Shorter attention spans then goldfish, please!
That’s right! According to experts, humans now have a shorter attention span then goldfish. Unbelievable!
While some argue the accuracy of the statement, they can’t argue with this.
We live in a world of noise and distractions. And because of it, our ability to focus is declining.
Sadly, distractions are all around us:
- Constant email notifications
- Ongoing beeps from your phone
- An endless stream of social media
- New text messages coming in
- The rabbit hole of online search
- Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Amazon Prime
- 500 + TV channels,
- Theaters, Restaurants, Amusement Parks
- And the list goes on…
When you’re at the clinic, you talk with staff, patients, drug reps, and providers. And throughout your day, you respond to emails, texts, phone calls, faxes, and whatever else happens to come across your desk.
And of course, it doesn’t stop there.
Once you’re home, you get back on your computer. Social media notifications keep coming in, a flood of emails to be dealt with, more research to be done (down another rabbit hole), friends keep texting you, and your family wants your attention.
Too much to do, and too many things going on all at once; you’re pulled in a million directions, seemingly all the time!
Why Is It A Problem?
Ongoing distractions and mental stimulation cause mental fatigue and leave us feeling tired. They decrease our ability to focus or pay attention for longer blocks of time.
Without a doubt, the internet has added tremendous value to our lives. For people everywhere, it’s the big equalizer.
With access to the internet, today everyone has:
- More opportunity than ever before
- Access to more information than ever before
- The option to connect with people anywhere
But there is a drawback, and there is a steep price to pay!
- Engaging in online activities seems to be addictive because we’re continuously rewarded with instant positive feedback.
- While it feels good to get an email, get Facebook likes or see retweets, it gobbles up your precious time.
- Online connections are now an integral of life. Many even feel they have to be connected anytime and anywhere; at home, on the plane, in the car, at work, and even in the bathroom!
All of this results in a less focus and ability to pay attention. Today, we are far too easily distracted!
Many find it difficult to focus for extended periods of time so they can get their work done. Some have even difficulty staying engaged in a conversation without scrolling through the smartphone in their hands!
Allowing yourself to be distracted by the phone, social media and text messages impacts your relationships. Most of us don’t like playing second fiddle to a phone. I know I don’t!
And without a doubt, distractions are counter-productive. It’s not uncommon to feel like you didn’t accomplish anything, yet you’ve worked hard all day long.
Distractions will ruin your creative flow and decrease your output at work. Ongoing distractions lead to task switching which results in fragmented focus and energy and a decrease in overall productivity.
But of course, it doesn’t have to be this way; you do have a choice.
What You Can Do About It!
Cutting yourself off from the internet or social media is not a choice, nor is it something most would want to do. The internet, social media and “online” are here to stay and add value to our lives.
While cutting yourself off is not a choice, how you choose to use and engage with online media is up to you!
Nobody forces you to be a slave to the internet or social media. You’re the one making the choice.
So here are the three simple strategies that will help you increase your ability to focus and give your attention.
Disconnect, Unplug, Go offline!
Turn off your computer and shut down your phone.
Ok, but now what…?
- Go for a long walk
- Pick up a book and just read
- Take a nap
- Enjoy a good meal
- Soak in the tub, relax
- Engage in a conversation
- Or just be…
If you can’t unplug for longer periods of time, unplug in small chunks.
Getting away from it all is important. Unplug from the constant stimulation and information overload.
Doing it will increase your ability to keep focus and attention, and you’ll feel refreshed and energized. Your body and brain will thank you!
But what if you can’t disconnect because of your work?
At minimum, utilize blocking software. It allows you to block out your most common online distractions so you can keep your focus on what’s important.
Most of us pride ourselves on being good multi-taskers. We think we’ll get more done, are more productive when we do a few things all at once.
Oh, but no, we don’t!
Time and again, studies show multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 40%. And that’s significant enough not to be ignored!
Now I understand you may not always have the luxury of working on one task at a time. However, you can structure your environment, so you have the option of working on one thing at a time until it’s finished.
Let’s say you’re at the office finishing charts. For most providers, there are frequent interruptions such as:
- Phone calls
- Staff with questions only you can answer
- Drug reps here to see you
What can you do?
Find the best time to finish your charts; a block of time with the least interruptions. Make it clear to your staff you are not to be interrupted during this time.
- If they have questions for you, they need to be batched for you to answer after your focus time.
- If there are phone calls, your staff can take messages or calls can go to voicemail for you to answer after your focus time.
Work on the task at hand until completed. And unless there is a fire or true emergency, stick to your focus time!
Increase your focus by prioritizing. Work on what’s important and delegate (or even ditch) the rest.
Prioritize what to do every day, every week, or for longer periods of time.
Identify tasks important to your success in business and personal life. Complete these tasks before you tackle anything else.
When you prioritize, you face less distraction throughout the day. And getting the important tasks done first removes the pressure and guilt of not accomplishing what you tagged as important in the first place.
And say “No” to distractions. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked and don’t let someone else’s emergency turn into your own.
Stick to your priorities and amaze yourself by how much you can accomplish!
Can you see yourself implementing these simple strategies? Or perhaps you’ve already implemented some of them?
Leave your comment below and let us know what you do to increase your focus so you can stay productive.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.“