Focus and Distraction: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Two recent posts by Stowe Boyd on GigaOm Research cover some really interesting research and ideas on how distraction can help us focus our decision making abilities, and how allowing our minds to wander via internet surfing (as long as it remains under 20% of your total time!) may boost productivity in the office. Thanks, Mr. Boyd.

It’s interesting to think about these ideas in the context of the debate that I am sure everyone has weighed in on at some point: Is the mobile device preoccupation many of us seem to have “good” or “bad” for us? Does it reflect some sort of obsessive multitasking, or the desire to escape our current moment? I think research findings like the ones discussed by Stowe Boyd point to the possibility that by asking this, we’re probably asking the wrong questions. Being on a device frequently is neither innately good nor bad – its effects depend upon when, why, and how much we use the device, and on whether it becomes a barrier to other ways of communicating, thinking, and learning.  This research also suggests that one of the factors that could influence our desire to be on mobile devices is that we all feel the (healthy?) need for distraction. The trick here is to make sure the power of distraction is harnessed for our well-being, and doesn’t just serve the desire to tune out or escape the present moment.

6 thoughts on “Focus and Distraction: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

  1. Going a little off topic here, I want to examine the focus or concentration. What does this mean? Does this mean among many things being sensed and the many connections in memory only few at picked up at a given moment by conscious thought, Does that effectively mean only the conscious part of the brain is capable of active problem solving and thinking? And thus our abilities are limited? It seems so but I will have to venture further to grasp the whole thing.

  2. All good things in moderation. Though being on a digital device does provide you this extended reach into instant updates, news and communications, you gradually begin to rely on its ease and adjust your reflexes and mindset to it. Can you imagine leaving your house without a device in your pocket? The significance of a device and a person’s reliability on it are equivalent to the importance of carrying your keys, ID, or cash and wallet. It’s a gradual synthesis.

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