Pay attention is harder now than ever before. We might understand, intellectually, that multitasking is impossible, but the illusion of being able to do more than one thing at a time is too appealing to dismiss. Plus, we have so many great gadgets to distract us. No wonder that half the participants in any given meeting are looking at their smartphones as much as at each other.
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The problem is that splitting our attention between multiple screens and tasks makes it pretty challenging to get things done.
“One of the questions I ask people a lot is how much quality thinking time do they get today, and define quality thinking time as ‘you’re able to focus deeply and achieve what you set out to achieve in the time you expect,'” David Rock tells Forbes. Rock is the author of Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. “The number continues to decrease as I ask people. It’s not 20 or 10 or even five hours. For a lot of people it’s a couple hours a week if that. The downside of technology is that it’s getting harder and harder to focus.”
So how do you get those hours back?
1. Do one thing at a time.
Resist the urge to talk on the phone, answer emails, and check your to-do list all that same time. Park your smartphone before meetings. Practice paying attention to what you’re doing at any given moment, instead of looking ahead to the next thing.
Meditation improves concentration, reduces stress, and helps us practitioners tune out excess information, all of which can translate directly to getting more done at the office. Start with two minutes of meditation per day to get in the habit.
3. Remember your goals.
“When a task comes your way, ask yourself if it will get you ahead on your main responsibilities,” writes Laura Shin in her eBook The Millennial Game Plan. “If not, consider whether it needs to be done at all, or whether you’re the best person to be working on it.”
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