Modern life is busier than ever, so full of constant change and technological advancement. Although modern advances improve our daily lives, they also present distraction and loss of concentration, for adults and children alike. A study by global tech company Asurion found that our cell phones distract us an average of 80 times a day. A study by the American Psychological Association shows that distraction even changes how we perceive things. Conversely, luckily, an Emory University study found that meditation can counteract this, helping to disengage from distraction.
Researchers have found that distractions from mobile devices interfere with learning, memory, and comprehension, diminishing note-taking ability, test performance, and grades. Devices also lead to social anxiety from the obsession of constantly checking messages and social media. Limiting devices while working or studying, or scheduling or planning when to use devices outside of focused activities is a suggested strategy to manage concentration.
At work, at home, in school, focus and concentration are important to success, learning, health, and safety. Taking care of our health and wellbeing means limiting distractions as much as possible. So what can we do about constant distraction? Start by reading the best books on focus and concentration to find out how the brain processes and handles distractions, understand the mechanics of focus and concentration, and learn tactics and strategies for managing attention.
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Hyperfocus – How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction
By Chris Bailey copyright 2018
Chris Bailey’s Hyperfocus has been described as “A practical guide to managing your attention–the most powerful resource you have to get stuff done, become more creative, and live a meaningful life.” It is one of the best books on focus and concentration to learn how to manage your attention.
Hyperfocus is a guide to managing your attention to get more done, be more creative, and have more meaningful experiences. With busy lives full of endless activities and distractions, Bailey describes distraction as an endemic modern problem, with constant connectivity one of the worst disruptions. He teaches how to take control of your attention to improve productivity and effectiveness.
Bailey describes two modes our brain operates in a focused mode he terms hyperfocus, and a creative mode, scatterfocus. He delves into topics such as types of distraction and interruption, physical and mental environments for work, motivation, intentional time-outs, purposeful multitasking, and learning how to pay attention and when your mind needs to wander. He claims that by changing how you think about attention and getting control of your ability to concentrate, you can better manage all aspects of life.
He quotes some facts about what affects our focus, such as that we distract ourselves 64 percent more often in open work environments. It takes 50 percent longer to complete something if we try to do other things with it than if we work on it from start to finish. When we are sleep deprived, we have 60 percent less attention to give to our tasks. More distraction means less creativity, and less enjoyment of life.
Read this book for the clarity it presents about how to reduce distraction and improve focus, along with the quality of your life.
Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence
By Daniel Goleman copyright 2013
Psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman offers an in-depth look at all aspects of attention, emphasizing the importance of focus to survival in modern life, making his book another one of the best books on focus and concentration. In Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence, he looks at the research of inner, other, and outer focus, explaining case studies from business, education, the arts, and competitive sports. Goleman discusses high-achievers who excel because of practices like mindfulness meditation, positive emotions and connections, and mental strategies to improve good habits and add new skills.
Learn about many varieties of attention, such as tunnel vision, being scatterbrained, and open awareness, and how they come from interaction of two different parts of our brain. The older, lower brain and the newer, outer layer, the neocortex, work together and exchange signals to balance and process our attention with the flow of distractions. Goleman illustrates that attention is also influenced by culture and the modern technologies that create the neural buzz that’s almost always on and affecting us and our attention.
Goleman’s book Focus looks at attention with a psychologist’s eye, discussing the anatomy of attention and going on to self-awareness and reading others. If you want a better understanding of what attention is and what affects it, this is the book to read.
Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)
By Cal Newport copyright 2016
Cal Newport discusses the ability to focus on an important task without being distracted, defining it as a skill that lets you quickly work through complicate information and get the desired results. He describes it as being very fulfilling to focus and work this way. Newport claims most people have lost the ability to focus attention on important things because of the crush of email and social media. He claims most people have lost the ability to focus attention on important things because of the crush of email and social media.
Newport doesn’t preach the evils of distraction, preferring to instead sing the praises of managed attention. Deep Work has just two sections, the first one discussing how a deep work ethic creates massive benefits, and the second one a training primer on deep work skill building. He describes deep work as valuable, rare, and meaningful, using stories such as Carl Jung building a tower in the woods for focus, to explain his points.
His advice to his audience is to quit social media if you are serious about your work and practice being bored to hone your ability to focus. If you want to be able to cut through all the chatter and find your power to focus, take advice from Newport that he presents in Deep Work. He recommends limiting social media, using strict time frames for work, using mental “down time” like commutes or repetitive tasks like vacuuming to work out concepts instead of at your desk while in the middle of the task, and avoid the shallow work like checking non-essential email.
Indistractable – How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
By Nir Eyal copyright 2019
Indistractable by former Stanford lecturer Nir Eyal is a national bestseller and an award-winning look at the ins and outs of modern distractions and what to do about them. Eyal’s dissection of distraction is one of Amazon’s Top 20 Best Business and Leadership Books of the Year and Goodreads Best Science & Technology of 2019 Finalist. It’s easy to see why.
Eyal presents some compelling insight into why simply avoiding social media or devices isn’t the answer to the problem of so many distractions. Then he presents a whole section of the book on “hack backs” to cut down on your distractions. For example, to “hack back” email, Eyal recommends tactics to reduce the amount of emails you receive, spend less time on each message, schedule specific time slots to respond to complicated emails, and train yourself to resolve each email when you open it.
In Indistractable, you’ll learn that “time management is pain management” as Eyal explains that distractions serve as emotional pacifiers, getting us away from something painful or unpleasant or difficult. He goes into how to recognize and manage internal triggers that distract us with three tactics of reimagining the trigger, reimagining the task, or reimagining our temperament or attitude toward the trigger. Use the effective techniques in Indestructible to control your time and attention instead of letting distractions get out of control.
Our world is full of distractions, many we don’t even recognize. But living life to our full potential means being aware of distractions and working to minimize or eliminate them to better focus and concentrate on what matters most, at work and in our personal lives. Take back control of your time and attention, and read about what distracts us every day and what to do about it.
Learning about the psychology of attention and distraction will help you understand how and why you get distracted. Books like Indistractable and Deep Work offer strategies and tactics and even productivity hacks at work to defend against distraction so you can be more relaxed, productive, and healthy amid the hustle and bustle of the modern world.