I have lots of interesting conversations with people about the distracting world we live in. Many tell me how difficult it is to achieve what they want and know they are capable of. They often ask for advice to minimize distractions at work so they can be more focused and, ultimately, more productive. And I’m happy to share what I’ve learned over the past few years. But I know it can sometimes be challenging to make the changes needed to work less distracted. I think it helps to understand the additional advantages of developing healthier tech habits, beyond productivity. Here are a few worth considering.
Longer Attention Span: By learning to work less distracted, you can hone your concentration skills and extend your attention span. Distractions impact our attention by fragmenting it into tiny bits. The amount of time we’re able to concentrate on average has been decreasing, from a mere 12 seconds in 2008 to a pathetic 8 seconds as of 2015. Now, in case you...
Show me one person who makes it through a day of work without being interrupted. It’s impossible! Whether you work in an office or remotely, as part of a team or on your own, the odds that you can focus on a specific task until it’s completed without having something break your concentration are pretty much nil. So, the question is, how much does that interruption affect us? Is it something we should be concerned about or not?
Research has shown that if we’re interrupted, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track. I said “if we’re interrupted” but should have said “every time we’re interrupted” because most of us are interrupted all day long. Typically, we spend only 11 minutes focused on a task before being interrupted. And that 11 minutes is typically fragmented into smaller 3-minute tasks. That adds up to an average of 20 interruptions an hour.
Now, to be fair, not all interruptions are equal. If...
The idea for this article started when a long-time friend of mine admitted that she’s much more comfortable texting someone than talking to them. “Even me?”, I wondered. She told me this, by the way, when I called her because I had grown tired of texting back and forth. So, I phoned her instead to have what I consider a ‘real’ conversation. I was surprised at first to hear her confession but then I started thinking about how we communicate and how it’s changed with advancements in technology.
I happen to know that my friend is not alone in her preference for text over telephone. In fact, research shows that many people prefer email, text, instant message or chat over talking—whether it’s on the phone, in person or through video. And it’s not just younger generations, though they are even more likely to feel this way. This shift is often cited as the reason for the growing number of people who feel lonely and...
Multitasking is an amazing thing. By doing multiple things at once, we can improve our efficiency and productivity. It’s the key to being successful and happy! Or so we’re told. But I’ve learned otherwise so I’m calling BS on this misleading myth.
The truth is that multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be. Over the past two years I’ve learned the limitations of multitasking, when it does work and, more importantly, when it doesn’t. All this came about through the research I’ve been doing to overcome the state of distraction that has become our norm. The science of how our brain works makes it abundantly clear that most of what we believe about multitasking just isn’t true.
Through MRI technology, science has shown that our brains are not actually able to think about two things at once. When we try to, our brain reacts one of two ways:
I’m lucky—I’ve always been a fairly productive person, both in my personal and professional life. I seem to be hardwired to write ‘to do’ lists and I love to cross things off them. However, I realized a long time ago that my lists are never ending and, no matter how hard I try, I’m always disappointed that I never seem to get ahead. All this changed about two years ago, when I created some new habits to deal with the world of distraction that is now our reality.
One of the most useful new habits I have developed is to focus on 3 key daily tasks. I determine these tasks by identifying some specific goals that will deliver tangible and significant benefits to me professionally. Then I break these goals down into a series of small steps (i.e. tasks) that will lead to completing these larger accomplishments. For example, if I have a project for a client that’s due in six weeks, I work out all the tasks required to finish that project. Then I add...
They are called smartphones but does their effect on us make us dumb? I always thought there was a good chance that they impact our memory. When was the last time you memorized someone’s phone number or a short grocery list? We no longer need to with these handy devices in our pockets. And I knew they weren’t good for navigational skills which, I must confess, is not something I’ve ever been strong at anyway. My husband has a great sense of direction but mine is terrible so I often rely on the ever helpful and available Google Maps. But the idea that smartphones could actually make us dumb is one that never crossed my mind, until I read the results of a fascinating study from April 2017. It turns out our phones really can reduce our cognitive ability—and they can do it just by being in the room with us.
Wondering how that’s possible? Well, our capacity to think is determined by two factors: our working memory and our fluid intelligence. The first, our...
The pressure is on
You know the expression “it’s a dog-eat-dog world”? I never liked it because of the nasty image it conjures up but it does seem a fitting way to describe the business world today. Companies are cutting costs wherever they can. Jobs are being transformed or eliminated by technology. Reality is, the job market is competitive. Everyone is fighting to get ahead and stay ahead.
In this environment, landing a good job and building a successful career is not as easy as it once was. There is a lot of pressure to keep up in whatever you do for a living if you want to survive. Even more so if you want to excel and be seen as a superstar in your field. But there is plenty of opportunity in the knowledge-based industries if you have one particular skill that is highly valued yet increasingly hard to find. And that skill is the ability to do ‘deep work.’
Where opportunity lives
Knowledge industries make money based largely on extracting...
If you ask someone about their work and how it’s going, most people will complain about how busy they are. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. We are living in a time when technology is supposed to be making our lives easier yet we are working longer hours, feeling more stressed and struggling to get our ‘to do’ list done.
Why is that? What’s behind all this busyness we’re experiencing? Although most people are quick to say they’re busy, if you asked them if they are busy being productive, I think many would say ‘no.’ If we were busy being productive, I don’t think we would have as many issues or complain as much. I think many people, upon reflection, would acknowledge they are busy being distracted. There are so many interruptions and things vying for our attention every day in the workplace.
If we were busy being productive, we would be spending time on the things that really matter to our...
I was a little obsessed by email. Okay, maybe more than a little. It had been growing over the years but I hadn’t done anything about it. Between checking, reading and sending emails frequently throughout the day, I knew I was wasting a lot of time. Not to mention all the interruptions it was creating. And those interruptions were seriously impacting my productivity. This was no longer something I could afford to ignore.
I’m not alone with this problem. In 2017, the average office worker received about 120 emails per day and sent about 40 per day. Assuming we spend just one minute per email, that adds up to over 2 1/2 hours of email a day. An even scarier thought is that emails are projected to grow by another 20 per day in 2018! So, I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and find a way to improve my email habits and, hopefully, my productivity.
I started by reducing the amount of email I receive. I had numerous email subscriptions that were cluttering up my...
It happened yet again last week. I sent someone a short email, about five sentences long with four dates and times I was available to meet with them. They replied, choosing a morning on one of the dates I had included. The problem was, all the options I had provided were afternoons. So, I wrote back, advising I couldn’t meet then but was free that afternoon and they sent another email confirming that worked for them. Now, this isn’t a huge deal but our exchange ended up being two emails longer than it needed to be because of a small missed detail.
I find this type of thing happens all the time, in both written and spoken conversations. People asking questions that have already been answered. People repeating the same thing multiple times. People mixing up information. And when you measure the impact of this over the countless emails, telephone and in-person conversations we have, it adds up to a lot of time wasted. But I have a solution for this persistent, frustrating...
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