Observing a nervous young student whose mechanical pencil kept breaking during a test made me think of other ways that seemingly minor interruptions affect our concentration and productivity.
This boy was already nervous because of his impending test. He habitually looked at the clock to see how much time remained to finish his practice paragraph. Not only that…he was also being interrupted…
…by his pencil?
Yes! In fact, he was so nervous that he pressed down so hard while writing that the lead broke 5 times in 20 minutes. Every time it broke, he would stop, click the lead, and glance at the clock. By the time he returned to the assignment, his focus was lost. The interruptions themselves do not take that much time, but regaining concentration does!
Research here and here indicates that he would lose time in resuming his original task. Even more surprisingly, the length of time of an interruption doesn’t correlate to the length of time to refocus. In other words, even small interruptions can lead to big time wasters.
So, parents, think twice when your children do their homework in a noisy crowded room. Consider arranging a quiet study area.
Students, think about and address all the distractions that you have every day.
- Remove the clock from your field of vision
- Turn off your phone (beeps, buzzes, clicks, and tones are stealing your valuable study time)
- Disable pop-up ads on your computer
- Write in a notebook and type it later to avoid the temptation of logging onto Facebook or Twitter (at least while studying)
So, remember, it takes longer to refocus after hearing the phone than it does to just hear the phone. Prepare for and minimize the distractions while you study, and you’ll be done with your homework before you know it!