Springing the
distraction trap

Poppy
Poppy
Jun 10, 2015 · 9 min read


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Everyone I talked to had a story. They told me they wanted to throw their partner’s phone in the bin. They told me they had to be on call 24/7 because of work — but that they were exhausted and didn’t know what to do about it.

For anyone working in communications or marketing, distraction can be a near-constant issue. When you’re working in a communications role, you often consume vast amounts of information and communicate with many different people. This can quickly lead to information overload. You are likely to get frequently distracted by demands from other people or by unimportant information. Many people in this situation feel overwhelmed, or as though they are getting nothing of any substance done. We must all learn to take time out from consuming information. Particularly when we need to create something.


As one neural pathway opens, another closes

Neuroplasticity is how scientists refer to the malleability of the human brain. When we learn a new skill, connections are formed between neurons creating new pathways within the brain. If we stop using that skill or spend more time practising another new skill, the connections weaken and stronger connections form around the new activity. The skill becomes easier as the pathways become stronger. If we think about how effortlessly we log into Facebook, Twitter or email, it’s clear this has become automatic through repetition — a very strong brain pathway has been established. We reinforce these new pathways every day, sometimes every few minutes, and it becomes very difficult to resist them.

We tend to give our attention away a little too freely — to every link and message that demands it

Digital distraction is damaging our relationships, disrupting our sleep, causing stress and reducing our productivity. In some cases, it is even putting lives at risk, with distracted walking and driving causing serious injuries. Even the way we form memories is affected by this new, distracted way of experiencing the world. We are so busy trying to do so many things at once that we are only processing memories on a superficial level. We are also using the Internet as an external memory. If we think we can easily find information we will need again later, we often remember how to get the information, rather than the information itself.

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Focusing on a global problem

Financial services have been one of the first sectors to act on finding ways to stay focused in a digital world. I run training on managing distractions for businesses including Lloyd’s of London, looking at the cost of distraction, how to stay productive and what a difference being focused can make. This type of training highlights the importance of concentration skills, which are vital in business for things like decision-making and creativity. But being able to concentrate is in danger of becoming a lost art.


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to do a digital detox

A digital detox is one way to stay productive and balanced in a wired world. When we return, recharged, we’re more productive and have a different perspective by allowing our thoughts and conversations to get all the way to their conclusion — rather than a smartphone interrupting by pinging every five minutes. Here’s how to go about it:

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Poppy Magazine

Brain food for communicators in finance.

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