The Proven Productivity Benefits of Undisturbed Work
We all use the “Do Not Disturb” sign when staying in a hotel. No one likes their sleep interrupted by housekeeping coming in to clean the room. It’s also a smartphone function that many of us switch on at night so we’re not awoken at 2 a.m. by a network provider auto-sent message. So, why is it that so many of us don’t use “Do Not Disturb” during our working day and put up with constant interruptions while we’re trying to concentrate?
From “You’ve got mail” and “John has posted a tweet” to a phone call from a coworker and the boss dropping by your desk to check how things are going, there are so many small interruptions during the day. In fact, some studies suggest that the average worker is interrupted between 50 and 60 times every day by emails, instant messages, and push notifications from the likes of WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Even worse, is that 80% of these interruptions aren’t even considered important.
How Interruptions Affect Us
Scheduling regular breaks into your workday can benefit both your productivity and performance. However, constant and unexpected interruptions from your phone, computer, and the people around you have the opposite effect. Disruptions throughout our working day all add up and, if we’re not careful, eventually take their toll on both our productivity and our health.
There’s no denying that technology has changed the way we work, mostly for the better. But, improved technology also has a negative impact on our work and our productivity.
Another study found that people receive an average of 63.5 mobile notifications per day and check their emails an average of 11 times per hour. Although these simple acts shift our concentration for just a few seconds, it can take up to 23 minutes for us to fully regain focus on the task we were working on beforehand.
Any distraction is therefore taking up valuable time that should be used for working, making us much less productive during office hours.
In addition to impacting productivity, interruptions can also lead to accuracy issues in the work we produce. A text message alert or email ping may only cause an interruption of 2 or 3 seconds, but it can cause us to make double the errors when we return to our primary task.
Physical and Mental Health
Constant interruptions during our work day can have a negative impact on our overall well-being. The colleague who asked “Have you got a second?” and then took up two of your precious minutes has reduced the amount of time you’ll have to complete your work today. Even less when you consider the time it takes to regain your focus.
With less time, you’re under pressure and feel the need to work faster and harder, increasing stress levels and causing frustration. Over time, this stress could affect sleep patterns, raise anxiety levels and also cause physical issues, such as headaches and muscle tension.
How Does “Do Not Disturb” Help?
Improved performance and productivity
Stopping the incessant notifications and email alerts allows you to channel all your energy and focus into one task at a time. And, being able to concentrate on work without disruption should see an improvement in your productivity levels and the quality and accuracy of the work you produce.
Reduced stress levels
Cutting out the distractions and allowing yourself to be more productive for set periods during the day will significantly improve your well-being and mental health. Imagine the sense of achievement at the end of the day when you’ve actually completed the important report or presentation on time.
And, your ability to perform better at work will ease stress and anxiety, improving your mood, helping you sleep better and leaving you with more time to concentrate on doing the things you enjoy.
How to Incorporate “Do Not Disturb” Into Your Day
Instead of allowing yourself to be interrupted by colleagues, emails, and notifications, incorporate “Do Not Disturb” into to your schedule, especially during deep work times. You get to structure your working day, deciding when to allow distractions in and when to block them during the times you’re at your most productive.
But, how do you go about doing that? Here are some of our top tips for incorporating Do Not Disturb time into your day.
Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb”
Frequent pings and vibrations from your phone can be easily avoided as both Android and iOS offer the option of switching your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode. When on, this setting silences calls, notifications, and alerts for a pre-set amount of time. It also lets you accept calls from specific contacts — useful if you still need to take an urgent call from a client or family member.
Android users will usually find the “Do Not Disturb” setting by swiping down from the top of the screen while those with iPhones can access the moon icon in the Control Center.
Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your PC or laptop
Just like smartphones, laptops, PC’s, and other devices have a “Do Not Disturb” setting to stop desktop notifications. Windows has a Focus Assist option, accessed from the Notification menu and Mac users can set the required “Do Not Disturb” duration from the Notification options under Settings in the Apple menu.
Install a desktop productivity app
Instead of having to manually set the “Do Not Disturb” function on all your devices, let a desktop productivity app do it for you. These apps are an excellent tool for keeping you organized, helping you structure your day by scheduling breaks and set times for different types of tasks. But, most importantly, they help you stick to the plan, taking over your desktop, blocking out interruptions and notifying you when each session starts and finishes.
For example, the kōno productivity app has its own “Do Not Disturb” feature, helping create a distraction-free zone when you’re about to tackle jobs that require 100% focus and concentration. With just one click, you can choose a Focus session and the app instantly silences notifications, emails, messages, and phone calls on your Mac and iPhone.
Do you have a social media website that you find yourself constantly visiting for updates throughout the day or a messaging app that you always forget to close? kōno automatically closes any open apps and blocks your access to those websites that are so tempting to visit.
Let coworkers know your plan
Interruptions from colleagues, your boss, or employees can occur at any time, especially when you allow them. Letting your team know your plans for the working day can help reduce disruption. If you’re do not disturb time is from 10 a.m. to midday, ask that everyone respects your deep working time and avoids contacting you or approaching you during this time.
If the whole team understands how important “Do Not Disturb” is to your productivity, they’ll respect your wishes, and may even want to introduce the policy into their own work schedule. Get the whole office involved by issuing everyone with a signal to indicate when they’re available and when they’re not, such as PC-mounted LED lights or a desktop flag system.
Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door
If you work in an office, a simple “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door will let people know when you can be approached and when you’re unavailable. If you go for this option, make sure you take the sign down when you’re open to interruptions again. Keeping it on the door continually will lead to everyone in the workplace ignoring it after a while, totally defeating the object.
Even if you operate an open-door policy, you need to set boundaries. And, a sign can be an excellent way to let your workforce know that you’re now focusing on your own productivity.
Move to a quiet area
Avoid coworkers and move away from your desk or avoid the kids and move from your make-shift workspace in the kitchen. Whether you take yourself off to the library or cafe, book a private meeting room for a couple of hours, or shut yourself away in the basement, find somewhere that helps you escape from unnecessary interruptions.
Keep the pet occupied
If you work from home and own a pet, it’s easy to allow your furry friend to interrupt your concentration. The cat jumping on your keyboard to grab your attention and managing to sit on the delete key or the dog deciding that it needs feeding just as you’ve decided how best to tackle that important task.
There’s no doubt that owning a pet has a positive effect on mental health. They provide companionship and entertainment, and can even help lower blood pressure. But, having them in your place of work is not always easy, as pets can be demanding and don’t understand a “Do not Disturb” notice.
Before your deep work session, ensure your four-legged friend has plenty of food, water, and toys to keep them fed, hydrated, and entertained for a couple of hours while you enjoy some uninterrupted focus time.
Putting it together
Interruptions from technology, social media, emails, and coworkers are sometimes unavoidable. But we can control when we’re open to disruption. Implementing a few simple techniques can help you, your boss, and your work colleagues know when your deep working times are. And switching on the all-important “Do Not Disturb” will ensure your phone and other devices leave you alone during that time.
We all need to implement Do Not Disturb into our working day to help us stay focused and productive, and to improve our overall well-being.