It seems that television and the internet have destroyed our attention spans. We have become too used to working, answering emails, following Twitter, and responding to text messages all at the same time. Even worse might be driving, applying makeup, and texting… you know who you are! It may seem like we are getting more done when we are multi-tasking and doing more at once, but are we doing it well? I recently burnt a grilled cheese sandwich because I was distracted with blogging or Twitter, or something else I was doing while trying to prepare lunch.
I burnt my lunch because I was not actually paying attention to what was happening on top of my stove. I am not the only one who has noticed an inability to focus. Researchers have found that when we multi-task we are actually wasting, not saving, mental energy. We are only able to devote our attention to one task at a time.
When we try to juggle several things at one time, just like juggling, we are actually only holding one task in the grasp of our attention at a time, quickly switching from one to the next to the next. Switching our attention from one item to the next takes some time, especially when attending to complicated tasks.
I know multi-tasking is not assisting my productivity and I am working to focus more on whatever task is at hand. Unfortunately, my attention span is not always cooperating. Instead of Facebook or Google Reader, I am challenging myself (and you) to find healthy distractions when your brain needs a break from focusing on the task at hand. Rather than re-engaging my brain on something new, I can allow myself to rest mentally by engaging myself physically. The next time you need a break try stretching, sit-ups, push-ups, jogging, preparing a healthy meal, splitting snacks into serving sizes, or other household chores.
April 4th, 2009