TechnoTechnology is great. Technology is getting in the way
of doing the important things. logy is hard to understand.
Technology is a pain. Are you using technology or is technology
Most of us are bombarded by messages, texts, alerts, and buzzed
throughout the day with rings, chirps, and dings, making it
difficult to concentrate on crucial information. With the
slightest urge to procrastinate, we're never more than a click
away from diversion.
| Digital Distractions:
The War for Your Attention
Are you letting digital devices overwhelm you and eat away at
your ability to focus and concentrate? Is technology really saving
you time and energy —like it's supposed to do —or is it running rampant,
creating unnecessary work?
Most of us are bombarded by messages, texts, alerts, and buzzed throughout
the day with rings, chirps, and dings, making it difficult to concentrate
on crucial information. With the slightest urge to procrastinate,
we're never more than a click away from diversion.
This 24/7 connected culture is taking its toll professionally as well
as personally. We waste time, attention, and energy on extraneous
information and interactions, staying busy but producing little of
The Information Overload Research Group estimates that knowledge workers
in the US waste 25% of their time dealing with too much information,
costing the economy $997 billion annually.
Smart, productive people know they must manage their devices and data,
or else information streams will drown them.
| Digital Addiction or Anxiety?
In a Harvard Business Review article, "Conquering Digital Distraction," psychologist Larry Rosen at the University of California, Dominguez Hills, suggests the overuse of digital devices is not so much an addiction as a response to fear-based anxieties, such as the following:
In the information age, knowledge has power and those who stay ahead
of the data stream are perceived as smarter and more capable. This
demands that you manage the content, analyze it, and put it into perspective
so you can apply what's valuable while discarding the rest.
- FOMO: the fear of missing out
- FOBO: the fear of being offline
- Nomophobia: the fear of being out of phone contac
Digital devices and information streams aren't going away; they're
only growing and multiplying along with their complexity. You have
to understand how to use them strategically if you want to guard your
ability to focus and concentrate on your most important tasks, both
on and offline.
| Human Brains and Multitasking
The fact is, the brain doesn’t handle more than one problem well.
Although we can certainly walk and chew gum at the same time, we can’t
pay attention to simultaneous problems. Instead, the brain must switch
tasks, using uptime and energy. When task switching is not done well,
time is wasted and mistakes are made.
One such research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by
the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, found that
Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffered a fall
in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers. The report
termed this new infomania a serious threat to workplace
Another study at the University of California at Irvine monitored
interruptions among office workers. They found that it took an average
of 20 minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or
emails and to return to their original task.
Studies show that doing two things at the same time can be done well
only when one task is automatic. So you can:
There are two approaches recommended to get back in the driver's seat
to win the attention wars:
- Listen to a podcast while driving, but not with good retention
- Answer email while on a conference call, but not without lowering
- Look at your Facebook feed while eating lunch, most likely
- Do your expense report while watching YouTube, but expect errors.
- Systematically limit or reduce access to information streams.
- Make use of technological tools to strategically manage information.
Some recommend that knowledge workers restrict time and access to
digital content; however, when it comes to responding to emails and
social media updates that concern customers and business reputations,
we don't always have a choice.
We can recognize that not all messages need immediate responses, and
learn to prioritize tasks. For example, email filters can be set up
so that certain subjects may be handled first.
Outlook, Gmail, and most other major email tools will allow you to
set rules and filters to ensure that only the most essential messages
reach you right away. Newsletters, purchase receipts, social media
updates, and messages on which you are copied can be accessed later.
Then designate an hour every day to review these folders.
You can also use news feeds such as RSS or newsreader apps such as
Feedly, Reeder, or Flipboard to group articles and blog posts by topics.
You can't read everything in your field, nor do you need to, but you
can stay current by regularly reviewing what others are writing.
The important thing is to manage content on your schedule, when you
have the time and attention to devote to each topic.
Building professional credibility and reaching out to others can be
enhanced by social media sites and specific interest groups. Yet it
can be a time monster. You need to automate as much as possible.
Several tools offer an efficient way to post to Twitter, LinkedIn,
and Facebook: Hootsuite, Buffer, and Social Inbox are popular with
overloaded executives. These tools allow you to reach multiple networks
and schedule updates and posts in advance.
The question of why we are willing to fracture our attention and risk
errors remains unanswered. There is perhaps some pride in believing
we are able to multitask in order to prove our cognitive prowess,
but it can also be fear driven.
Winning the battle over distractions may be a long uphill fight, but
as we gain access to more and more tools, we can adapt better skills
to maintain our focus.
As we come to the end of the year, I sure hope
it was a good year for you and that 2016 will be an even better year.
Take some time to identify what was good about 2015 and what you would
have done differently if you could do 2015 over again. Create your
PLAN for 2016.
If you know of anyone that would like to have coach to help make 2016
a GREAT year, please have them call me.
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