, and didn’t watch the video, actually made more mistakes counting passes than those who had watched the supposedly “distracting” video. Why would that happen? Roy Baumeister is a psychologist who says it’s because most of us have a limited amount of willpower that we use each day. His thinking is that the more energy we spend trying to control our impulses, the less energy we have left over for other tasks – like doing our jobs! That’s important when you consider that half of all companies now have policies that restrict access to the Internet.
The popular theory is that if you block access to “distracting” Websites - like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube - then workers won’t slack off, and productivity will improve. However, Baumeister says this new study suggests the opposite may be true, because these days it’s human nature to want to check email, update Facebook, or watch funny videos at work. If our impulse to surf online is blocked completely, then Baumeister worries that productivity will suffer – because we’ll be thinking more about what we WANT to do, instead of focusing on what we HAVE to do. That’s why he recommends allowing short “Internet breaks” during the day, in the same way companies allow coffee breaks.