According to a 2004 study, average office workers have their attention diverted every three minutes and hijacked every 11 minutes… and 40% of them never make it back to finish what they started. Those who do (25 minutes later) need another two minutes to get back up to speed… before being diverted again.
(And here’s the scary bit: that study was done before Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, so imagine what those figures must be today. Three minutes of uninterrupted work? Luxury!)
Obviously this is not good for productivity (and it can’t be much good for morale either) but there’s a much bigger problem here: a kind of global ‘attention deficit culture’. We’re so transfixed on What’s Happening Right Now we’re losing sight of Where We Are and What We Are Doing.
In 2010, a Jetstar flight to Singapore narrowly missed disaster when its pilots forgot to lower the wheels for landing. According to the official investigation, the crew had ‘lost situational awareness’ because the Captain was reading text messages on his mobile phone instead of landing an A320.
It’s like we’re monitoring everything but noticing nothing.
The good news is we have a choice. At the moment we’re actively choosing to be distracted; it makes us feel informed, wanted, even important. We feel ‘on top of things’ even while being buried underneath them.
Or we could choose to turn some of this stuff off and direct attention to what really matters.
Let’s heed the advice of the Zen masters and Be Here, Now.