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

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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

The Fragmentation of Focus, And What You Can Do About it! Your Voice of Temptation Doesn’t Need To Be In Charge 4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life 4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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