March 06, 2020

Credit: Malte Mueller / Getty Images

Are you looking at this article while you’re supposed to be doing something else? Chris Bailey, author of, “Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction,” says you’re not alone. From the hits of dopamine we get when we check social media, to the trick our minds play on us when we’re multitasking (which make us think we’re being more productive than we really are), our world is a really distracting place. 

But it is possible to undo the effects of all that stimulation and reset our attention spans. Bailey weighs in on what it takes to get through a workday or a busy afternoon without accidentally ending up scrolling Twitter, checking your email, or playing games on your phone. 

Three Takeaways

  • Between email notifications, instant messages, new tweets, and more, we get distracted (on average) every 40 seconds while working on our computers. Understandably, it’s hard to get things done when you can’t focus for even a minute, but the impact is compounded by what’s called attentional residue. When we switch tasks, our minds continue to linger on what we were just doing, which makes refocusing even more challenging.
  • According to Bailey, our minds are essentially addicted to the hits of dopamine that we get from checking notifications. Undoing the effects of all that and detoxing from the need to constantly seek new stimulation takes about 8 days. As a first step, he suggests deleting all of the distracting apps on your phone  —  even email.
  • One tactic Bailey suggests to stay on task and focused throughout the day, is to use a simple list of three. Our minds can only hold about three unique pieces of information at once, so creating a task list at the start of the day with just a few objectives could lead to a more productive day.

More Reading

  • There are plenty of suggestions out there to help you focus, such as getting rid of distractions or having some coffee, but there’s another method you can try: video game music. According to an article from Popular Science, game soundtracks are “designed to simultaneously stimulate your senses and blend into the background of your brain”  —  the perfect formula for getting into hyperfocus mode.
  • Open offices are the bane of many of our workdays, and this article from Fast Company sheds some light on why they’re so pervasive. 
  • Bailey suggests taking some time away from apps and distractions to reset our capacity for attention. Previously, we spoke with Cal Newport on how exactly to go about that “digital detox.”

attention span, chris bailey, lifestyle, focus, distraction, multitasking

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