Office distractions, especially in open work spaces, can lower your productivity — and pretty much everyone suffers from them. In fact, 99% of people said they get distracted while working at their desk, according to a 2019 survey from communications company Poly of 5,150 workers. And once distracted, the average person takes 23 minutes to get back on task, according to a 2008 study by University of California, Irvine.
Part of why we're so susceptible to breaks in our attention is that our brain rewards us for finding distraction, says Chris Bailey, author of "Hyperfocus: How to Manage Attention in a World of Distraction."
It's called the novelty bias, he says, and it refers to the phenomenon that every time we refocus on something new or novel, our brain releases dopamine into our prefrontal cortex. That's the part of the brain that controls decision-making, among other things.
"Dopamine is this wonderful chemical we get every time we make love or we eat a delicious meal or do other things that stimulate the mind," Bailey says. "But it turns out we get that same hit when we check Instagram and when we open up Facebook."
With some effort, you can wean yourself off distractions even though you're chemically wired to crave them. Here's how.
Hyperfocus usually refers to a state of deep concentration in people with ADHD, but Bailey uses the term to describe deep concentration among all people.
"We all have those days when we accomplish in one or two hours of hyperfocus attention what sometimes takes us a full day or two," he says. "So the question becomes: How do we get into that elusive mode more often?"
He suggests these two strategies to help you enter a state of intense focus:
You can also learn to maintain focus by decreasing your stimulation threshold. This means that you train your brain to desire fewer distractions, Bailey explains.
Here are two ways to do this:
So often, we're not consciously deciding what we want to be doing, Bailey says. But if you set intentions often and reduce brain stimulation, then you have a chance at accomplishing more. "If you don't decide what's important, the world decides for you — and then you're screwed."
More from Grow: