Being able to truly focus seems to get more difficult all the time. There are so many things asking for our attention. There is a fundamental conflict with time for work, family, exercise, friends and a long list of other things that the world tells us we should do more of, such as reading, volunteering or sleeping. Then we layer on emailing, texting, social media, reminders on our phone, and conference calls that seem to go on forever.
Attention Deficit Trait (ADT)
There is a steady stream of studies that say we are fooling ourselves when we think we can multitask. One Harvard study found Attention Deficit Trait demonstrates symptoms similar to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). A brain scan can separate the two, but behavior observation cannot distinguish between them. I now see a large group of leaders who have reached a level of activity that is becoming counterproductive.
With ADT, people lose their ability to concentrate, look at the big picture, and focus when continually multitasking and not resting. It is counterproductive. I can hear the “Yeah but, I can …” responses. The studies say it applies to everyone. Even Apple has added the ability to self-limit your screen time on apps that suck time (unproductively) out of your day. It is possible to be more productive by being less busy and more focused.
Some suggestions my clients have found helpful:
- Silence all notifications on your phone and computer – choose when to review.
- Schedule two hours per day for planning, preparation and thinking. Hold on to at least one of those hours every day.
- Set your phone to ‘airplane mode’ for an hour or two of family time in the evening.
- Remove attention-demanding applications like Facebook from your phone. Pick a time to look at it on your computer or iPad once or twice per week. Spend the time connecting with your real friends.
- Take short physical breaks during the day. Walk the stairs, go out for coffee, or meditate.
- When in a meeting, focus on the people and not your phone or computer. If the meeting is not productive; address that issue rather than withdraw.
Clients have reported significantly reduced stress and more productivity by improving their management of distractions and allowing time in their day to stay at their best.