The Number One Thing Holding Your Productivity Back…

Steve Glaveski
3 min readMar 24, 2021

What’s the number one thing holding your productivity back?


It turns out that people switch screens once every 40 seconds in a typical workday.

But when we switch screens, we suffer a cognitive switching penalty.

It takes us out of flow — where we do our best work — and it takes us about 23 minutes to get back into the zone afterward.

Not only that but switching all day can leave us utterly exhausted with very little to show for it.

But before you start blaming big tech for hijacking your attention, it’s important that we first look in the mirror.

90 percent of the time, when we reach for our phones or switch screens, it’s not because of push notifications. Rather, it is because of our own internal distractions and discomfort.

  • A biological desire to conserve energy and take the path of least effort.
  • An urge to pick up our phones and check social media.
  • The desire for human connection.
  • Wanting to distract ourselves from the stress or anxiety experienced over some external event.
  • Boredom.

The list goes on.

So how can we become better at overcoming these internal distractions, and free ourselves up for extended periods of focus?

1. Embrace ‘one thing at a time’ away from your desk

If you’re at the gym, focus on working out without checking your phone between sets.

If you’re going for a walk, observe nature and leave your phone at home.

If you’re reading a book, read an entire chapter without switching to something else — the same goes with episodes of TV shows on Netflix.

The more we can train our brains to focus on one thing at a time, the better we will become at it, both away from and at our desks.

2. Meditate

When we meditate, our brains stop processing information as actively as they were before we sat down.

Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.