We live in a time where digital technology advancements allow us to have access to an infinite amount of information. We are connected 24/7. This paradigm has developed without a manual or training. While it has given us liberation, validation, and knowledge, it has also led us on a path of constant distraction. Mechanisms are continuously being created to inject more and new types of information sharing options, resulting in never-ending notifications and generating a collective sense of urgency. But how digital distraction affects our productivity?
We are becoming addicted to these experiences, and our behaviors are changing without a real direction or understanding of the long-term psychological consequences of living in a constant state of overload and distraction.
While it is becoming more apparent that the pressure to be present at all places and all times can cause real stress and anxiety, we are also incredibly dependent on communication through digital channels. With being continually pulled and made feel that we need to be present in that mode or otherwise we’re missing out, multitasking seems like the perfect answer: get more done in a limited amount of time!
“People usually think that progress consists in the increase of knowledge, in the improvement of life, but that isn’t so. Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life. The truth is always accessible to a man…because a man’s soul is a divine spark, the truth itself. It’s only a matter of removing from this divine spark, everything that obscures it. Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.” ~Leo Tolstoy
The Myth of Multitasking
Notifications are destructive by design. We receive countless notifications throughout the course of our day through various methods and devices. We are conditioned to look at these notifications in real-time without giving a second thought or reflecting on the effects of disengaging from a task or project we have been concentrating on. Somehow we have adapted to think and operate in this way, which we boastfully call multitasking.
We have been made to believe that to make progress, we ought to continually do more. Media is filled with tips and tricks on efficiency, productivity, and how one can seemingly beat the clock by ‘managing’ time. Effective multitasking is thrown in for good measure and is thought to offer just what we are looking for – a paradigm that enables us to get a lot more done at once. But the truth is that by adopting multitasking, we are merely creating nothing but an illusion of productivity and progress.
Task-switching doesn’t allow for actual depth and focus, and we inevitably find ourselves working on projects and tasks for longer than anticipated. How many times have you had to stop what you are doing just to read another email, or check that notification persistently flashing on your smartphone?
With plenty of studies demonstrating the devastating effects of multitasking and distractions on productivity, focus, and mental health, many still mistake multitasking as a performance and progress enabler. We could not be further from the truth.
Our user experiences, behaviors, and adaptedness may change, but the fundamentals of the human brain remain unchanged. We are not built with the ability to cognitively, wholeheartedly engage in more than one task at one time.
The workloads and the pressure to perform are not reducing, and yet the targets are rising along with the expectations and constant connectivity. To be alive and functioning is to be evolving. Always. Constantly growing. And with growth will come challenges that will require smart and innovative solutions. So if managing the constant stream of digital distraction by multitasking is not putting us on the road of progress, what should we do? How do we effectively cope with all the input and distractions we have in our lives? How can we foster a business that experiences success through a culture of clarity, inspiration, and productivity?
An excellent place to start is by being mindful of what’s most important. Start by exploring the current state of your business and your teams. Evaluate how much value is being assigned to meaningful connectivity and establish whether your teams are aware of the effects of digital distraction. It is also worth noting whether you and your teams have fallen in the trap of believing that progress only equals being continuously stimulated by the illusion of productivity. We have to start by recognizing the challenge at hand, and we then ought to be prepared that the conversation may be a reluctant one.
It might take some serious changes to come to a point where we can work cohesively, intelligently, and creatively alongside technology. Where teams independently monitor their stress levels and have the right tools to cope in destructive situations.
The solution will not be as easy as using less digital technology, turning off notifications, deactivating apps, or undergoing a digital detox. We must realize that technology is not going anywhere, and with the digital transformation and growth, we will inevitably be faced with even more significant challenges. We will be called to adopt and evolve alongside technology advancements.
Our use of technology should empower us to change, enhance creativity, and expand personal innovation within teams and individuals. Instead of letting the constant notifications direct how we go through our day, we should direct how we go through the day and how technology serves us to do that. If we aren’t focusing on the tasks that contribute towards our objectives, but we are instead drowning in emails, meetings, and chat notifications, it may be a perfect time to address the predicament of digital distraction. Perhaps it’s time to shift perception and take control.
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