Productivity

Looking into productivity, discipline, motivation and focus from a scientific lens.

Productivity

While habits are essential to forming, I believe in the power and combination of introducing disciple and productivity into the formula contributing to a synergistic approach. In this article, I will dive into various studies surrounding discipline and perhaps how to use disciple in conjunction with habits.

Multitasking reduces productivity

Multitasking, as psychologists note, reduces our productivity and could be dangerous depending on the task we are performing. To better understand the effects of multitasking, psychologists conduct task-switching experiments.

In experiments published in 2001, Joshua Rubinstein, Ph.D., Jeffrey Evans, Ph.D., and David Meyer, Ph.D. researchers, conducted four different experiments where adults switched between tasks such as math problems or shapes. The result indicated people took longer to switch between more complex tasks. Time costs were also higher when the participants hit relatively unfamiliar tasks. They got up to speed quickly when they switched to jobs they were familiar with doing.
Evidence suggests that the human "executive control" processes have two distinct, complementary stages. Stage one, "goal shifting" (I want to complete this now instead of whatever I was working o), and stage two, "rule activation" (turning on this rule and shutting that rule off). These stages help to switch between tasks with any awareness.

Switching between costs can be relatively small. However, over time and with constant tasks changing, these costs can add up significantly. Multitasking itself may be more productive, but in reality, the time cost can be more generous, often leading to tasks being completed in greater length. By understanding the complexities of multitasking, we may choose techniques that bolster our efficiency.

The impact of a set of interventions to reduce interruptions and distractions to nurses during medication administration

This particular study assessed the distractions when administering medications in a hospital setting. As you can imagine, in a hospital setting, distractions occur frequently, and as such, may affect the tasks at which nursing staff are trying to complete, in this case, dispensing medication.

In a few qualitative studies, nursing staff have identified interruptions and distractions as contributing to medication errors. In addition, there are other studies in other fields, such as aviation, that indicate distractions can result in a catastrophic accident. This raises the apparent goal of avoiding unnecessary distractions, affecting how medications may be dispensed to patients.

Bar graph showing the various causes of distraction

The study concludes nurses in the hospital setting experience high levels of distraction from a variety of sources. With the intervention in place, the results showed a drop in medication errors or multitasking mistakes. The particular unit where the study was performed adopted the intervention recommendations permanently.

Communication Overload

Being intertwined with more and more technology, our distractions continue to mount, especially in younger adults. Growing up, I can remember playing outside the majority of the time, with no pressure to post or share my life's day-to-day events. Of course, that is all changed now; instead, we are battling from the other end of the spectrum. We are compelled to check our post interactions or the urge to see what has changed in the last few minutes.

Bar graph indicating average time workers check email is every 6 minutes

A recent study showed that average workers checked their email or messages every 6 minutes. This depends on the type of work you do. Do you need to collaborate with others frequently? Think design-type roles. Nevertheless, it would not be easy to remain focused on the job when the 6 min average to check messages is always 5 minutes away. 30% of workers never got more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time.

I am not sure we will ever be completely free of such interruptions, but what we can do is arm ourselves with the knowledge of how present these habits are. Perhaps dedicating particular timeframes throughout the day will help to alleviate the burden of constant distraction.

Breaks from Tasks = More Focus

This particular study insinuates that attention to a specific task is not the issue, as we always pay attention to something, according to psychology professor Alejandro Lleras.

Lleras noticed that even listening to a particular sound for a prolonged period. Eventually, our brains stop paying attention to it. It reminds me of yoga when they tell you to focus on a particular body part. Suddenly your brain begins to register that body part, bringing it back to life, sort of speak.

"Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,"

In summary, Lleras and Atsunori Ariga tested participants concluding that breaks are essential for focus. Studying for an exam, for instance, is more digestible and memorable when breaks are taken frequently.

Whether communication overload, multitasking, or prolonged periods of focus all seems to correlate to affecting how productive and disciplined, we are when faced with challenges both expected and unexpected. Of course, we are all human, and looking at various ways to help combat these issues is ideal and varies in terms of importance depending on goals or positions.

The question remains: how can we increase productivity and discipline to achieve whatever it is we are trying to achieve? We know that taking breaks often helps with focus; establishing goals accompanied by cues and rewards helps develop habits around 66 days on average. I want to test this by selecting a plan and working on it daily. I want to write one article per week on this blog, and in doing so, I will chunk it down to less daily reading/writing on any topic of interest. I plan to document my journey and see if I can create a habit with minimal distraction and more focus, productivity and discipline.