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  • Have you ever been distracted by social media posts?
  • Do you allow cellphone notifications to distract you?

I knew there was a name for it. I have been doing it all my life. But I started noticing it when working on my MBA years ago. I carved out time to go to the library to research and be away from my family so I would not be distracted. But when I arrived in the library I sat down and started perusing printed social media: magazines like People, Ebony, and Readers Digest. This was in the ‘80s. I still do it, but now it’s digital social media like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Times have changed, but the behavior is the same.

I have read enough self-help books to know that if problems aren’t identified, it’s difficult to address them. I am referring to distractions. And yes, distractions are problematic. While working on my MBA I could have gotten so much more done if I had gone into the library collected research materials I needed and studied them. Instead, I wasted half the time procrastinating allowing distractions to steal my focus.

A lot of us take pride in multi-tasking. However, I have read that it is not possible to multi-task because you can only focus on one thing at a time. The people who say this reason that rather than multi-tasking we are moving from one thing to another rapidly. Some might say that we are self-distracting because our attention spans are so short.

A few weeks ago, I was working on a project while listening to Hidden Brain, a podcast that airs on NPR. The title of that week’s episode was “Finding Focus”. The guest discussed how often we are distracted and how long it takes to recover from a distraction. According to the guest’s research, the average office employee is interrupted or distracted by emails, texts, phone calls, or other employees frequently. The finding that surprised me most is that it takes on average 25.5 minutes for the employee to return to the original task.

In addition to external distractions, we sometimes create our distractions because of boredom. The speed with which screens change on devices and televisions is getting faster and faster. It appears that the more speed we want the more distractions we get. I want to sharpen my focus, so I will have to lessen my distractions. I have identified the problem so I can address it. Are distractions an issue for you?

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