You sit down at your desk to do an important task. It’s taken you a while to get round to starting, so you already feel a little behind and rushed. You make a start. A text comes through and you respond. You get back to the task. Your phone rings and you make a mental note to call them back later. You check your emails. You start thinking about that thing you’re worrying about. One thought leads to another until you realise you're miles away. You go back to the task. You check your emails again. You feel restless so you go to make a coffee. An hour has gone by and you have made almost no progress.
The cognitive cost of distraction
When you multi-task, production of the stress hormone cortisol and the fight or flight hormone adrenaline increases, which over-stimulates your brain, makes you feel more anxious and uses up a lot of energy. Also, the prefrontal cortex, responsible for concentration, ironically, has a novelty bias, and so loves getting side-tracked by new stimuli like emails, texts and notifications.
One experiment found that knowing you have an unread email in your inbox while you are trying to concentrate on a task can reduce your IQ by ten points. It’s been shown that the cognitive losses from multi-tasking are worse than the losses from pot smoking.
What can you do about it?
Staying calm and focused in our modern world is becoming increasingly difficult. There are many time management and personal development approaches to tackle this, but our team of experts has developed a range of specific activities to meet the challenge posed by what Time Magazine calls ‘the age of distraction’.
One of the tools we deploy is mindfulness, adopted by the likes of Adobe, Apple, eBay, Etsy, Facebook, Google Intel, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Distraction giving way to focus
One of the key service we offer is training your concentration, which makes it much easier to stay on task.
Fewer days off work
Transport for London recently carried out a mindfulness programme that resulted in days off sick due to stress, anxiety and depression falling by 70% and absences for all health conditions falling by 50% in the three years following.
Improved memory and learning
In 2003 Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin published his research on how meditation affected the brains of the Dalai Lama’s senior monks. His team of neuroscientists found that they had a highly developed left prefrontal cortex, which leads to enhanced mental activities such as focus, memory, learning, happiness, positive thoughts and emotions. It also strengthens area of the brain engaged in holding information, reflecting and problem solving.
There is a crisis in creativity afflicting our society. By clearing your mind of distractions you allow ideas to bubble up into your consciousness. You also become better at building on other’s ideas rather than shooting them down.
What is Mindfulness?
We help bring your attention into the present moment, rather than being distracted by thinking about the past or by worrying about the future. It’s also about learning to be less judgmental. It’s simple but hard to do in practice.
Mindfulness and other such measures physically changes the shape of your brain. MRI scans reveal that after eight weeks:
- The amygdala, an area of the brain involved in the body’s stress response, shrinks
- The prefrontal cortex, associated with the higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making, becomes thicker
- The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections associated with attention and concentration get stronger