We live in interesting times. While previous generations suffered through diseases and crises because of the absence of and inadequate information, we are suffering from the abundance of it. With the multiplicity of internet connected devices and access to the information superhighway, we are swimming in an abundance of information. In fact, it only takes five minutes to be intelligent; enough time to type in your search query into Google and come up with an answer. The sheer massive amount of information available to us today is astounding. In the United States alone, there are about fifty-five thousand scientific journals publishing about one million, two hundred thousand articles a year; sixty thousand books and a hundred thousand other research reports are issued annually. Those figures does not include the massive amount of eBooks available. I was recently watching a video on YouTube that asserted that every minute, over two hundred and four million email messages are sent and people use their internet devices to make four million Google search queries, yes every minute. Apart from opening us up to access a whole lot of information, it also opens us up to a floodgate of information that can reduce our attention span, blur our focus and our productivity instead of enhancing it. For me, it is a lot of work; text messages, phone calls, app notifications, social media alerts and notifications, email and articles, we now need another set of brains to keep up with it all. While most people say we live in noisy times, I say we are a distracted generation. As a result of our fractured attention, there is a battle to balance our productivity with the endless social and digital conversations, virtual multitasking and communication going on online. Thomas Friedman referred to us as living in the age of interruptions.
Have you got on your laptop to type a mail and after two hours of endless surfing you seem to find it difficult to get things done? Interruptions. Have you noticed we are now self-proclaimed masters at multitasking? Interruptions. The balance we try to reach when we are walking and listening to radio, when we are in meetings and chatting up our friends on social media, when we attempt to balance online and off-line activities and hoping we will be great at everything. These factors are throwing social researchers on another tangent of understanding the effects of this on our productivity, cognitive and emotional development and aspirations in life.
Here are my thoughts on cutting through the noise of social media and getting the things that are important to you and your business done as we approach the last few days of year.
Practice Time Discipline/
It is an age long saying and it still rings true, nothing great has never been achieved without self-discipline. Our ability to win back our time from several activities and social media noise will be critical to achieving anything great in life.
If you have a goal to achieve before the year runs out, break them down into tasks. If you have specific goals to achieve in one specific day, jump on it before entertaining those urgent social media distractions. Unless social media is your business, it is business before relaxation. You can schedule multiple fifteen minutes breaks in your schedule to do those basic tasks that can spin you into getting lost in the black hole of the online space.
We are the connected generation – connected to everyone and anywhere across the world but then, we need to unplug as well. In meeting the goals that need your direct attention, you can deal with the negative impact of overload by ensuring you have some ‘unplugged’ moments. These times can be used to make real connections, do real work and ensure you are not sneaking to stay updated.
An expert on divided attention and a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Earl Miller affirmed that “The brain is not wired to multitask. When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly and every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” Switching rapidly between tasks does not only mean we are not concentrating completely, it also mean we are inducing emotional fatigue and eventually reducing in a reduction on our IQ.
Stacking a lot of work and attempting to do everything at once makes us look more busy than productive and one of the core habits of productive people is not only that they hardly multitask, they have a schedule and stick to it.
Do a Brain Dump/
Rather than have your mind cluttered and wandering with the massive amount of ideas and information you consume daily, you can do a brain dump by storing the information somewhere. This can easily be done by carrying a notepad or making use of mobile apps to store all your ideas, plans and research reports floating in your head into an organized and stored format. Especially if you have been bitten by the browsing bug and spend endless time browsing. You can use digital tools to limit browsing tabs, use mobile apps and online tools to store all your website links and interesting articles that ensures you can check them out later thereby saving you a lot of time and energy.
For me, I make use of Evernote and Notepad++ which helps me avoid mind clutter and organize my scattered idea and projects in one place.
With a barrage of social media tools and multiple media content, the ability to make use of the information you have is the real asset.