Too often, many of us are saying to ourselves, “I’m working really hard but I’m not getting to where I want to be.” Driven to Distraction at Work author Edward Hallowell, MD, has dedicated his career to studying attention and productivity.
Hallowell has coined the term “attention deficit trait” or ADT to explain the increasingly common problem of distractibility in the modern workplace. An ADT is a response to endless demands and distractions that make someone unable to focus, slow down, be patient, feel fulfilled, commit reasonably, and feel stable instead of overwhelmed. An ADT is caused by the context in which it occurs and can come and go, unlike an attention deficit disorder.
In Driven, Hallowell addresses common challenges like the lack of ability to focus, the feeling of always being in a rush or bouncing from task to task, the attempt to multitask effectively, and the impression that every day ends in frustration and a lack of fulfillment.
Six most common ways we surrender our attention
The first half of Hallowell’s book explains the six most common ways we surrender our attention at work while the second half provides you with a plan for overcoming these distractions. If you can understand the underlying reasons for succumbing to distractions, you can focus and be more productive.
In today’s post, I wanted to highlight one of the six ways we succumb our attention at work.
Screen Sucking (“how to control your electronics so they don’t control you”)
People who feel distressed without their cell phones, waste hours online without even knowing it, and retreat to the Internet when stressed could qualify as screen suckers. The author classifies screen sucking as one of many Attention Deficit Traits (ADT) that can occur at different levels of severity, ranging from conflictive (“usage is annoying to at least one other person”) to addictive (screen activity becomes the most important activity in a person’s life, has a calming influence and can cause withdrawal symptoms).
Because technology today is more interactive than TV or radio in the past, a person can do almost everything online and can crave the “freewheeling state of mind where anything goes and nothing is shut down.” People can then become addicted to the feeling of being online. The problematic aspects of screen use, though, range from constant interruptions to rudeness to too much data without thinking to wasting time continually.
Hallowell applies a basic plan to treat ADTs that involves five elements:
The author gives suggestions to restore productive states in each of these areas in order to allow someone to work more efficiently and disable the distractions. For example, screen sucking drains your energy, makes you numb, replaces your social engagement, provides a structure that works against you, and takes over your control. Hallowell offers the following tips, among others, to combat these problems: log how many hours you spend on electronic devices and gauge where you can cut back. Create pockets in your day reserved for screen time and turn it off at all other times. Turn off your devices during social engagements. Do more productive activities when you are bored. Avoid habit-forming websites and games. Measure and monitor your progress.
Everyone struggles with the common problem of distractions in work and life. With the advent of technological devices, distractions present a seemingly constant challenge. One quote from Hallowell’s book, in particular, sheds light on the level of distraction screen sucking induces. “They talk about craving it [technological devices] when they can’t have it and about feeling irritable and jittery on flights that don’t offer Wi-Fi. They admit to losing relationships and jobs due to their inability to control their craving. They describe the feeling of being online as a kind of anesthesia that eases the pain of everyday life.”
Watch for more highlights from Driven to Distraction at Work when we explore more of the six common ways we struggle with distraction and how to overcome them. Visit our summary library for more information about Driven and Page to Practice™ summary.
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Smarter, Faster, Better. Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work
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