We are bombarded with information and competing priorities, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. Technology has permanently turned up the volume and quantity of noise that permeates our lives.
The current political climate has drastically impacted employee focus and productivity. Employees report spending 2 hours a day reading an average of 14-21 political posts online.
This has required us to become much more intentional in how we spend our time, and where we direct our energy.
The ability to focus on our priorities lies in our own hands. The daily choices we make drive our focus - or our distraction.
Harvard Business Review research concludes that digital distractions and unproductive meetings interrupt our attention in the office.
On a personal level, here are the 5 habits you can change today to improve your neurological health.
1: Not Getting Enough Water.
Dehydration is a leading cause of poor focus. It causes low energy, headaches, hormonal imbalance, and fatigue. We need to drink 50-75% of of our body weight in ounces depending on our climate (humid or dry) and our activity level.
2: Not Getting Enough Sleep.
Our ability to focus and recall information is directly related to the quality of our sleep. Without proper brain recovery time, we won't be able to hold our attention for long periods of time.
3: Overloading on Sugar and Carbohydrates.
Our brains become addicted to sugary and processed foods. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that produces a rush of endorphins which makes us temporarily feel good, and then we crash. We end up on a roller coaster of sugar-induced highs and lows, which causes us to stop what we are doing to seek out more sugar.
Speaking as a former chocoholic, it's tough to break the sugar habit - but totally worth it!
4: Becoming a Slave to Social Media.
Social media is now proven to be linked to depression. There are several reasons for this:
- The need to manage multiple platforms becomes overwhelming, and people report feeling out of control.
- Users constantly compare themselves to others, even though they intellectually know that posts only show a part of a person's true story.
- Users equate their likability with the number of friends/fans/followers, and interactions they receive on posts.
- Their offline relationships suffer which causes stress in their lives.
- Their brains are on information overload from being online 24x7x365.
- Social media notifications push users into a constant state of reaction, which leads to a feeling of little self-control over their own time, and disrupts brain patterns. Personally, I get no notifications for any platform. The constant buzzing and ringing would destroy my ability to get anything done.
- Their overall world views are impacted by the abundance of negative content in their feeds.
There are now social media detox and addiction programs popping up everywhere because of the negative impact social media is having on health.
Multitasking literally splits the brain into as many tasks you are trying to simultaneously complete. While the right and left sides of the prefrontal cortex work together when focused on a single task, the sides work independently when people attempt to perform two tasks at once, causing a degradation in performance.
Studies also prove that those who report spending more hours concurrently consuming multiple forms of media (frequent "media multitaskers") perform worse on tests that assess their ability to switch from one task to the next. Frequent media multitaskers also have a harder time ignoring external distractions.
Test results worsen as people age.
Our Control Over Our Focus Rests in Our Hands
It's easy to blame the external factors impacting our focus. The truth is, however, that we have a lot of control over the stimulus that comes into our brains, bodies, and lives. If you want to be more focused and productive, then change your habits.