Multitasking Attentional Blink ADT

When Passion Leads to Lack of Focus

Attempts to increase my productivity led me to read about Multitasking, Attentional Blink and ADT (Attentional Deficit Trait).

I’ve been working online for 10 years or so now and my passion for it hasn’t diminished. I love what I do. I enjoy the freedom of setting my own routine, not having to commute, and being my own boss. Passing on my experience and knowledge is a large part of the appeal.

Passion can have it’s downsides.  My mind races with ideas,  I tend to flit from task to task, get sidetracked, and start too many projects. As you can probably guess, I don’t take the amount of action needed to really succeed with these.

As I said in my last post, Working Online and Multitasking Mayhem, I refuse to stress anymore. Anything that starts my anxiety levels rising causes me to step back, take stock and then work out why. So I’ve started a voyage of discovery to find out how to be more productive.

As Lesly Federici says Let the Morphing Begin there are ways to break habits when we open our minds to explore the possibilities of change.

In the next few posts, I will share my findings and keep you updated on progress towards my goal to become more efficient and productive. I hope to help anyone who, like me, has problems with focus.

Firstly, why does multitasking cause productivity problems:

Multitasking and Attentional Blink

Multitasking Attentional Blink - Blinking Eyes

Everyone multitasks to some extent sometimes. It’s impossible not to. I’m sitting here in the quiet writing this. My partner just kindly brought me a cup of coffee. Just stopping to say thank you interrupted my train of thought. Thinking about my broken focus interrupted it more. Now where was I?

So, even in the best of conditions, productivity can decrease.  That’s multiplied when we attempt to work on, or think about, multiple things at one time. Multitasking, as we think of it, is impossible. Our brains aren’t wired for it because they work serially, dealing with one stimuli at a time. Unlike computers they only have single processors.

Hang on, I felt a breeze and think I need to put on a cardigan. Now where was I? That was  an obvious distraction but attempts to multitask always cause our brain to switch off one task to turn on another, with a gap between.

It can happen so quickly we don’t realize it but it still slows us down. It’s a bit like TV channel flicking. The physical process is almost immediate. Then it takes time for our minds to tune in to the new show.

This switching process is known as Attentional Blink. There is a gap of about half a second each time we divert our attention from one thing to another.

During this time our brains aren’t paying attention to anything apart, I presume, from keeping us alive.

Half a second even multiple times a day can’t be a problem can it? Yes it can. We not only blink but can also lose our train of thought which prevents us being as productive as we intend.  We take longer to do each task, don’t do any as well possible, and make mistakes. Stress builds up making it all worse.

The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done,  by Dave Crenshaw, shows why multitasking is, in fact, a lie that wastes time and costs money.

Distractions in the Online World

We are surrounded by digital distractions – email, social media, smart phones and the endless possibilities for online searching, reading, attending webinars, and watching videos.  There are so many temptations to take us away from our intended schedules.

Everyone has some busy times in life, However well we plan and organize, the unexpected can arise. It’s when those over-busy times continue that problems occur.

Do you ever:

  • Open an email, click on a web link and end up browsing other sites to find out more, look for reviews, or see if you can get a better price ….?
  • Sign up for a tempting program, affiliate offer, training… but don’t have time to pay enough attention to it? Any time spent takes away from other planned tasks.
  • Sign up for a free offer and be inundated by promotional emails?
  • Allow alerts from email, SMS, websites, and social media sites while working on something important?
  • Spend too much time on social media?
  • Watch videos/attend webinars that have too much unnecessary padding, sales pitching and little information. (until you sign up/pay up for more).
  • Wonder where the day went and why you aren’t achieving what you’d expect?
  • Neglect taking action even if you’ve set goals for the day?
  • Give up on projects?
  • Jump into something new without thinking it through?

ADT – Attentional Deficit Trait

A psychological condition called ADT, with similar symptoms to ADD (Attentional Deficit Disorder),  is increasingly common. Our brains become overwhelmed and increasingly disorganized when we attempt to deal with too much.

Decisions are made more impulsively, our attention wanders, and keeping on task becomes even harder. We may not even stop to think what we are doing, goals and plans neglected. We are unproductively, inefficiently busy. We may wonder why we aren’t succeeding and become increasingly dissatisfied and discouraged. Stress and anxiety increases.

Dr Hallowell, who first coined the term ADT, has written an excellent book on the topic, available on Amazon in hardcover and kindle format: Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive

I can identify with quite a few of the symptoms and it explains why my productivity problems increased, despite trying methods to organize myself better.

Mindset

It’s obvious how attempting to multitask and giving in to distractions hold us back from achieving. I know there are methods to help us stay on task.  I’ve written down goals for the day, set alarms and timers to no avail. Not sticking to them disappointed me. What did I do to prevent despondency? I stopped doing them. Repetition didn’t become a habit.

I reckoned I needed to dig deeper to find out why. Maybe I’m not as good as positive thinking as I thought.

I regularly read Ikechi Awazie’s blog and went there thinking I’d get some inspiration. I was right and found:  When Positive Thinking Goes Crazy and What You Should Do About. Success Coach Chery Schmidt as usual gave me inspiration and motivation in her recent post 4 Tips To Help Develop Better Work Habits For Online Success  where she says “Everything Is Hard Before It Is Easy”

So I’ve started on the journey to work out if it’s my mindset. Is it my thinking causing problems? I’ve enrolled in an online mindfulness course and so far the answer seems to be yes. What methods haven’t I tried for goal setting and sticking to them?

Up Next

Next I’ll talk more about what I’m doing to become more productive and how well it’s working.

Have you had times when you feel there’s so much to do but not enough time to do it? Please let us know.

Are there ways you avoid multi-tasking so you work on jobs in sequence?

This post is also part of the PAC Blog Carnival Month Project:

PAC Bogging Carnival

Blinking Eyes Image adapted from Giphy Image

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