How much time do you spend surfing the internet? It might be a crucial part of your work or take up a big part of your personal time. Either way, most of us are glued to the never-ending stream of information at our fingertips and it may be becoming increasingly detrimental to our attention and ability for success.
How? Purely by the way the internet is changing how we focus. Now a normal, everyday habit of today’s society, being distracted by technology, has affected how deeply we think and, in turn, it’s affecting the way in which we live.
Developing The Art of Detrimental Distraction
The author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport, has commented on the increasing loss in people’s ability to focus.
“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” – Cal Newport
While the internet serves many advantages such as sheer access of useful data and ease of connection with others, the way you use it could determine your success in work, education and even your personal life.
The younger generations that have now grown up not knowing life before the internet, are particularly susceptible. However, we are all in danger of being affected. The core problem is distraction and the way we can use the internet to open up opportunities for endless procrastination.
We all know focus is the number one key to get anything done, whether it’s a menial activity or a major project. But like many habits, we as internet advocates, have managed to develop the instant ability to distract ourselves several times throughout a task – to the point where we don’t always realise we’re doing it.
Your Ability To Focus Will Determine How You Thrive
The trouble with this is, while we feel we’re rewarding ourselves by generating a distraction, we are actually stopping our deeper thinking.
Focus allows us to concentrate on the central point of what we’re trying to do and taking away this focus, even for a small moment, means we need to make extra effort to get ourselves back to that focal point. This detracts from the deep thinking and creates a more shallow thinking. Our willpower – which is highly connected to our focus – also wanes in the process and as we all know, once willpower is compromised it can take extreme effort to get back in the saddle.
As mentioned earlier, the internet is the biggest distraction we have with many scientific studies coming through backing up how this is affecting our brains. Our focus is slowly but surely declining and this is becoming a huge problem when it comes to our work.
Deep Thinking vs. Shallow Thinking
Cal Newport talks about the development of shallow thinking in today’s distracted world. Shallow thinking or shallow work, is the little tasks we get done such as answering emails, texts or ticking off a to-do list of mundane stuff. It’s stuff that needs doing but the problem is that we’re opting for this shallow work instead of the deep work.
Deep thinking or deep work is when what we are doing is creating value and contributing to our goals. When our brains are filled up with what’s going on in the virtual world of the internet, our real world priorities tend to lean towards the less important tasks.
As Newport points out, people who can cultivate this dying skill of focus and attention, contributing to the forward movement of ideas and innovative projects, will become the rare few who will thrive in this distraction-based world.
So, what should we do? It’s hard to completely shut ourselves off from the internet and our phones, but trying to reduce the amount of time we spend idly browsing will help immensely. Take note of how often you find yourself distracted without even realising and make a conscious effort to stop yourself.
It could be the difference to how successful or unsuccessful you are.
|The Saturday Essay: Does the Internet Make You Dumber?