I don't know if you've ever watched one of those crime shows where somebody solving a murder and so they have this big bristol board and their string attached to papers attached to phone number. Attach a newspaper clippings. This is like what the state of my office was.
I flew out to meet experts around the world who study focused I conducted more experiments on myself until the point. I had 25,000 words of research notes about why this is the case how does technology influence our attention and our ability to focus I want to start with the attention spans that we have.
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This is how we pay attention to the world around us and how much control we have over our Focus the research around this particular area is. Fascinating it turns out that when we to work in front of a phone number, especially when our phone is nearby we focus on one thing for just 40 seconds before we switch to doing something else and when we have things like slack open as we're doing some work this lowers to 35 seconds, but the reason that this is the case is not what we might think.
After looking at the research, we think the problem is that our brains are distracted, but after looking at the research, this is what I've come to know as a messi for the deeper problem, which runs much more deeply it's the root cause of this distraction. It's not that we're distracted. It's that our brains are over stimulated its That We crave distraction in the first place our brains love these tiny little nuggets.
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Information and social media and email and these things that we do over the course of the day. There's even a mechanism in our mind called the novelty bias by which our mind rewards us with a hit of dopamine one of those wonderful chemical pleasure chemicals the same one that we get when we eat in order a whole.
Medium pizza from Dominos that you know, the same one that we get when we make love we get that same stimulation when we check Facebook we get this dopamine coursing through our mind and so we not only crave distraction, but our mind rewards us for seeking out and finding distraction in the first place.
So this is the state of our minds today. We're at this hyperstimulated state where we bounced around between these bunch of different objects of attention that are very very stimulating for our mind. And so I thought okay if the phone had this impact on my attention span what if I lowered how stimulated I was even more still and so, you know this feeling that we experience when we go from being in a state of high.
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Stimulation into a state of low stimulation. It has a name that name is called boredom. You know, this is restlessness that we feel when we have this super busy week and then we're lying on the couch on a Sunday afternoon thinking what am I doing now? So I challenged I put out a call to the readers of my website and I asked them.
What is the most boring thing that you can think of doing? I'm going to make myself board for an hour a day for a month. And so I did. Stuff that I still upset about from my readers to this day day one. I read the iTunes terms and conditions for one hour. It's actually shorter and more readable than you might think day 4 I waited on hold with Air Canada's baggage claims department.
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It's very easy. This is the trick if you want to make yourself or don't call the reservations department called the baggage claim people because you're going to wait for hours. If you ever get through it all day 19, I counted all the zeros. That I could in the first 10,000 digits of pi. Day 24 I watch the clock.
Dick dick for one hour and 27 other activities this month. She's I still think back but curiously I noticed that the exact same effects as I did during the smartphone. It took about a week for my mind to adjust downward into a newer lower level of stimulation and this Maps curious on top of research that shows that it takes our mind about eight days to fully calm down and rest like when we're on vacation as an example our vacations need to be longer than they are today, but I also noticed that my attention span expanded I was able to focus even more effortlessly because.
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I wasn't surrounded by fewer distractions, but my mind was so much less stimulated that it did not seek the distraction in the first place. But the fun part where these ideas and plans that struck me that didn't before and the reason that this is the case is because my mind had a chance to wander more often.
There's a great quote that I love that you might be familiar. From JRR Tolkien where he says that not all those who wander are lost and the exact same thing is true. It turns out with regard to our focus with regard to our attention if you think back. To when your best most brilliant ideas strike you you're rarely focused on something maybe this morning you were taking a shower.