REFLECTION: What’s new? It’s a common enough greeting and an innocent enough question. Novelties – new information, new opportunities, new ideas – have a place in our lives. They generate energy, engagement and excitement about life’s possibilities.
However, a preoccupation with the latest, up-to-the-nano-second news can keep us from more meaningful, long-term pursuits.
Scientists looking at how we juggle the bombardment of email, phone calls and other inbound info are finding that our ability to focus is undermined by constantly reacting to these info bursts. We have more trouble sifting out irrelevant information, become more fractured in our thinking, and end up less focused on what we know in our clear thinking moments constitute our top priorities.
‘Incoming bits’ provoke an excitement akin to an adrenalin rush – and are just as addictive. As we become more obsessed with pursuing new bits of info, we are then less likely to stay the course – less likely to follow through putting older, more valuable information to work.
This incessant influx of information can work against our long term productivity and well being – and leave us more stressed, to boot. A University of California study found that people interrupted by e-mail reported significantly increased stress compared to those left alone to focus on the task at hand.
ACTION: So, what’s the take away learning from the ‘latest’ research? It argues strongly in favor of judiciously pulling the plug on incoming news and views.
Don’t let your focus and energy be hijacked by nonstop missives arriving in your in box or voice mail.
At those times when you are intent on a high priority task or relationship, unplug the technology. Turn off the smart phone. Quell the twitter. Log off Facebook. Quash the news feed.
Temper your ‘reactive’ brain by removing temptations to distraction, and tend to what your ‘thinking’ brain has already declared is most important. Actually making progress on things that matter could turn out to be an adrenalin rush of an even more satisfying and enduring kind!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We’ve got a large and growing group of people who think the slightest hint that something interesting might be going on is like catnip. They can’t ignore it.” – Clifford Nass, Stanford Communications Professor
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: For more on the plugged-in phenomenon and its impact see this New York Times article, ‘Hooked On Gadgets, and Paying A Mental Price’ .
READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s message, “Settle Down – Settle In”, Pause reader MB writes: This morning your piece hit home for me. I came in to work with a mental list of all the things I must do, finish and make plans for, before attending a conference, visiting family members who have some serious health concerns, and then leaving on a week’s vacation with a friend who is struggling with several of life’s issues. So, before starting in to whittle away the items on the list, I took a 30 second breather. It helped me focus and relax and get my work done more effectively. I forwarded the message on to colleagues. I think as a group we could take a 30 second breather before meetings and maybe even in our group sessions with clients. Thanks for this timely reminder to settle down and settle in.