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A case of fatal distraction

“I don’t think there’s much of a risk [of people forgetting a crucial task] in a well-structured environment where mistakes are obvious.”


JORDAN COHEN, pa knowledge worker productivity EXPERT  



Carly Chynoweth

The Sunday Times

23 September 2012


PA’s Jordan Cohen, a knowledge worker productivity specialist at PA Consulting Group, is quoted in an article in The Sunday Times. The article looks at how minor interruptions can harm productivity as workers lose their thread.

Jordan gives advice on how to avoid being distracted in the workplace. Having flown from London to New York for a business trip, and forgotten his suit trousers due to an interruption, Jordan uses this anecdote to discuss how to minimise the effects of interruptions in the workplace.

Jordan points out that it can take between five and 23 minutes for people to refocus their thinking each time there is an interruption. Jordan says: “I don’t think there’s much of a risk [of people forgetting a crucial task] in a well-structured environment where mistakes are obvious,” he said. “But there is a risk when you start to get into the more creative or innovative side of business, where things are not as structured. Someone’s creativity or level of insight could be damaged.”

Jordan goes on to suggest that people should start by dealing with electronic distractions: “At the moment the default position is that everything is always on — email, instant messaging, your handheld device.

“Think about whether you really need all this information. Jordan makes the suggestion of turning off the alert sound of your email system, something that causes a distraction every time a new message arrives.

Jordan also goes on to talk about the benefits of working from home: “Or just don’t come into the office.  If I’m writing a report or doing a complicated piece of data analysis, for example, I will work from home.”


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