Are you distracted?

I stumbled on some data today that was both alarming and not surprising at the same time. The quote below comes from an article about the distractions workers face and how a group of researches spent 1000 hours in offices observing workers. This is what they found:

When Mark crunched the data, a picture of 21st-century office work emerged that was, she says, “far worse than I could ever have imagined.” Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else. What’s more, each 11-minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter three-minute tasks, like answering e-mail messages, reading a Web page or working on a spreadsheet. And each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task. To perform an office job today, it seems, your attention must skip like a stone across water all day long, touching down only periodically. 

Full article can be found here.

If I am honest with myself, I notice this to be true in my own life. Countless times in the past few weeks I have caught myself opening my email then remembering: “I opened this an hour ago to send an email, got distracted and ending up doing all of that other stuff.”

So, if this is true, that every 11 minutes we get distracted, what does this mean for us as Youth Pastors, and how can we fight it?

For starters, I think its encouraging for me to know I am not alone, I don’t have some switch turned off in my brain preventing me from being able to focus. Odds are You have just as difficult of a time focusing as I or those referred to in the article do.

But further, I think it means we have to be extra diligent in guarding our time, specifically in the office. I know many youth pastors hate office time, and many feel anti-administration. But the fact of the matter is: administration is something that has to be done, and it can often times be time consuming. If it is true that every 11 minutes we are going to get distracted, then we should play into that and schedule some administrative tasks done in those 11 minutes. Plan for the distractions and they won’t be so damaging to your day.

But that’s the passive approach. Yeah, we should accept the fact that distractions are going to be inevitable. As champions we should also have an aggressive response that cuts out distraction. For me, I know that when I am writing a Sermon, I often go to starbucks and sit on my iPad with the wifi off and leave my phone in the car. Because I am much less likely to be distracted with no incoming data. I also know that I don’t do this while working on other tasks, and it’s funny to me, because I know I am leaving myself wide open to distraction and I know this means one thing: I’m going to get distracted.

So put away the possibilities. Schedule your day out, and maybe you find a list of the big tasks that are going to take a good chunk of time, and you turn off your cell phone and twitter during that time. Maybe you lock your door and ask the administration assistant to hold your calls.

Whatever you have to do, do it, but make your office time worth while.

A life changing sermon for me was one by Mike Bickle from International House of Prayer called “The Power of a Focused Life” – I challenge you to listen to this sermon (download the mp3 in zip format here). For those of you who are really, really focused and can’t be distracted by listening to a sermon, you can download the one page pdf here.



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