By: Ayush Jain (LT MHPS)
Ever felt hard pressed to read that book you brought last month or to finish that painting you started months ago? Can’t seem to pen that article, short story or limerick that you often think about?
Most people respond to the above questions in the affirmative. The major reason? Well, let us ponder for a bit. It’s not as if we are engaged in a Herculean task like the creation of Earth in seven days! Then why can’t we seem to concentrate or find the time? Well some term it as a necessary evil, but it’s all this Smart Technology that has crept into our lives. Be it your trendy iPhone, the expensive Android devices, or simply your email. While we are trying every moment of our lives to stay connected, we do not realize how big a DISTRACTION it is!
Our cognitive ability needs focused concentration to develop, when all we end up doing is to constantly check WhatsApp, while away our time on the zillion Apps installed or play Candy Crush when those five lives are replenished (if that’s not in vogue anymore, perhaps another game). These frequent interruptions hardly give us any time to focus on the activities we have a penchant for. We are instead diminishing our intellectual capacity by not providing any concrete time to our minds to think and develop.
As The New York Times author Molly Young puts it,
We just fall short of how smart we want to be.
Any remedies or solutions you ask?
Well there’s no one remedy, it’s essentially a series of tactics which one can use to reduce these distractions and further our cognitive development. No, I’m not asking to chuck your phones right this moment! But we do need to compartmentalize.
First things first, we need to get over this obsessive need to be connected all the time. The world will not come to an end if we start ditching this thing called INTERNET. We need to learn to disconnect for hours at a time and only connect in times of necessity.
It’s not going to be easy, but you can gradually reduce your internet time. You don’t need to be connected to all the social media accounts (the Facebooks and the Twitters need to go away).
From 18 (after discounting six hours of sleep)…12…8…6 and finally down to 3 hours of internet a day should suffice for all you need.
Also, we need to learn to respond only when necessity dictates. Hence responding to every message, every email as soon as you receive it not only distracts you but also cuts into your productive time. By overcoming this hurdle, your time taken to accomplish various tasks will not only improve but so will your concentration and intellect.
Secondly, we need to chalk out targets and create a visual check list. Gradually, increase the time you want to spend doing focussed work and keep crossing off targets from that checklist.
Thirdly, develop the habit of writing and noting down your thoughts which bubble up every now and then. Carry a small notepad on your person at all times. We never know when our mind may think of something ingenious or we may come across something we’d like to remember for future reference. Writing down also helps make a mental note of stuff and there is a greater chance that you’ll remember something you wrote rather than something you just saw or typed in your smartphone.
And lastly, learn to live without your phone nearby. The bright screen and constant updates which flash on it add to the distractions. Try to keep your phone screen down (on a soft surface of course, you don’t want to scratch it!) or activate the flight mode or Do Not Disturb mode on your devices if the buzzing is hindering your concentration. Sleep without the phones next to the pillow. Buy an actual alarm clock to wake you up. Support the alarm clock industry!
Hope the above helps you in increasing your attention spans. Happy Thinking, People!!
Based on: “Don’t Distract Me” by Molly Young from NY Times
Suggested further Reading: Cal Newport’s DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World