We are living in a day and age where we are constantly plugged in. Our attention is being pulled in many directions with the use of social media, technology, and the nuances of a virtual work environment. In many ways we are forced to be adaptive and to move with the changing trends, in this hyper connected world. Competing demands for our attention can make it increasingly challenging to stay on task and can hinder the ability to maintain focus.
Our relationship with devices
Distractions impact productivity and performance, hindering the ability to maintain focused attention. When you are unable to maintain clear focus on the task at hand the quality of your work may become compromised. So how can you identify the distractions and learn to work with them? The reality is that technology and the use of social media, smart phones, and virtual platforms is our current reality and unfolding future. As society evolves and becomes more technologically advanced, the ways in which we receive, interpret, and process information is happening simultaneously. Information is coming at us at rapid speed. Buzzing, beeping, and constant notifications, pull on our attention and can easily distract the mind. So how is it we can maintain focus and actually increase productivity in the world full of distractions?
Multitasking & Prioritizing
Multitasking means trying to perform two or more tasks at the same time. As you are going about your day you may notice you are frequently multitasking switching between tasks such as a difficult work project to texting a friend or co-worker. The mind becomes taxed by multitasking (1). The brain and human mind cannot process more than one task at a time (1). Having a hard time multitasking (focusing on multiple things at one time) is an interference in the ways that the building blocks of attention and executive control function in the brain inherently work (1). Executive control centre of the brain, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for cognitive functions of attention, working memory, and memory (3). The executive functions of the brain dictate neurological based skills including mental controls and self -regulation (3). For example, what may appear to be multitasking is instead switching rapidly between different activities, which in the end actually slows attention abilities, and productivity levels. Instead of multitasking we must move towards prioritizing. Here are a few key steps for prioritizing to enhance focus and productivity in a digitally enhanced world.
Do Creative Work First. When starting your workday, take time to do creative work first.
Before even logging in, take a few minutes to get ideas flowing and creating clear objectives for your day when identifying your workload. Brainstorming, putting pen to paper or utilizing a white board can help to get ideas out and create focus.
Become more deliberate with minimizing technology distractions. In doing so this will help to change behaviour patterns and the desire to check devices and notifications as often. Set a timer on your smart device or track the hours you spend in your day utilizing Instagram, Facebook, or other apps. In setting a timer, you could allow yourself 5-10 min breaks every couple hours, to check in with emails, and/or other messages.
Keep your to-do list visible. Prioritize by making a to -do list. Then proceed with carrying out each task, one at a time. Focusing your attention on each specific action item on your list will help to move through the list and clearly identify what items are of greatest importance. Upon completing each task, you with feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Methodically going through the list with keep you on track, opposed to feeling overwhelmed trying to juggle multiple activities at one time.
The brain works best when focusing on one task at a time. Becoming entirely distraction free may be an unattainable goal. You can however learn to navigate the digital environment and incorporate in new ways to maintain focused attention. Training yourself to prioritize and re-direct focus over multitasking will help you make strides in work/ life productivity and be better able to focus on one task at a time.
(1) Multicosts of Multitasking. Retrieved November 25, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7075496/
(3) Executive Functioning – Where is it Controlled and How Does it Develop? / Remediation Techniques for Deficits and Dysfunction. Retrieved November 26th, 2020. https://www.rainbowrehab.com/executive-functioning/