When you’re at work, it can sometimes be difficult to focus on one task for a long period of time. There are just so many distractions and interruptions! Your coworkers stop by to chat. You get an email that must be answered immediately. You need to run to a meeting. Or you just feel the sudden urge to reorganize the movies on your Netflix queue.

We all get distracted while we’re working. That’s not surprising. But what is surprising is how long it takes the average person to re-focus on work after being distracted.

A recent study conducted at the University of California, Irvine indicated that most people take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from an interruption. That’s actually a pretty long time, and it can really add up over the course of a day.

There are a couple exceptions to this rule:

  • If the interruption has to do with the work that you’re doing (for instance, if a coworker stops by to ask a question about the project that you’re currently working on), it can actually be beneficial and help you to focus.
  • If the interruption only requires a very basic, automatic response (for instance, if someone asks you to sign a form), this generally won’t cause a significant break in your concentration.

But any sort of significant distraction (like chatting with a coworker about the most recent episode of your favorite TV show) can cause you to lose your train of thought. And you might need to take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track.

Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take breaks! Taking breaks during your workday is a healthy habit and will help you to be more productive in the long run. But if you’re really trying to get a project done or meet a tight deadline, do yourself a favor. Help yourself to focus by cutting out as many distractions as you can.


Wong, K. (2015, July 29). How long it takes to get back on track after a distraction. LifeHacker. Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/how-long-it-takes-to-get-back-on-track-after-a-distract-1720708353