It's important to pull yourself away from work every now and then. Breaks are one thing, but distractions are another. Breaks are focused and deliberate. Distractions catch you off guard and derail your task entirely. In fact, one study shows it takes about 25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after you've been interrupted.
We've told you how distractions can cause errors. Even after you've removed the interruption, you're not working at the same capacity you were pre-distraction. In a study from the University of California Irvine, researchers shadowed workers on the job, studying their productivity. Here's what study lead Gloria Mark told Fast Company of the findings:
You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were...We found about 82 per cent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here's the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.
Considering their findings, those seemingly small interruptions can really add up throughout the day. Mark does point out that this depends on the type of interruption, though:
If an interruption matches the topic of the current task at hand, then it's beneficial. If you're working on task A and somebody comes in and interrupts you about exactly that task people report that's very positive and helps them think about task A.
...If interruptions are short they're usually not so bad. Imagine you're working on this article and some one comes in and says, "Here, can you sign this form?" You sign it, it's a very subordinate kind of task and you go back to doing your work. Any kind of automatic task that doesn't require a lot of thinking would not be a major disruption.
But let's say you're writing that article, and you stop to chat with a coworker about the latest episode of True Detective. That's a lasting, unrelated interruption that can take a while to recover from.
Again, it's healthy and productive to occasionally walk away from your work and take breaks. It recharges you. But you want to stay focused when you are working. Check out more of what Mark has to say about distractions at the link below.