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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Take This One-Minute Test to See Just How Easily Distracted You Are

If you made new year’s resolution this year, I’m willing to bet that, save for the the biggies—secure a promotion, get a raise, switch jobs—it probably had something to do with your productivity level and wanting to be more efficient. Or maybe that’s just me projecting. I like nothing better than having days when I check everything off my list.

Admittedly, some days I’m more successful at navigating the things that threaten to keep me away from my to-do list. Noise-cancelling headphones are often helpful, but even those aren’t perfect for filtering out everything non-task related. There’s the internet, for one thing; I can’t blame anyone but myself for obsessing over pictures of sweet puppies or falling victim to the latest, trending BuzzFeed quizzes.

Then there’s the desire to join in conversation with my co-workers, whom I genuinely enjoy talking to, often about stuff that has nothing to do with my job. There’s the lunch order arriving and the office cleaning crew beginning before my workday has finished, and there’s the outside noise, which is pretty impossible to ignore, given my seat less than a foot away from the city street-facing window.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar? If so, you might be as excited as I was to learn that getting distracted can actually be good for your work product. Yes, as fortune would have it, and as Melissa Dahl and Sarah Ruddy report in NYMag, “People who are terrible at tuning out the nonsense around them also happen to be more highly creative than their more focused peers.”

Well, then. This is obviously fantastic news for distractible minds in offices everywhere! To find out just how susceptible you are to everything happening around you, take psychologist Joshua Hartshorne’s test. It’ll only take you a minute, and that’s arguably a lot less time than it’ll take you to zone out on your Facebook feed or the latest trending Twitter conversation.

Truth: I started the test, realized I was basically flunking it by way of forgetting what I was supposed to do and allowed myself to refresh the page and start over. No judgments, obviously, if you do the same, although it turns out that a poor score on the test, which aims to see how well you’re able to stay on task, isn’t a cause for concern. We are talking about how distracted people are more creative, after all.

Oh, and the next time you’re diligently cranking away on an assignment and decide to join in on the conversation happening across the way because you just can’t stop yourself from adding your two cents, consider how, in the long run, the distraction might be a boon to your creative juices. I recently got a terrific article idea out of a discussion among colleagues that I inserted myself in.

Silver linings, friends.

Photo of distracted woman courtesy of Shutterstock.