What’s Killing Your Focus and What to do About It

May 21, 2018
5 min
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A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” – Herbert A. Simon

Distractions have always been the bane of work life – even in times when there weren’t nearly as many, we would actively invent them. The amount of distractions available today however is utterly unprecedented in our history. Today, distractions are ever present and can bring a dead stop to a focused state of work.These distractions then have serious negative consequences for your productivity and performance.

Here are some uncomfortable facts about our lack of focus:

Multitasking kills productivity. The idea of “multitasking” is one of the most misleading ideas in the business world today – because it doesn’t actually exist. Instead, what occurs is “task-switching” and during these brief moments switching from task to task you can kill up to 40% of your productive time. So, while you may be able to juggle an assortment of tasks better than your coworkers, the best way to really maximize your productivity is by mastering the art of ‘monotasking’.

According to a Harvard study, 46.9% of the time our mind is wandering, and unsurprisingly work had one of the lowest levels of attention – the most mind wandering. And a wandering mind is one that is looking for distractions. Additionally, research has demonstrated that when you are not focused on what you are doing you are less happy. Lack of focus shows itself to be a loss at all ends. This finding reflects the low levels of engagement experienced across the American workforce – and shows the need for more mindful strategies.

Your phone is ruining your performance. We all know that phones can be a huge distraction, but recently research at the the University of Florida has shown us just how much they can affect our performance and productivity. According to the article, users who had their phone near them sending notifications and users that were actively using them performed similarly on tasks. This means that you don’t even need to be actively using the phone for it to disrupt your performance! Those little notifications your phone sends you throughout the day, even if they are only momentary, prompt mind wandering and task irrelevant thoughts that long outlast the notification. This is why turning your phone off is a good idea when you need to be productive.

The increase in digital devices in the past couple decades has decreased our productivity. Perhaps this doesn’t come as a surprise after learning about how cell phones can ruin your performance, but research has shown that the increase of digital devices ultimately has negative consequences. In other words, our use of new digital devices initially help us increase our productivity, but as they end up being used more and more to distract the overall productivity of workers goes back down.

Making Focus a Habit

The solution to these problems requires intelligently crafted systems intended to improve focus and cut through the distractions. This calls for a deeper appreciation of the precursors of focused work as well as the right tools to maximize states of focus.

Training your attention

Paradoxically, the tools we use to work are also designed to distract us from the very work they are supposed to facilitate. This is why our work is so often permeated with distractions and why prioritizing focus is not only beneficial, but necessary for success in a distraction laden work environment.  

Since many distractions are an inherent part of worklife, we are in need of strategies to keep us focused and engaged in our work. ProHabits, instead of being a tool that distracts you, is a tool that offers opportunities for enhanced focus. Attention is a skill like anything else and requires consistent daily efforts to train.    

Achieving flow through focus

Flow is the result of a successful state of focus where you are able to remain fully immersed and engaged in your work. Focused attention is critical for achieving a state of flow and is thus an inherent part of working toward becoming your best self at work. It requires that you be fully engaged in a task that demands your full skill level – no more no less. The utilization of flow then continuously improves your skills – allowing you to gradually function at higher and higher levels. It is the sort of engaged state that one achieves during states of play or in creative acts such as creating art or playing music.

Not only is sustained focus better for productivity and quality performance, but is also considerably more enjoyable than remaining unfocused: bringing focus into work is to bring pleasure into it. Being your best self at work is also to feel your best at work. Flow is known to be brought out in all sorts of work, and with ProHabits it can be achieved in yours through daily actionable activities.  

To find out more about ProHabits and flow read our article on it here.

John Paul

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