If you are reading this article you are probably sitting at your computer. Take a look at how many applications you have open, how many internet browsers or half written/half read emails. How many tasks are you in the middle of? And how many have you completed? Online social media adds to the mix with constant updates from Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and the like. If you are at home, perhaps you also have the radio or television on in the background. In the office, you might be listening in on at least a couple of interesting but unimportant conversations between your co-workers.
We have created a ‘culture of busy’ convincing ourselves that busy equates to being productive and efficient. We view multi-tasking as a positive trait and essential skill for the 21st century workplace without always considering the quality of the tasks we are completing. Of course, it is crucial that we can juggle our workloads, reprioritise when appropriate and have the flexibility to manage the complex nature of modern working life. We may, however, have lost sight of what good time management really means. And more worryingly, we may be losing the ability to focus – and to really think.
Significant research has been conducted on this phenomenon now labelled Divided Attention Disorder or ‘DAD’ to those who know it well and has recently been picked up by the BBC and other media institutions. The premise is that this bombardment of information combined with our own quest for constant mental stimulation is actually changing the way brains are wired. Instant online gratification is eroding our ability to concentrate – at great cost to our intellectual and creative powers. Organisations are now investing in a variety of time management and communication skills programmes in order to help their staff to deal with this modern day information overload.
Think about it, find that interesting article in an industry journal you have been meaning to read or a chapter in a book you have been recommended. Sit at your desk and see if you can read to the end without once glancing at your smart phone or computer screen! You may also be suffering from DAD!