Guest Post: Are You Too Distracted to Finish Reading This?
This article is a guest post by Clarity Kingdom’s Executive Creative Director, Corey Berse.
I was recently catching up with a good friend in New York, and like many others, we were discussing the topic du jour: all the crazy sh*t we perceive happening around us. One example we touched on, amongst others, was the unbelievable mess up on the Oscars’ Best Picture Award. At this point, my friend had a particularly strong insight. He said, “Dude, we’re distracted!”
He was right. And while the mix-up at the Oscars wasn’t exactly a life or death mistake, let’s not forget that distracted driving is quickly climbing the leaderboard of causes for automobile accidents and associated deaths around the world.
There is no shortage of literature on the impact of new distractions—principally in the form of digital devices—on ourselves and our society. A recent study conducted by Microsoft suggests that human attention spans have fallen from 12 seconds in year 2000 to eight seconds now, which officially makes us less attentive than goldfish. I guess this helps support the argument that you need a quick operating system or else you may forget what you were supposed to be doing before your file even opens.
Some of our distractions also go much deeper than the devices we hold in our hands. Across our society, possibilities have never felt so plentiful. From careers we can pursue to people we can date to places we can feasibly live, in many ways, we have more access to more options than ever before. Obviously there is a huge upside to the connectivity and accessibility we’ve created, but for many people, this means less focus and living in the moment and more constant thinking about the future.
The bottom line is that when we are distracted, we are not at our best. And that’s now become the majority of the time for most of us. When distracted, we do careless things, we act irrationally, and we often miss out on the joy that is right in front of us.
Like many others, I face the constant challenge of distractions, and know that I am much more efficient, effective and creative when I’m able to focus my otherwise distracted mind. I admire how Heather is able to sit down and quickly pour out these weekly articles straight from her heart, whereas it has taken me almost three hours to get to this point in writing this article, during which time I was distracted by three phone calls, three text messages, one whatsapp message, 15 e-mails, four Facebook notifications, and a question that popped into my head of where exactly Gibraltar was located which I had to answer via Google Maps absolutely immediately. If these distractions were a test from the universe then I guess I’ve passed, but probably with only a B- or so.
While there’s clearly no “cure” for distraction, there are many things we can do to help ourselves get into flow on a regular basis. More importantly, by practicing being mindful of the distractions around us, we’re able to better recognize and eliminate them when they prevent us from being at our best.
Here are a few things that I do regularly which have a huge impact on my ability to focus, and I suggest you give them a try:
- Turn off your computer monitor when you’re on a phone call and give the conversation your complete attention. No matter how disinterested you may be, you’re on the call for a reason (and if that doesn’t feel like the case, consider whether it is the best use of your time, which is the topic of a whole another article on time management). At the very least, use the less interesting calls to practice focusing for the ones where it really matters.
- Close your email application and put away your phone when you need to focus on a task. Overcome the trap of constantly checking to see if you have any new messages. When I resolve to shut down my e-mail program and only open it again once I’ve completely finished what I’m doing, I find that I achieve much deeper focus and am much more productive. And you can probably guess how often a crisis came up which specifically required my e-mail response during that time.
- Don’t use your phone or tablet for long-form reading. To me, the Kindle (Paperwhite, not Fire) is the perfect device for reading books. The internet browser is terrible and there are no apps, just your book in plain white and black text. Allow yourself to get lost in a great book, like in the good old days. If your phone or tablet is all you have, then at least put it in Airplane Mode while you read to help you resist the countless distractions these devices provide.
- Meditate. Obviously I could not write a post for the Clarity Kingdom blog without talking about the benefits of meditation. But I really mean it. The act of “going inward” is hugely beneficial and I can’t recommend it enough. My daily morning meditation practice gives me perspective, mental clarity and confidence for the day. The skills I hone during this time allow me to later stop what I’m doing and focus on my breath during the day when I need to “reset,” which is one of the most powerful tools I have found for getting back to focus.
There is really nothing like finding one-pointed attention and getting into flow with what you’re doing. Try some of these suggestions to eliminate distractions and take control, and you’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of. It’s like Drake says, “I been in the crib with the phones off/I been in house taking no calls/I done hit my stride got my sh*t going.”
Heather will be back next week. Thanks for your attention!