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In an attention deficit culture we’re distracted 46.9% of the time
It’s all too familiar, you arrive into work, the phone is ringing, your emails are mounting up at a rate of knots, you’re due in a meeting, an unwelcome alert lets you know someone has sent you a text and you haven’t even taken your coat off yet. It’s a typical day in thousands of offices, schools and businesses across the country. No wonder then that research by Gilbert and Killingworth reveals that we are distracted on average 46.9 percent of the time. And if we’re distracted, we’re not focusing, if we’re not focusing we’re not in ‘flow’ the optimum state of performance. Worst still, we’re probably more than just a bit stressed.
Are you working in an attention deficit culture?
Edward Hallowell in his HBR article has named the phenomenon ‘attention deficit trait’ or ADT for short. ADT stands accused of turning us into ‘frenzied zombies’ overstretched, constantly, in doing mode and unable to switch off. Look around you, are you in an organizational culture that supports your membership of the living dead? If you can answer yes to one or more the following questions, you might be experiencing ADT:
- Do you constantly check emails throughout the day?
- When you get home do you catch up with work and email colleagues late into the night?
- Do you see a 3am email as a measure of commitment to the cause?
- Do you eat your lunch at your desk?
- Do you respond to texts as soon as they arrive?
- Do you feel as though nothing gets your full attention?
- Do you feel out of control?
- Are you reading these questions thinking ‘Doesn’t everybody do that?’ (Clue: the answer is in the title)
So you noticed a few (or a lot) of ‘Yes’ answers? The truth is you may be working in a culture where ADT has become normalized. You’re not crazy and neither are your colleagues (honestly) you’re working in a global culture of neuro – overload and ever increasing environmental pressures. Hallowell makes the analogy of a traffic jam, ADT is part of modern living. But how can you minimize those distractions or create your own internal culture of calm?
Creating your own internal culture of calm
- Create a support network both at work and outside of it. Daniel Goleman’s research suggests that women are more likely than men to do this, so it’s vitally important that we all have a network of friends and colleagues to talk to and let off steam with.
- Consider your sleep hygiene. A good night’s sleep is key, sleep deprivation exacerbates ADT. Start to wind down an hour before bedtime, relaxing or taking a bath. Switch off your phone, emails and gadgets at this point.
- Diet and exercise (obvious, but true) Get those endorphins pumping along with serotonin and dopamine to promote brain cell health.
- Organisae yourself and keep your work space clear.
- When you feel the pressure mounting, take a moment of mindfulness. Stop. Take a breath and observe how you are feeling in your body, observe any sensations of warmth or coolness. Notice (without judgement) any thoughts that pop into your head, And when you feel ready, crack on with your day.
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