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How Quiet Is Your Workspace?
The ability to concentrate on one task or idea without distraction or interruption is an increasingly rare skill.
A world filled with sound bites, tweets, and abridged messages makes sustained attention exceedingly difficult. Bombarded by the constant inflow of information, we actually prime ourselves to be distracted.
Every time we reach for the smartphone or attempt to multi-task, we train our brains to break focus and enjoy temporary distraction. Unfortunately, this makes us less effective and productive.
How long can you read, compose, or think exclusively about a decision or problem without breaking concentration?
If you’re like most people, the ability to attend to a given task in the presence of distractions is becoming increasingly more difficult. Yet, the benefits of achieving sustained attention are well-known.
Deep work, flow, and superior output depend on maintaining hyperfocus for long chunks of time. You don’t have to be an air traffic controller to recognize that maintaining focus and concentration allows you to get more done and with greater quality.
Research suggests a host of factors that can contribute to lack of concentration and focus, including a preference for distraction, insufficient sleep, inconsistent physical activity, and poor eating habits. Among the environmental factors that undermine sustained focus, keeping a smartphone within reach while working on a task receives the award for the most problematic habit.
But since the dawn of concentration, one feature has had an oversized influence on the ability to sustain focus. This quality is well-known throughout history but is largely ignored in today’s busy workplace. In the words of every librarian, “Shhh…please be quiet!”
Quietness naturally requires an absence of distractions, especially the noise of uttered words and conversation. Maintaining a library-like atmosphere means eliminating as much ambient noise as possible.
Leaders seeking prolonged periods of quiet place themselves in environments where they can wean themselves off of distractions. And distractions are the enemy.
Arranging your workspace to achieve complete quiet is no easy task. The buzz around any space is usually louder than we generally think. In many cases, the only way to create quiet is to park the body in a place where no one can get to you, at least not easily. While shutting a door or asking not to be disturbed can help, creating a permanent space where quiet is the norm pays big dividends.
When we concentrate, we sustain focused attention on one idea or task to the exclusion of unrelated thoughts, ideas, and feelings. We eliminate as many distractions and interruptions as possible. Quiet spaces help us to do both. How quiet is it where you work?