Introduction – Focus and Concentration
According to research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the National Library of Medicine, the average attention span in the year 2000 was 12 seconds. By 2015, it had shrunk to 8.25. It’s probably even less today.
Are you still with me? Please, take your nose out of your smartphone for just a moment more…
We often joke about how electronic devices and instant internet gratification have shortened our attention spans to that of small furry mammals, but what the above statistic shows is that this is no joke at all. We are increasingly logging in to our social media accounts and then forgetting what it was we were going to do there and instead watching a video of a teenager in Wisconsin’s dramatic backyard do a face-plant or a kitten in Australia do a yoga routine.
Why is this happening? First, ask anyone you meet today how they’re doing, and they’re likely to respond with, “I’m busy.” In fact, they may only be able to get out one word: “Busy.” Their busy schedule may not allow for more than two syllables.
“Busy” is considered a good thing. After all, it means you’re being productive. If you’re busy, it means work is going well, you’re earning money, your life is rich and full of things, you have a schedule full of appointments and activities with people important to you, and you’re generally getting ahead in the world.
Or it means that the precious time of your life is getting squeezed to death by meaningless distractions that are outside of your control.
Another reason this is happening is the abundance of technology and the rate of information and content consumption we face today. If you own a smartphone, you surely understand technology’s power to distract. We now have 24-hour access to breaking news and mindless entertainment. And with all of the bleeping and blooping alerts and notifications, you can guarantee that you won’t miss a single second of it.
This access to information is a miracle of the modern age. It’s not a bad thing at all. But it opens the door to mindless distractions that weigh you down and keep you from dealing with more important things.
The Pros and Cons of Digital Distraction
Aside from noticing that you have a flea’s attention span, there are real risks and worries about the distraction bombardment of daily life. There is some evidence that suggests that heavy internet use, video games, and social media impact the brain in negative ways. Studies suggest that this technology interferes with the brain’s natural functions and can even alter the brain, impacting our ability to read, reason, and relate to other people.
Already, the information glut is impacting the workplace negatively. Our devices put us in a state of “partial attention” where we mix virtual with real social interactions. For example, you might text while talking to friends or check social media during a meeting. Some organizations, as a result, have banned laptops, mobile phones and other devices during work or certain parts of the workday.
On the other hand, there is evidence to suggest that shortened attention spans may make us smarter, enabling us to better multi-task, collaborate and create.
It’s not your fault that you can no longer listen to more than ten seconds of a YouTube video before checking out the suggested videos on the sidebar. The reason behind the Incredibly Shrinking Attention Span is that we’re simply bombarded with distractions. We used to turn things off, but now we live in a world of 24-hour mindless entertainment and breaking news.
Whether you’re drowning in a sea of distractions or you’re learning to turn distractions into opportunities for getting things done, the important thing is to identify and control your distractors. That’s what you’ll learn to do over the coming weeks.
Over the Next few weeks You Are going to;
- Identify common distractors and what specific ones put drains on your attention span
- Learn which distractors are particularly damaging to your focus at work
- Learn a wealth of tips, techniques and habits that can help you improve your focus and control your distractions
- Gain time management skills to help you take control of your time and keep distractions at bay
- Be exposed to a list of exercises you can perform immediately to help you regain, maintain and optimize your focus and concentration
- Create an action plan that you can use right away to improve focus and concentration
You can use the techniques you learn from these posts to boost your productivity in your professional life, or simply get more enjoyment out of your personal life. By the end, you’ll have a whole arsenal at your command for dispelling distractions and fine-tuning your focus.
1.What are you easily distracted by- email, social media, surfing the web, games etc.? Brainstorm and write down a few of the key distractors that spring to mind.
2.While you are working, take a one-hour time block and write down the number of times you are distracted and what distracted you. Use a notebook. (Don’t write “Writing down my distractions distracted me!”)