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Focus Can Be Painful — Distractions Even More So

By Joey Havens

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This blog is a fable that hopefully provides a humorous look into how distractions and interruptions can be very painful due to lost time and opportunities. Since I have recently shared some humor from my brother Mike’s storytelling, we will use his medical practice for today’s fable.

As Mike examined a 26-year-old man, he noticed his ears had been stapled to his head. Blood was slowly dripping from both ears and the young man kept his eyes closed as Mike started his examination. How did you get your ears stapled like this? “Well Dr. Havens, I was working with my power gun stapler as I was installing some cosmetic boarding in my client’s living room. I laid my phone down by my stapler gun as my client’s 12-year-old son challenged me to a game of John Madden football on their X-box. Man, I had a big play going when my boss called. I heard the phone ring and grabbed for it but grabbed my staple gun instead and when I put it against my ear, it triggered and stapled my ear. Let me tell you Doc, that hurt, but I still managed to grab the phone and talk to my boss. He never knew I was distracted at the time.”

Mike then looked at his other ear and asked, “Well that still only explains one ear. How in the world did you get this other ear stapled too?” He replied, “Doc, can you believe it, we were in overtime and I was driving for the go-ahead touchdown and the idiot called back!”

Distractions and interruptions are so painful to our careers and they do lead to mistakes. Studies have shown that we interrupt ourselves most of the time and if we are honest, we probably have some habits which lead to frequent interruptions such as keeping our phone close with notifications blaring. Ding! (Brain says, let’s get another shot of dopamine!)

When we are focused on an important task but allow for interruption or distraction, it takes about 20+ minutes to return to the same level of intensity, creativity and retention. My guess is that many of us struggle to focus intently for even 20 minutes so we never get our brain fully engaged which leads to less than our best. This lack of focus also takes us a lot longer to complete our important task. With distractions, we have to work longer, study longer and actually settle for less than our full potential. Have you felt the pain from the staple of distractions?