Distractions – Enemy of Performance

Distractions come in many shapes and sizes, not just in the form of computers, smart phones and social media.


Easier than Shovelling

My main distractions this morning were the cold -13C or 12F and the snow blocking Sue’s car.

Sue trudged through the snow to plug in the block heater on our old John Deere tractor while I tried to start this post. Distractions – wondering whether the tractor would start and how long my hands would tolerate the cold – made it difficult to concentrate.

I gave up and scanned a few newsletters while I waited the hour for the heater to warm up the tractor engine.

Two articles on opposite ends of the distraction and performance spectrum, got me thinking.

The first was a reference to Cotton Mather a Puritan Minister in Massachusetts in the 17th & 18th centuries. His involvement in the Salem Witch Trials and his influence on public morals may not have been his most redeeming traits and are not what interested me.


Cotton Mather 1663 – 1728

What did interest me, were his other achievements. He graduated from Harvard at age 15, he wrote over 450 books and articles, he made advances in corn hybridisation and using inoculation to prevent disease. He was a pastor, was active in political and community matters. He was widowed twice, produced 15 children, buried 13 of them. He died at 65.

Whether you like him and his activities or not, that was an amazingly productive life for someone without access to telephones, computers, the Internet or any other modern conveniences.

The second article was:  16 Eye-Popping Statistics You Need to Know About Visual Content Marketing in Inc

It’s worth reading the article, but the one statistic that stood out was this:

The average person gets distracted in eight seconds, though a mere 2.8 seconds is enough to distract some people.

That is frightening.

Is it likely that an average person today, one who is getting distracted in eight seconds, will accomplish as much as Cotton Mather did 300 years ago with no modern technology?

Distractions – the enemy of productivity.

There is no question that new technology has the potential to make our lives safer, easier and more enjoyable. Sadly too many people find it makes life more stressful and complicated.

The result; less productivity, fewer real accomplishments.

Fewer people leading satisfying and productive lives.

We might be living longer, but are we happier than our ancestors 300 years ago? Healthier? More Productive?

The answer: reduce distractions to improve productivity and accomplish more.

Try working for 60 to 90 minutes with all phones and notifications turned off.

What do you think? Leave a comment.





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  2 comments for “Distractions – Enemy of Performance

  1. Roberta
    February 13, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Well, I was going to comment on this post 90 minutes ago. But then I got distracted from a Live Messenger on Yahoo and chatted with a long distance friend instead.

    I have to wonder about the 8 seconds stat. I tried to find info on that stat but googling did not give me any good data. I don’t think I get distracted every 8 seconds. But it is disgusting that I get distracted at all.

    I think advertisements and TV has exacerbated distraction and now all of the new electronic gadgets makes it worse.

    Do we know how often Cotton Mather was distracted? Or do we just assume since he was so prolific he did not get distracted?????

    Until we can answer that question I don’t think we can answer your question definitely.

  2. Peter
    February 16, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Well said Roberta.

    To answer your question about Cotton Mather, from his prolific writing, I imagine he was immune to distractions most of the time.

    However between producing 15 children and burying 13 of them, I imagine he did have more than his share of distractions.

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