Interruptions. Distractions. They plague our communication, our creativity, and our workflow. But how much of a problem are they really?

Today we’ll be covering research that shows how interruptions could be harming your presentations, and what you can do to stay focused and deliver the best presentation possible.

The Price We Pay

We live in a world full of interruptions and distractions. And they are costing us. According to research from The Economist, social media interruptions are costing us more than we realize. “They estimate that logging onto social media costs the US economy a mindboggling 650 billion dollars. When statistics were converted to a per worker basis, the number came to $4500!” In addition, research from the University of California, Irvine and Microsoft found that after we are interrupted, it can take us up to 23 minutes to regain focus.

What if we traded wasted time for productive progress? How much more could we accomplish? How much better could our presentations be? If our presentation preparation time has been scattered, if our practice time was littered with interruptions, it’s only natural to assume this will be reflected in the presentation. So what can we do to decrease distractions so that our presentations are the best they can be?

Tips for Decreasing Distractions

When it comes time to work on your presentation, try using one of these tips to help you focus better.

1. Move your phone out of reach. When it comes to productivity, our phones are a double-edged sword. The same technology that puts the world at our fingertips also keeps us from being as productive as we can be. If your phone is within reach, it will distract you. So make your presentation work time a phone-free zone so that you can focus like you need to. If you need your phone nearby for work, consider setting a timer. Tell yourself that you won’t pick up your phone to check for messages until the timer goes off. Take back control over when and how often you are interrupted.

2. Use background music. For some people, a certain type of background music can help block out all those other distractions. Personally, I can’t listen to anything with words or patterns, but I do use one song when it’s time for me to focus on my work. I’ve written more about it here. Sound scientists created this song to be relaxing. Their studies even showed it can reduce anxiety by 65%. You can listen to it here, or find your own background music to help you focus.

3. Set interruption-free office hours. In the academic world, most professors put a sign on their office doors that tells when they are available for meetings. And when they aren’t. If you work in a busy office, this strategy might help you to be more productive. At the advice of productivity expert Jason Fried, some companies even enforce “no talk” periods where employees agree not to interrupt each other during the designated time.

Interruptions and distractions are costly. They are a price we can’t afford when it comes time to develop, design, and deliver great presentations. In our blog on Wednesday, we’ll dig deeper as we cover the different types of interruptions that we encounter in communication and how to address them.

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