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The Fragmentation of Focus, And What You Can Do About it!

The Fragmentation of Focus, And What You Can Do About it!

Over the past two years, I have noticed something change in me. At first, it was barely noticeable, it was subtle — but increasingly I have become more aware of it. What I noticed was the fragmentation of my focus. I came to realize over the past couple of years that my ability to concentrate wasn’t as sharp as it once was. I thought it might have been due to having so much on my plate at work. But then, I have always been very good at focusing on my career.

It Wasn’t Only Happening To Me

As I looked around me, it seemed I wasn’t the only one struggling with focus. In fact, I am often taken by surprise how little focus people have these days. Their actions seem scattered, uncertain, and anxious. Were I first began to notice this was in a curious place, not somewhere most people would expect. As a martial arts coach, I get to work with diverse groups of people, from all walks of life. It was on my mat, in teaching them, that this fragmentation of focus first jumped out at me. People seemed less and less able to stay focused on one specific thing long enough to get it down. Their ability to retain information seemed to escape them. If I wasn’t experiencing the same phenomena myself, I may have put it down to the learning process and simply requiring more time to get it down. But this wasn’t the case.

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I then realized, over the past two years I have focused considerably more on my social media presence than any time in the past. If you are an entrepreneur you are constantly told that you need a social media presence to be competitive in this world. So, taking that advice, I engaged in all of the most popular social media platforms. Before I knew it, I was concerned about likes, comments, and shares. It became addictive, and not checking to see my latest likes, or retweets made me feel like I had missed my morning coffee. An underlying anxiety began to build. First, I couldn’t explain it and wrote it off as stress. But around the same time, my wife, who has never really been into technology or social media, got a brand new iPad for her birthday. Before long, she was hooked too. As we sat around one day talking, we both reflected on this underlying, what we thought was unexplainable anxiety we were both feelings.

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The bottom line is, there is a lot of research now and articles that have been written to show that social media is addictive, and it isn’t good for you. It’s not my intention here to rewrite the research, and in fact, I am pretty convinced that when people think about it, they intuitively know it isn’t good for them too. What I want to offer up here is what I have been doing to get my focus back, and it’s working.

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Here are my 4 tips that anyone can apply in their life to get more focus back in their lives:

  1. When I wake up in the morning now, I take it slow. A cup of coffee, a cuddle with my cat, or a relaxing gaze out the window at the wondrous birds that visit my garden. Only once I am awake for an hour do I open up my laptop or reach for my iPhone. I then clear all my emails, check my social media accounts and head off to work. As a side note, I leave my iPhone in the kitchen overnight and no longer have it lying next to my bed.
  2. Throughout the day I don’t check any of my social media accounts. I stay off Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and only answer emails if I absolutely have too (I run an online business so at times I have no choice). At 4 pm, I check my social media accounts again, and then that’s it for the day.
  3. When I am on social media, especially Facebook I stay away from the newsfeed. I have told all the important people in my life, to tag me rather in a post they make, especially if they want me to be aware of it. This way, the only page I ever see on Facebook is my own. It honestly makes the whole experience a lot less stressful. I don’t get to see the ranting antics of ‘stuff’ that, to be honest, sometimes should simply remain in someone’s head. As a bonus too, I then steer clear from all the negative posts as well.
  4. Anytime I am on social media now, I practice what I call Social Media Mindfulness. I post, and I tweet like everyone else. But just like everyone else, I found, as I noted earlier, that I began to become addicted to the likes, to the feedback. Before I knew it, I had an expectation that people would respond to my tweets, my posts – and when they didn’t, I felt some level of despair and panic. I now post, tweet, or Instagram ensuring that what I put out there is important, and then taking a deep breath, I no longer attach to the outcome. If people like it, or comment, great. If not, that’s fine too.

My four strategies above have allowed me to be on social media, but without becoming consumed by it. Cutting back on how many times I would check my social media accounts during the day (and night) and being disciplined about it has been the single most important change I have made in my daily routine. This alone has boosted my concentration. I am now able to stay more focused on one project at a time for longer because I no longer have that constant background anxiety that I am missing out on something. The truth is, I realized within a week of making these changes, that for the most part, not much changes in 8-hours in my social media world anyway.

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More by this author

Rodney King

Embodied Performance Coach

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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