Carlson and his team made a study in which they recorded the work time of a group of managers for some months. During this period, they found that these managers were interrupted every 20 minutes on average. This resulted in more time needed to finish each task, as well as made their work less effective. From this study arose the Carlson’s Law, which is highly related to concentration, multitasking and interruptions:

Working non-stop makes us more efficient and makes us waste less time than doing it with interruptions. 

This applies not only to the interruptions caused by others but also by ourselves, especially when we’re repeatedly changing from one task to another. The best thing to do? Simple: One task at a time. And once we’re done, move to the next one. That’s why it is so important to make sure before starting that we have everything we need to fulfil our objective.

Our brain needs time to be completely focused on an activity. Interrupting a task once we’ve reached our maximum productivity phase implies that we’ll have to go back to the beginning, thus waste time, energy and efficiency.

Managing interruptions

Just as with other laws of productivity, it is important to take into account Carlson’s Law when planning our work. Interruptions not only make us waste time but also disrupt our working cycle, making it really hard for us to refocus.

When planning our workday, it’s essential to keep some work blocks free from interruptions. We’ll then be sure that we can be totally focused on our task. We can use different signs to let our partners know that we don’t want to be disturbed. However, we mustn’t forget to save some time for them to have the chance to come and ask anything to us.

Carlson’s Law and concentration

Interruptions and Carlson’s Law are directly connected to concentration. In order to stay focused for longer periods, it is advisable to organise sequences of interconnected tasks. If we do similar things like, for example, checking our backlog of emails, we’ll stay highly focused.

If we take Carlson’s Law into account when planning our work, not only we’ll optimise time, but also efficiency and productivity. What are you waiting for to start putting it into practice?

Translation by Susana Castro.

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Image: Alejandro Escamilla

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