From social media notifications to email pings to text message alerts, it seems like we’re facing more interruptions to our workflows than ever before. And while most agree that increased connectivity brings a lot of benefits, being distracted with beeps and buzzes at random moments can also seriously hurt our creativity.
When’s the last time you discovered your next big idea via text message? Or felt a spark of inspiration from checking your email? Chances are, never. To stumble upon new ideas or ride the ever-elusive wave of inspiration, we have to have some semblance of focus and uninterrupted time.
Imagine if Einstein got a text alert just before his brain landed on the theory of relativity. Or if Isaac Newton was on the verge of a gravity revelation only to check his Facebook notifications instead. One of the things that great leaders, thinkers, and other luminaries have in common is that most are known to lock themselves away for extended periods of time to avoid interruption and distraction because that’s how our creative brains work best.
In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, he delves into the importance of removing interruptions for creative work. According to his research: “If you spend large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention—where your regular workflow is constantly broken up by taking frequent breaks to just check-in with social media—that this can permanently reduce your capacity for concentration.”
And further research suggests that when tasked with a creative problem, those who are faced with a steady stream of interruptions not only produce lower-quality content, but they also produce less of it.
In other words, if you’re constantly allowing yourself to be interrupted, then you lose your ability to concentrate. And without concentration, there is no creativity, quality, or productivity.
If you want to reduce your interruptions and maximize your creative thinking, then make the following suggestions a priority:
Carve Out Interruption-Free Time Every Day
It doesn’t have to be hours on end, but it’s absolutely critical to your creative brain that you designate some distraction-free time each day. Maybe it’s 20 minutes in the morning or an hour after dinner or 30 minutes at lunch—as long as you’re giving your brain some interruption-free time each day to think freely, it’ll go a long way to working your creative muscle.
Recruit Apps to Help You
While technology might contribute to your interruptions, it can also help you eliminate them. Oftentimes, we are our greatest interrupters, clicking on email and opening up Facebook before we even realize we’re doing it. Fortunately, apps like SelfControl and Anti-Social can be installed on your phone or computer and allow you to “blacklist” the websites you find most tempting for as much time as you choose, so you can do less mindless browsing and more creative thinking.
Don’t Feel Bad About Closing Your Office Door
If you work in an office setting, then you know how easy it is for the random coworker to stop in for a chat. Sometimes it’s a welcome distraction while other times it can hurt your flow. That said, don’t feel bad about shutting your office door for an hour or two each day. It might feel a little closed off (literally and figuratively) at first if you’re used to an open-door all the time, but it’ll ultimately make you a better worker and coworker if you allow yourself that time to think.
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