How to stay focused? Here’s what distracts us more easily and the possible solutions –

How to stay focused?  Here’s what distracts us more easily and the possible solutions –

2023-05-28 07:49:02

Of Anna Mop

Our focus continually challenged by notifications from apps and more. How to actively manage continuous disruptions due to technologies

Two and a half minutes. That was the average time people in the office spent on a computer or smartphone activity, such as looking at an e-mail message, before moving on to another activity such as browsing a web page. In 2004, Gloria Mark calculated it with a stopwatch. In 2012, she repeated the experiment and the time was down to 75 seconds. Today, it dropped again: by 47 seconds on any screen, the New York Times recently reported, citing Gloria Mark’s new book Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity. it is true that there is an objective fragmentation of attention between different tasks, especially when dealing with digital technologies. Not said why rapid switching from one online activity to another is always a sign of a deficit: Often it could depend on reasonable choices by the user in relation to the task at hand. The fact remains that the widespread and continuous use of these technologies makes the fragmentation of attention very frequent explains Fabio Paglieri, researcher at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies-National Research Council and author of the book Concentrarsi (Il Mulino).

Attention and concentration are not synonymous

In common parlance attention and concentration are sometimes used interchangeably, not so. L’Attention certainly focused the beacon of concentration that illuminates the goal to which to devote one’s efforts: then for the concentration
it requires the involvement of all our cognitive capacities on this goal, even beyond mere attention, specifies the expert. How then to define concentration? Like the commitment of huge cognitive resources, and often also physical ones (let’s think of sportsmen) on a well-defined task that remains at the center of our attention for the entire duration of the activity, replies Paglieri. Let’s see then qWhat are the things that distract us more easily and the possible solutions.


It’s irresistible not to read them when they appear on the screen also because our brains are evolutionarily designed to pay attention to what’s new. Surely the solution turn off the notifications of the apps that distract us more frequently, suggests Paglieri. With this strategy we intervene on the context to ensure that it helps, and not hinders, our activities. Once identify the main sources of distractionwhich naturally change from individual to individual, changing the context to make them less relevant is a good way of defend yourself from distraction perpetua.


The main cause of distraction
not tiredness, but boredom explains the expert. This explains why many attempts to “recharge the batteries” fail and leave us more listless than before: in reality there is nothing to recharge, on the contrary we urgently need to “start the engine”, that is to do something that finally awakens us from our torpor. in which we have sunk. For make good use of the necessary breaks during a working or study day, the strategy must be completely reversed: do not go in search of undemanding activities, but on the contrary throw yourself with conviction into highly motivating and cognitively difficult tasks. Counterintuitive as it may seem, this will then allow us to return to work with renewed energy, rather than leave us with that bitter taste in our mouths that so often accompanies our digital escapades.


Gloria Mark had observed that when the number of external interruptions, such as notifications, decreased, the number of autonomous interruptions, related to the motivation within us to change activities. They should not be put on the same level: as a rule, the autonomous ones originate from the personal motivations of the subject who gets distracted and it is not said that these motivations are always wrong, continues Paglieri. More generally, understanding why an autonomous outage occurs is the first step in preventing it from happening too frequently. One of most common causes of distraction not having yet experienced the enormous benefits brought by its opposite, namely concentration, highly self-motivating.

The vicious circle

The less you concentrate, the less interesting you find what you are doing, which drives you to concentrate less and less. Se Really we can’t concentrate on what we should be doing, let’s stop wasting time and do something else entirely, but let’s do it well, with commitment, passion and putting all the concentration we were unable to use in the initial task, advises the expert. After that, if we are able to return to the initial commitment and devote the time and effort it requires, very well; with Instead the ability to concentrate on the initial task continues to eludethen we might have a more serious problem, but we would hardly have had a different outcome by staying vegetative on the first hurdle and in doing so we at least got something else right instead of wasting our time entirely.


From a study conducted on Scientific Reports it emerges that 10 minutes in mindfulness for 4 days a week they improve concentration and working memory, i.e. the ability to keep information active in the mind during cognitive tasks so that the brain becomes more efficient. L’effectiveness of working memory it also depends on the ability to select the relevant information to carry out a given task, keep it under attentive fire for the time needed and inhibit the interference of what is no longer crucial, explains Luisa Girelli, professor of Neuropsychology at the Bicocca University of Milan . These are the cardinal principles of the meditative practice on which mindfulness is based. This discipline trains conscious attention and self-regulation because it exercises the ability to pay attention in a prolonged way to the present experience by limiting the influence of distracting thoughts or external factors. Basically what the most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes does: he sits down, closes his eyes, joins his hands and concentrates in an attitude that invites silence. An approach that today we would call mindfulness.

May 28, 2023 (change May 28, 2023 | 07:48)

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