Social media is changing the way we communicate, make connections, and develop friendships. Digital convergence is changing the way we learn, think, and behave. The old ideas about “time management” and multi-tasking are no longer working. In fact, they seem to be making things worse. Some of the first studies showing that multi-tasking takes longer and decreases the quality of output came out almost a decade ago. It’s now widely accepted among researchers and scientists that constant multi-tasking even makes us worse at multi-tasking! The more we do it, the worse we get…at everything. The problem is that we have become so accustomed to instant gratification of our curiosity and our mental whims, that we have undermined our own ability to focus. New terms have been created to describe the fact that we are essentially giving ourselves Attention Deficit Disorder. And it’s almost impossible to control your “time” (and there are only 24 hours in every day anyway), until you can control your attention.
Digital convergence, the idea that all types of different technologies are merging into one ubiquitous “presence,” means that it’s almost impossible to escape the demands on our attention. And make no mistake, not only is more information being created than ever before, but it’s also being pushed to us in ways that are designed to take our attention from us. Virtually every new technology has some feature to get information in front of you, whether by popping up on your computer screen or handheld device, or by ringing, buzzing, or vibrating within earshot. Website creators speak in terms of “eyeballs” (get you to look at it) and “click-throughs” (get you to click on it). Marketers speak in terms of “taglines” and “calls to action” (make you notice and then do something). Have you ever noticed that commercials come on louder than the programming? The ability to write “attention grabbing headlines” is a valuable skill. New ways to get you to notice information are being invented and refined every day. The term “demands on your attention” was never more appropriate.
The philosopher William James was noted for saying, “my experience is what I agree to attend to.” But with the increasing adoption of ever-present technology, often times we don’t “agree” to attend to anything. We spend our days simply reacting to whatever happens to be buzzing, blinking, or vibrating in front of us. But if we’re not in control of our attention, can we really be in control of our lives?
So we’re moving into a new era. The “Information Age” is being replaced by the Attention Age, where attention is becoming the most valuable commodity, and focus the most valuable skill. But the ability to focus is like any other skill, if it’s not practiced, it’s lost. Children are showing signs of being easily bored without constant stimulation, and teenagers are scoring poorly on cognitive functioning tests designed to determine their reasoning and critical thinking skills, the kinds of skills that require deep thought and reflection.
The work we do at RegainYourTime.com is evolving with this societal change. Our training is designed to raise awareness about these issues, and call attention to individual behaviors that sabotage our client’s success, rather than support it. For more information about presentations or training on attention management, and others related to personal productivity and effective workflow processes, please click the links, explore the site, or contact us for a chat. We’d love to discuss it with you.