Chalkboard drawing - Measure of Pros and ConsAn article by Quantum Learning Solutions Inc. lists six startling statistics about interruptions in the office. They are:

  1. The average employee spends 28 percent of his/her time dealing with unnecessary interruptions followed by “recovery time” to get back on track. (2009, Basex)
  2. The time spent per day being interrupted and trying to refocus is 2.1 hours. (2009, Basex)
  3. Physically co-located workers spend longer chunks of time engaged in tasks for which they are not accountable. (University of California-Irvine)
  4. The average manager is interrupted every 8 minutes. (Study conducted by Priority Management)
  5. The Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London suggests that your IQ falls 10 points when you’re fielding constant emails, text messages and calls, an equivalent loss to missing an entire night’s sleep.  (Yoga Journal, p. 22, 12/2005).
  6. The cost of managing interruptions at work costs the US economy $588 billion per year. (2009, Basex)

As evident, in our careers and in our lives, distractions can be costly. We do as people always seem to fall pray to distractions. Well…

  • For one, they’re easy to fall victim to (especially if you have a short attention span or are uninterested in the task at hand)
  • And two, most distractions are appealing. Catching up with Janet in the break room and having a good laugh sounds much more enticing than inputting data into a spread sheet. And reading the latest sports stats will provide more excitement than reading over the latest company report.

But as the old saying goes, all that glitters isn’t gold i.e. just because something looks good, doesn’t mean it is.

This concept makes me think of our career paths. We all have goals we wish to accomplish, and as we travel down our different roads, we’re sure to encounter various scenarios. Yet, how do we learn to distinguish between the opportunities we encounter and the obstacles? Because there are plenty of opportunities that exist, yet some may lead to creating obstacles in our lives, especially if the opportunity wasn’t meant for us.

Case in point: Dan is studying to go to medical school, but in the meantime, Dan needs a job. Dan meets someone who offers to give him a job managing rental properties. It offers a decent salary with the potential for bonuses. (Opportunity)

Because the offer sounded so good, Dan accepts the position. Yet, he soon realizes just how heavy the workload is. Dan works 12-hour days, and even some weekends and rarely finds time to study anymore. Before he knows it, the MCAT testing date has come and gone, and now Dan must wait even longer to pursue his medical school dream. (Obstacle)

Everyone may make a ‘Dan decision’ every now and then, but the following are three simple steps to take to minimize confusing obstacles with career opportunities:

1. Evaluate your long-term goals. What is it that you ultimately hope to accomplish? Then, think about all the necessary steps it takes to get there. Now analyze how the “opportunity” fits into your plans. Will it benefit you in the long run, or will it ultimately set you further back?

2. Consider your short-term goals. These could be things like getting a degree, getting a job in a specific field (to eventually work your way up), or, like Dan, having a source of income. Consider the “opportunity” that’s been presented to you to determine whether or not it’ll help you achieve your short-term goals, while also pushing you closer to the long-term goal. Remember, quick fixes can also mean temporary fixes.

3. Weigh the opportunity costs. What are the benefits of you taking this supposed opportunity? What are the disadvantages? Are there any other solutions or alternatives you can choose from, and, if so, how do they measure up to each other? Weighing the opportunity costs will help you decide whether or not the opportunity will produce more harm than good, or vice versa.

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