Work Smarter: Small Distractions Can Cause Big Mistakes


Everyone knows that you do your best work when you do not have distractions. However, even a 3-second distraction can throw off your concentration and lead to mistakes.

Researchers at Michigan State University conducted a study on 300 people that showed that a 2.8-second interruption was enough to cause study participants to double the number of their errors.

The study participants were asked to complete a precise sequence of tedious tasks and remember where they were within the activity. The researchers programmed a popup box to occur at every sixth step. They were required to enter a CAPTCHA code to make the box disappear.

One of the experiments contained a code that had a total of four characters, the interruption for that experiment lasted for 4.4 seconds. The next experiment, with the same amount of characters, had an interruption that lasted for a total of 2.8 seconds.

Researchers found after the interruption of 4.4 seconds; the study participants had more than triple the errors on the task. The experiment with the 2.8-second interruption showed more than double the errors.

This study showed that it is not only long interruptions, as in the case of a phone call or a conversation, that cause a significant amount of errors in your work. Interruptions as short as a couple of seconds significantly increase the number of errors occur when you are concentrating on a specific task.

Studies have shown that the average person’s brain can work for 60- to 90-minute blocks of total distraction-free time, throughout the day, to complete the best quality of work before needing a break.

After that, you should schedule a break which involves unplugging from cell phones, computers, or any other devices for a short time, before going at it again.