Solving Attention Problems at Work: The Myth of Multitasking

Solving attention problems at work is becoming a momentous task, and for a variety of different reasons.

One of the biggest myths regarding attention in the 21stcentury is that it can be divided between two or more separate tasks at the same time.

Although this myth has been refuted as pure falsehood in a variety of peer reviewed psychological studies, it remains a justification for juggling numerous tasks at once — particularly in the office.

For instance, at work, employees claim they can “check Facebook,” or other social media while on the phone with a client. In reality, both of the hemispheres of the brain only afford this capability for 1 in every 1,000 people.

These “supertaskers” are clearly statistical rarities, yet everyone believes they have the ability to focus on multiple things at once. The reality? Well, this could not be further from the truth. Multitasking is truly a myth.

Instead of dividing attention equally between multiple tasks, the bulk of psychological research has suggested that we actually shift our attention from one task to another, although the quickness in which we complete tasks in tandem with one another may signify otherwise.

This problem is pervasive in the lives of students of every age, but is becoming an increasing issue in the professional world. Essentially, workers are solving attention problems at work through compensatory measures, striving to regain lost time on non-work related tasks through multitasking, which results in an increased number of errors, decreased output, and a slowing of productivity as a whole.

One question researchers are yet to fully tackle is as follows: How can technology use recalibrate the pool of distracted workers everywhere to generate better productivity? Since the bulk of psychological research out there has remained silent on the issue, we will use this article to discuss the possibilities.

Un-dividing Attention through Process Changes

Solving attention problems at work and in mass will require scaling back on the use of technologies that divide our attention. For instance, fax machines, filing cabinets, and manual filing processes.

The more we can eliminate use of these outdated items and replace them with robust, streamlining solutions, the greater a workforce’s productivity can become. When processes have continuity, our attention is expanded and in consequence, our productivity is improved.

Solving Attention Problems at Work through Collaboration Changes

Most email content is unstructured and difficult to leverage, yet many organizations continue relying on it to inform their decision-making process.

A better way to achieve solving attention problems at work is to ensure the important information in email inboxes across each node of an organization, is by integrating the email solution with a technology that can harness, extract, and store the relevant information contained within inboxes.

Otherwise, employees’ attention becomes divided sifting through the unstructured content to find what they are looking for, and productivity continues abating.

Create a Way to Stop Toggling Back and Forth Between Programs

Technology schisms (gaps in functionality and processes between different software or hardware programs) have proliferated not just due to the number of software programs available for use, but because of how many of them are adopted in tandem with one another.

This creates an environment where large sums of employees are toggling back and forth between programs, breaking their attention and interrupting their workflow. Finding a document management technology that bridges these gaps and founds an integrated process between different software programs is the real key to soaring productivity, and therefore solving attention problems at work.

De-duplicating File Management Efforts

One of the most common occurrences resulting in lost time and money is needless duplication of files and documentation. Averages vary, but needlessly duplicating files costs anywhere from $100 to $150 per document, especially if a document is mission critical to operations, deemed unfindable, and then needlessly re-created.

Leave Manual Document Processes to Automating Technologies

Solving attention problems at work can be made simple if document automation is woven into the filing processes of any organization.

A solution that automatically redirects information and relies on accompanying metadata for storage and future retrieval will not only make for attention continuity, but also expedite document turnaround.

Automated document routing is one of the most underused features of document management solutions. Although it only saves a few minutes for each specific document it effects, these time savings compound immensely over longer periods of time.

Managers: Forego Meetings, and Find Other Ways to Collaborate

Meetings have become the bane of nearly every hard-working worker’s existence. While some delight in the opportunity meetings provide to doze off, not pay attention, or simply spend time doodling, many workers who want to get things done find them annoying, and the consequence to the bottom line can be tremendous. reports that 63% of meetings have no planned agenda. If this isn’t a way to waste time quickly, we aren’t sure what is. One of the reasons instructional technology and other software programs like Skype are starting to replace in-person meetings is because they provide greater boosts to productivity and has a tendency to keep everyone on track much more easily than in an in-person meeting.

What’s more, the more employees there are in a meeting, the less accountability each member feels he or she has, and the impact to productivity compounds downhill from there.

Any technology, document management included, that has features that reduce the need for in-person meetings is worth using. In conquering the agenda-less issue cited by, document management helps establish a chain of accountability and workflow for each project, taking time only from the administrator who sets up the process, and in turn saves the time of workers who would otherwise be wasting it on meetings with no agenda.

Although in-person meetings still have their place for emotionally fueled situations where certain issues just need to be discusses and vented about, most of them needn’t occur. In solving attention problems at work, this is our compendium of tips.

In resolving attention problems at work, we can only do so much to help ourselves advance, and that’s where the limitations of our own mind are met with the attention-harnessing powers of technology. Will you be left behind, or advance in to the future?

Originally published at on March 6, 2017.

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