Sit back, shut your eyes, and let your mind drift. Are you letting it wander? How long did you cognitively roam before your attention was broken by a notification of some sort from your smartphone or laptop? Probably not long I warrant.
Distraction at work is like a chicane in the road, needing daily navigation and the odds of slipping off are high. If you’re like the majority of knowledge workers, you start the day with certain tasks needing completion but end it having been distracted on to other paths. The result, you’re left feeling overwhelmed, tired, always behind the eightball and never quite on the front foot. If that’s your experience, then it’s no surprise, as we live in a global economy, where “attention merchants”, according to Columbia professor, Tim Wu are making money by hijacking our attention, repackaging it and selling it to advertisers. According to Tristan Harris, former Google engineer and whistleblower, the smartphone is like a slot machine and companies such as his former employer are using sophisticated neuroscience techniques to keep users plugged in for as long as possible. Maximizing distraction is what keeps their revenues high. This same culture of distraction and interruption has permeated our workplaces. In research undertaken by Professor Gloria Mark of the University of California, along with Mary Czerwinski, a principal researcher at Microsoft, they found that participants switched tasks every 40 seconds,