Being productive heavily relies on one’s ability to concentrate their attention. A recent study conducted by Microsoft suggests that the attention span of young and old alike has diminished from 12 seconds in 2000 to around 8 seconds in 2015. What’s most interesting about this statistic is that the average attention span of a goldfish is around 9 seconds which begs the question, are you more productive than a goldfish?
It’s been my experience that regardless of age, gender, role or career, we collectively struggle with ways to increase productivity, both with ourselves and (in the case of business owners and executives) with our employees.
At an organizational level the signs that this struggle would arise has existed for sometime particularly when you consider that:
- Email was intended to reduce paper consumption and increase individual productivity.
- E.R.P. and various other software solutions were intended to improve the efficiency of managing data.
- Smart phones in the workplace were meant to increase communication across the organization.
- Instant messaging in the workplace was meant to increase the speed and convenience of office communication.
Do you think that all of these predictions came true? More importantly do you notice a trend? In everyone of these examples technology was suggested as the means by which to increase efficiency, however in reality it hasn’t.
Who made these predictions in the first place?
A recent article in the NY Times should provide more fuel for thought when the author suggested that numerous CEO’s of Technology companies such as Chris Anderson of 3-D Robotics and Alex Constantinople of the OutCast Agency admitted that they sheltered their children from technology, a trend that the author first noticed during his interactions with Steve Jobs several years ago.
I’m not here to point blame or lay fault, but I want to suggest that it may actually be possible that much of the technology we strive to purchase and introduce in order to increase productivity is in fact having the exact opposite effect.
What to do?
The solution although you’ve likely heard it before, is quite straight forward. Increasing productivity begins with increasing our attention span and increasing our attention span begins with limiting our use of technology. Concentrate on one task at a time for set periods of time (20 minutes to start) and don’t let yourself be distracted by technology.
- Turn off your email – check it at scheduled intervals.
- Turn off your phone – educate others on your “office hours” and when you’ll be responding
- Stay away from the internet – it’s a time dump and should be used sparingly and carefully.
There are growing trends to taking a “technology vacation” but I would suggest that increasing productivity doesn’t require a one time or periodic event. We need to place conscious concerted effort to how we use technology, making it a tool, not a crutch.
© Shawn Casemore 2015. All rights reserved.