New York: Do you feel irritable at being interrupted — especially when you are close to finishing a task? A new study shows that people tolerate interruptions less the closer they are to completing a task or achieving a goal. “We often decline or delay opportunities because we are just so close to finishing what we are doing right now. “People often postpone a visit to a financial planner, skip going to the gym, or put off having a drink with a friend just because they are so close to completing what they are doing at the moment,” wrote study authors Ji Hoon Jhang of the Oklahoma State University and John G. Lynch Jr. of the University of Colorado.
Regardless of what we’re doing or the nature of the interruption, we often feel as if we have no time to spare at the moment. In one study, people were interrupted and asked to take a one-minute survey while on their way to board a plane. When asked to fill out the survey while waiting for the train to the terminal, more consumers declined and those who did the survey reported that they had less spare time than those who were interrupted after arriving at the gate. Interestingly, those waiting for the train had more time to departure than those at the gate.
However, being closer to their immediate goal (boarding the train) made them impatient and more likely to turn down the survey. When people are close to reaching a goal (even one that can easily be paused or delayed), they willingly incur costs (both time and money) to avoid interruptions that could actually benefit them. People should understand that they may be feeling really busy just because they are close to finishing a task and not because they are truly pressed for time, said the researchers. “It may not be harder today to fit in a visit to a financial planner or a trip to the gym than it will be a month from now.”
“But we delay these valuable interruptions because we feel so busy with often trivial tasks that are almost finished.” “The irony, of course, is that tomorrow, next week, and next month will present just as many tasks and just as many excuses for putting off ‘interruptions’ that could improve our well-being,” the reserachers concluded. The findings appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research.