In an era where we are pretty much “screen hopping”—from the time we wake up and spend eight hours on the laptop to until the time we finish the day streaming a movie—screens have unknowingly become our very essence. Our preoccupation and inability to shake off this perpetual shadow has caused our minds to go into an overdrive and resulted in what is referred to as “overstimulation.”
Upon graduating university with a business degree, Chris Bailey decided to discover another course and what began as an experiment to use his phone only for 30 minutes a day, soon transformed into a way of life. He started a site named A Year of Productivity and devoted his time toward researching focus and interviewing productivity experts. His experiences garnered considerable media attention and he managed to author two books, Hyper Focus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction and The Productivity Project.
In this TED talk, he tells us about two very unpredictable and radical steps that can help us correct our crippling attention gaps.
Our minds are often overstimulated to the point where we are unable to focus on a task for more than 40 seconds at a time. In order to target the very core of focus and by extension, productivity, it is imperative to focus on expanding our attention spans. The best way to alleviate poor attention is imposing an essential ‘cooling-off’ period so that our minds can recuperate and cool down. We need to invest our time and energy toward curtailing screen time so that we are in the right headspace to engage and focus our minds effectively. A disconnection ritual can help us achieve this effectively and find time for ourselves and our loved ones.
At first, though Bailey’s suggestions may seem to be the antithesis to our fast-paced society, they serve a larger purpose in the long run by enabling us to have more thoughts and ideas. With our brains always yearning for nuggets of information from the goings-on of our external environments, we have reached a point when we almost “crave” distraction. Yet, the best way to really conquer over-stimulation of this nature effectively is boredom.
We should allow our minds to wander so that it can come up with important plans and ideas through what is called ‘scatter focus’. The simple act of a long shower, gardening, knitting or meditating can help us recuperate fully and shape us to be more creative individuals. Our best ideas come to us during these important and unexpected periods.
Chris Bailey ends his talk by condemning so-called ‘hustle culture’ and subverting the idea that distraction is the enemy of focus and emphasizing how overstimulation is what is fueling our focus and concentration deficiencies. He urges us again to ‘re-discover’ boredom so that we can mend the state of our attention, festering ennui and in turn, translate that into lasting and enduring changes in the state of our lives.