Attention or Distraction — More than just Getting Things Done

A few days ago I post­ed on Facebook an excerpt from a book high­light­ing that peak pro­duc­tiv­i­ty usu­al­ly occurs in peri­ods of task isolation–where one may focus on a sin­gle task for longer stretch­es at a time. This excerpt con­cludes that

To pro­duce at your peak lev­el you need to work for extend­ed peri­ods with full con­cen­tra­tion on a sin­gle task free from distraction

Much of this is due to the ‘atten­tion residue’ that comes with switch­ing tasks, we con­tin­ue to think and process on the pre­vi­ous task for a while before real­ly set­tling into the new task. So to increase pro­duc­tiv­i­ty we should be focus­ing on sin­gle tasks for longer periods.

6875893248_07146d1191_bThat is all well and good for peri­ods of time, but what about when you are immersed in mul­ti­ple tasks that need doing? Well I would sug­gest that we are often dis­tract­ed by oth­er things, that aren’t even task relat­ed. This sec­ond arti­cle popped up today and high­lights the sort of dig­i­tal Attention Deficit Disorder that we have cre­at­ed for our­selves. The atten­tion residue that we are leav­ing behind when we switch from each micro-inter­ac­tion to anoth­er is crippling–sometimes even phys­i­cal­ly. That arti­cle con­cludes with this poignant reflection:

But this new epi­dem­ic of dis­trac­tion is our civilization’s spe­cif­ic weak­ness. And its threat is not so much to our minds, even as they shape-shift under the pres­sure. The threat is to our souls. At this rate, if the noise does not relent, we might even for­get we have any.

What is it that you are being dis­tract­ed by (per­haps even this), and what is it that you should be atten­tive to.

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