We live in a world of full of distractions. How can we avoid being pulled in a thousand directions and continue to thrive?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise. (According to Psychology Today, there was a 42-percent increase in the diagnosis of ADHD between 2001 and 2011. Given this information, it is not surprising to see a parallel spike in “shiny penny syndrome” (the tendency to chase everything that comes our way). As stimuli in our everyday environments increase, knowing how to not respond to everything that demands our attention is critical.
Think about the information you have access to on an average day. In recent years, information has increased in volume and variety, and the truth of much of this information is often questionable. The problem is that these changes have snuck up on us. Two decades ago, most of us never imagined that by 2017, we might find ourselves walking down the street while simultaneously responding to client emails, texting contractual employees, ordering groceries and tracking our vital health metrics.
We can leverage many of our new technologies to make our lives easier (e.g., to order groceries while commuting home from work). The challenge is to learn how to use the right technologies at the right time and to avoid becoming overly distracted. This is why we need new skills to build fences to keep information out and filter vital information. The goal is to digest only the information we need to focus on what really matters in any given moment.
What Organizations Can Do
Most people agree that it is helpful to read the news on a daily basis. It’s a way to identify patterns and trends around the world. Of course, trying to read every article in the paper can be overwhelming. The same holds true for other types of information.
Organizations need to think strategically about how and why they are delivering new content and skills to their employees. They also need to think about how they’re sharing information as a gateway to position individuals to be more effective. So, the challenge is twofold: Organizations need to train employees to effectively filter information and hone in on the types of information that will enable them to be impactful, productive and innovative. But organizations also need to share the right information at the right time.
Great leaders know how to disseminate critical information at the right level and in an easily consumable format. Increasingly, great leaders are those who are committed to filtering information. To be clear, this isn’t about withholding information – transparency helps organizations thrive – but rather about treating information as a valuable asset that gains more value when put into the right hands at the right moment.
What Individuals Can Do
The onus is not simply on organizations to avoid further saturating employees with information that they may or may not need. With discipline and the right tools, employees can also optimize their ability to filter information and focus.
First, rather than use apps to gain access to information, also use them to more effectively filter information.
Second, optimize your use of notifications. If news notifications in the middle of the workday cause you to click away from your work, turn them off. Use curated news sites to catch up on anything you missed at the end of the day. If other types of notifications (e.g., about workflow and progress) help you stay focused, ensure they are on.
Finally, as information arrives via emails (including promotional emails), text messages and notifications of all kinds, ask yourself whether or not the information is supporting your work now or could in the future. If not, unsubscribe, redirect (e.g., to an email account you don’t access on a regular basis) or selectively mute the messages and notifications pulling you away from your work. Like de-cluttering your home, de-cluttering your virtual environment will enable you to focus and reach new heights of productivity.