Workzone: New book details how diversions are interrupting the modern workplace

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Distractions are everywhere in the modern workplace, and technology is among the leading time-wasters.

While technology has kept us connected to the rest of the world and made our everyday lives easier, smartphones and Internet access can cause workers to tune out of job-related tasks to check messages or answer personal phone calls throughout a typical workday.

The author of the self-published book "Beyond the Pig and the Ape: Realizing Success and True Happiness," Krishna Pendyala explains why work distractions caused by emails, instant messages and even social network notifications such as Facebook can be so tempting, exciting and irresistible to employees.

"When a distraction shows up, your Pig is curious about the nature of the distraction and your Ape wants an excuse to avoid doing a task that is not pleasurable," said Mr. Pendyala, who is chief operating officer and a life coach at Waldron Wealth Management in Bridgeville, referring to two types of distractions as animals. "That is what's going on."

In his book, he identifies the Pig as a person's inclination to "Pursue Instant Gratification" in his life. On the other hand, the Ape in a person's human nature wants to "Avoid Painful Experiences."

By growing aware of how this inner mischief created by the two instincts distorts and limits us, he writes, we naturally open up to a larger state of being joyful, creative and fully present.

Mr. Pendyala uses the example of a manager who decides to focus on writing a letter to a client from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and during the process begins struggling to find the right words. When an unrelated email pops up on his screen, the Pig in him wants to know who is sending the message. But, more importantly, the Ape wants to avoid the painful experience of writing and is looking for an excuse to avoid doing it.

"That's why yielding to the temptation of distractions is so easy," he said. "Your Pig and Ape are driving you. If you are not aware that those guys exist, you think it's a strong feeling.

"The Pig and the Ape work together to keep you distracted if you don't tame them both."

Technology is here to stay, and workers need to find ways to manage distractions related to personal cell phone and Internet use at work.

A survey of 515 white-collar workers done by software company Harmon.ie and polling researchers uSamp determined that distractions caused by social media, email and badly designed office technology may cost a 1,000-employee company more than $10 million a year, according to USA Today.

Among the study's conclusions were that more than half of U.S. workers waste an hour or more a day on distractions: 60 percent of the work interruptions come from electronic devices and emails, while the other 40 percent come from traditional sources, such as phone calls and chats with colleagues.

Often when workers find themselves leisurely browsing the Internet instead of working on a job project, this can be characterized as procrastination, which can be as bad or even worse than a distraction.

"Usually, only hunger feeds the Pig, but procrastination feeds both," Mr. Pendyala said. "Procrastination is very similar to distraction, because it's very easy to work on something you like and not work on something you don't like.

"When you do that, you are feeding the Pig and the Ape at the same time, and God help you when you do that."

datelinepittsburgh

Tim Grant: tgrant@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1591.


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