Monday, December 14, 2015

Can’t Focus These Days? Put Your Device Down and Go Read a Book

Since our last post Start Your New Year’s Resolutions Right Now! generated a fair amount of feedback, we thought we’d follow up with more about the benefits of getting an early start on your New Year’s resolutions. If you accomplish nothing else in 2016, try taking a break from your mobile devices from time to time and test-drive your planned resolutions for a few weeks, before fully committing to them.

If you suspect that you might be having more trouble than ever pulling yourself away from your pocket-sized digital alter ego, you’re not alone.
“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” according to Nicholas Carr author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” According to Carr, “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.” What’s more, a recent  Adobe survey, found the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day (30+ hours a week) on email. In fact, more than half of millennials check email from the bathroom!

In our tireless efforts to stay up to speed with all of the digital communities to which we belong, we’re actually doing nothing really well. About two weeks ago, Tony Schwartz had a great piece in the New York Times
Addicted to Distraction and we suggest you give it a skim. According to Schwartz, our endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. “When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.”

C’mon. You don’t think that’s a problem!

Borrow a page from Carr and take on more fully absorbing activities as part of your day. You could even read a book. Carr said he not only reads books because he loves them, but they’re also a “continuing attention-building practice.”

Since he started his digital fasting, he’s retained his longtime ritual of deciding the night before on the most important thing he can accomplish the next morning--that’s his first work activity most days, for 60 to 90 minutes without interruption. Afterward, he takes a 10- to 15-minute break to quiet his mind and renew his energy.
If he has other work during the day that requires sustained focus, he goes completely offline for designated periods, repeating his morning ritual. In the evening, when he goes up to his bedroom, he nearly always leaves the digital devices downstairs.


New Year’s resolutions and other forms of behavior modification are not easy to stick to, but testing them out before you commit is a great way to set reasonable, attainable goals for yourself and your team. Have fun and enjoy the Holidays this year, but don’t wait until after January 1st to hit the ground running.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: Tony Schwartz, Nicholas Carr, The Internet Is Destroying Our Brains, Lack of Focus

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