Digital distractions are not uncommon in today’s times. Distractions have never been uncommon.
It may or actually may not be taking a step too far to say that we are a human race that gets distracted every now and then. Online or offline, we get distracted while we are focusing on some crucial task. Say, filing income tax online and we get a notification from Twitter, that notification bell urges us to check and we get on to it. We get distracted even it happens for a moment.
And the reason for this doubt coming to our minds is what was once and is touted as the potion pill of all times – Multitasking. ‘Multitasking’ is a magic word for some – that they can do several tasks at one go. But is it really possible to concentrate on a handful of jobs and devote your full attention to each at the same time?
Every time we make a switch from one device to another; or even one window on our laptop to another – we are losing a bit while the constant drive asks to finish off the task. Plus it will certainly take a few more of these precious seconds to refocus our energies on a different job each time. Social networking, per se, is a big source of distraction and of attraction, all at the same time.
This brings to the extremity, are we really saving time by multitasking? To the other side, what’s with the productivity gain?
Naturally, it is necessary to multitask at times – we live in such an era, after all. Thus, to be able to multitask effectively, the real call of the hour is to think about our abilities of focusing. This entire vibe of doing several things all at once is giving rise to the fungus of stress in our work.
Without realising this, we are in effect limiting our creativity and our productivity since we keep dividing our attention amongst several things. For actual and real thought-provoking work on a project, more importantly, the output that makes you feel contented from a project, you have to really, really spare moments in time devoted strictly to it and with undivided attention.
While I am writing this story, my cell phone has displayed that there are some notifications that need to be checked. Some might be important, some might get marked as spam, or every single notification might be important, or all might be spam that I don’t even bother to click and see even. But to reach and decide what’s all about, I have to shift my focus to cell phone. I’ve turned my cell phone silent but those notifications still linger in my mind.
Calling for “undivided attention” is easier said than done.
This whole episode may even need space and a function of even ‘not doing anything for a while’ to be able to have time to think things through. It is not just our creative juices which do not flow with lack of time. Research has it that we do not get enough time even to dwell on what we have done – to actually think of how we could have bettered our score, what wrong we have done, how else could we have tackled the same chore, et al.
When we multitask, we also do not realise which aspect of a given job to give more time to or which nuance is more important than the other. All threads of our work start getting intermingled with one another and more time is required to slot each of their essentialities.
Says Maggie Jackson, author of ‘Distracted – The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age’- our attention gets ‘fractured’. In reality, our ability and capacity to pay attention are of a finite value. This gets diluted with the increase in the number of jobs we try to do at one time. Thus, the focus on each individual piece of work we are doing keeps getting weaker without us even realising it.
The ‘pull’ that each subject demands us to give our best to it starts fading out which more and more jobs going on ‘simultaneously.’ And, as it turns out, it is not just new age technology which has begun this phenomenon of multitasking. The thought of doing several things at one go has fascinated us even before. It is just that now it has become all the more evident.
Digital distractions or not, distractions are distractions.
The ‘thrill’ of the pace of working at several jobs is what seems one moment of time makes us try out this ethic. We seem to be doing a lot all at once – though we should be intelligent and rational enough to understand that this is not possible.
In effect, we may just be jumping from one arena of required attention to another without really solving the issues while we are at them. To prevent ‘distractions’ from de-focusing us, we actually can hone our attention abilities. Learn to sift our jobs in such a way that we can actually pinpoint to those which really need our focus.
There is a need to balance our energies in such a manner that automatically we realise which chore needs our mental focus more and why. Also, adaptability helps to establish the focus.
Just when we are thinking and talking about it, there’s another thing that goes unnoticed.
We are buying distractions. We check social media handles, news and what not on our cell phones very frequently. We get distracted, in fact, we make those companies look like that they are the sellers of distractions through this and that way. What makes a loss here is productivity. You cannot deny that this happens very often.
Use technology as a pearl of advice – do not let technology use you.
We need to make a space for thoughts by de-cluttering our space and working area. Removing all extras and distracting elements. Let it be your cell phone if that’s the case. Not forever but for the time being, you are set to perform a task, how little it could be, how fewer hours it asks for. Do all it takes to let your grey cells get the vital breathing space for them to actually get a crack at doing chores!
No doubt, our global village is even smaller now. However, studies have pointed out that distractions actually reduce productivity and thinking prowess. It has come to notice that those using smartphones end up looking at them at least once every 30 seconds to once in every 7 minutes on an average. Working at the same time as receiving E-mails and calls cuts short any given person’s IQ by about ten points when taken in comparison with working in quietude.
As per Dan Nixon of the Bank of England, when we keep losing focus, it makes us so used to getting distracted that we actually look out for distracting elements all the more and even may end up enjoying them. Productivity levels had shot up in the end of the 1990s and beginning of 2000s with e-mails et al really settling into our lives.
However, since the mid-2000s, productivity is on a downhill track since distraction due to the same sources has built up and established a very firm toehold in our work ethos. In addition, there appears to be a connection with lessening levels of happiness with an increasing quota of digitization.
If such is truly the case, is it not time now to actually wake up to the threats of such a narrative and try to tone down its influence? With the negativities that distractions bring in whichever way and all that it entails rapidly coming to the fore, it certainly and surely seems so.
Nevertheless, it is not a want but a need to make it a happen that we don’t buy distractions. Checking social media comes at a cost, the cost should not be a distraction that productivity bears.
(With added inputs from Ayush Garg).
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