Researchers have been arguing for decades about human attention span: on the long-end, we adult Americans may be able to focus for up to twenty minutes, on the short end, according to a recent study from Microsoft Corp, you likely lose attention span after 8 seconds (which makes your concentration one second short of a goldfish’s).
If you’re having trouble focusing at work, it may be time for a new goal for 2017: staying productive. Here’s how (concentrate for just a few minutes and read this).
We live in a marketing age that might also be called, “The Age of Distractions.” Everything around us is designed to grab our decreasing attention spans. As we bounce from television to smart phones, to billboards, to music, to the internet and on and on, we cease to exercise the “muscle” that is our own attention spans.
The average worker wastes an estimated three hours of each 8-hour working day, doing things like surfing the internet, socializing with co-workers and even just spacing out. The cost to businesses is staggering: fantasy football alone cost employers an estimated $10.5 billion in lost productivity.
So the first step to getting back on track is to identify where and how you spend your time. Just make a list. Are you:
- Chit-chatting with co-workers
- Socializing online (Instagram, Facebook, Snap Chat, etc.)
- Shopping online
- Reading things or internet surfing subjects that are not “strictly work-related”
- Playing games (Candy Crush addict?)
- Thinking about other concerns, such as work problems or home matters
Make a list of the categories that affect you, and just put a tally mark next to each one that happens, for a week.
Once you have identified all of your distractions, you also need to take a look at your underlying reasons. Chances are, your lack of attention span will fit one of these three categories:
- Underworked—You actually aren’t busy enough, and you are solving the problem of boredom.
- Unproductive—If you actually have plenty of work, and tasks go incomplete because of your fantasy football addiction, it might be time to reexamine your self-discipline. Keep that list going, with the tally marks for when you get off task, and set a goal to improve it each day until you fit your personal activities into scheduled breaks and lunch.
- Unpurposed—Or maybe you are underworked, or unproductive, but you are really just “unpurposed”—that is, your work doesn’t fulfill your personal goals, feels meaningless or unrewarding. In that case, it’s time to reexamine your work.
Finding meaningful work doesn’t have to sound like whining, “Nobody appreciates me.”
We have the personal freedom in this country to pursue our own interests. We can get a little lost from that freedom, buried under bills and obligations and the demands of others’ interests. Yet, many people find meaningful work that still pays the bills and meets the needs of our families.
It may be as simple as identifying an activity, already going on in the world, that you would like to be a part of and then joining a business that is doing that. A change in careers can mean a decrease in pay, but if you enter a profession truly passionate about that business, you will quickly get noticed.
When you see a need in the world that is either not done or you could do better, that’s when it may be time to start a new business altogether. 14.6 million Americans are self-employed.
Find purpose in your work and your days won’t get whittled away on the internet.