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Stress Management Topic: Dealing with Interruptions

Did you know it takes an average of 23 Minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track when interrupted?

Throughout my many Stress Management Workshops I have facilitated for people and companies, I have noticed a handful of the same Stress Triggers come up. One of the most prominent ones is the topic of INTERRUPTIONS.

For the sake of transparency of research I will say that I keep seeing references to the average of 23 Minutes and 15 seconds it takes to get back on track once interrupted. Most of the articles and research I have found reference this specific study done by the University of California, Irvine. However, after having actually READ the study myself. I see no reference to that supposed 23 minutes. I will continue to find the origin story behind this but in the meantime I want to write about what the study did actually say.

Interruptions leads to more Stress

The study worked with a group of students in Germany that were given typical roles and scenarios that you would find in the workplace. For this particular study the role was an HR Manager at a midsized company that just returned from vacation. (In my dream scenario this HR Manager didn't check email while they were on vacation and was able to enjoy themselves and disconnect fully but I digress..) The faux HR Managers had to answer emails in a timely manner and were also rated on Errors, Length, and Politeness. They also used a baseline of No Interruptions, Interruptions of the same context, Interruptions of different context.

They found that regardless of interruptions that the tasks were performed in about the same time frame as the baseline of no interruptions.

However, what they did find was that the rate of STRESS went up substantially. The workload remained the same but the stress, frustration, time pressure, and effort it took to complete the task went up. To quote the study "Interrupted work may be done faster, but at a price". Now, think about how many times a day you might experience this scenario. How does this effect your stress levels throughout the day?

How to manage Stress from Interruptions

One specific thing I appreciate they state in the study is how different people respond to these stressors. As always, it is not a one size fits all. They found better resiliency in the people "more open one is to experiences, the quicker one handled interrupted work and surprisingly, we found the same relation for those who score high on needing personal structure. Perhaps those who need personal structure are better able to manage their time when interrupted."

Tip #1: Block off on your calendar dedicated focused work time.

Tip #2: Hold your boundaries to sticking to this focused work time the best you can. People will learn that it is not a time for interruptions.

Tip #3: Place office phone and cell phone in DO NOT DISTRUB mode to limit distractions.

Tip #4: Work in 25 minute increments and give yourself 5 minutes breaks.

MINDFULNESS TIP: Notice if you find yourself judging how much work you "should" have gotten done or were "supposed" to do or if you didn't get as much done as you were wanting to. Do your best to release that judgement of yourself. You are doing a good job and are already working hard without the added pressure of self judgement. Take the break that you need. Your mental health is more important. It actually leads to more productivity when you have allowed yourself a moment to reset instead of pushing through.

Stay Mindful,


If you would like Rosa Castano to come lead a Stress Management Workshop at your company or for a group of individuals please emails:


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