Pursue What Matters
Episode 40: Driven to Distraction
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
We live in an ADHD world with a 24/7 News cycles, social media feeds that pull us in and won’t let us go. And notifications and ticker tapes that scroll across our screens, ensuring we never miss a thing. Will it ever end, we are being driven to distraction, and it’s undermining us from doing our best work. Join me and let’s find some sanity in all of this. Plus, I’ve got a focus quickfire guide for you that will help you to make sure that you’re not driven to distraction.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:38
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters Podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work, you think that living in a fully connected world would be full of upsides. And while there are definitely major benefits, living this way, the research is starting to come out about some of the downsides of living in a fully connected world. And you know, you probably don’t need me to tell you this, but it’s not pretty. So today, I want to help you to be aware of some of the costs of living fully connected. So you can make some wise decisions for yourself. And those you lead and ensure that all these connections are strengthening your work without undermining it, because you know, you got important stuff to do.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:42
So according to GSM, a real time intelligence data, there are now over a 5.1 billion people with mobile devices worldwide. Yeah, I think they’re all in front of me in traffic. I think that’s where they are. So that is equivalent to, you know, almost 67% of the world’s population. So just about everyone has a phone in their hands. I mean, think about that 67% of the world’s population. And, you know, think about the percentage of the world’s population that are little right like that’s like infants and little, little children who even the little kids have mobile devices, their ad, you may or may not know about Elon Musk, and what he’s doing up up in the heavens. I know because my house, we got a bunch of star geeks. And so I’ve I’ve been watching and hearing all about this. But Elon Musk, of course, is a well known engineer and technology entrepreneur, he’s probably most famous for being the CEO of Tesla. But of course, he’s also the founder, CEO, and chief engineer and designer of SpaceX, which just launched 60 more starlink satellites into low Earth orbit at the beginning of January, which just clinched a new title, the most satellites operated by a single company. So the hope is for starlink satellites to provide global high speed broadband Internet access to places where connectivity has been unreliable, too expensive, or even completely unavailable. So about 4 billion people still lack the internet. And so, you know, Musk has had both excitement and hesitation about what that will look like for the entire world to be connected. But with with this starlink basically it opens the door for everyone on planet earth potentially, to have access to global high speed broadband internet. I am not sure how much it’s going to cost. But now he’s he’s got those 60 starlink satellites up in space that was just launched the beginning of January. And that was a successful mission. We watched that launch at our house. And it was it was pretty cool. It was pretty cool to see. But yeah, so it’s kind of interesting to think about that and think about what that means for our world. So our digital lives may be making us more distracted, distant and drained. You think? So let’s just I don’t think we really need research to tell us that that is true. But the research is definitely coming in. And it does confirm what we you know, most of us know that. Yes, indeed, our digital lives are making us more distracted, more distant and more drained. Unfortunately, that is true.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:03
So even minor phone use during a meal with friends is enough to make individuals feel distracted. And here’s the thing to reduce their enjoyment of the experience. So that’s from from one study, that makes me sad. So here’s a quote from the authors, “people who were allowed to use their phones during dinner had more trouble staying present in the moment.” And I mean, that is exactly right. Like when you have your phone, it pulls you out of the present moment, right? It pulls you into whatever you’re looking at, or reading on your phone. And so in a very real way, it does pull you out of the present moment. And so again, from the researchers, decades of research on happiness, tell us that engaging positively with others is critical for our well being, modern technology may be wonderful, but it can easily sidetrack us and take away from the special moments we have with friends and family in person. And anyone who has, you know, sat across from someone who is using their phone, instead of interacting with you, has felt that right, you felt sidelined. Because it’s like, it does not feel good when that happens.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:22
So the researchers found that people who had their phones easily accessible during this experiment, right? Like during the dinner experiment, not only use them more than those with the phones put away. But they also reported feeling more distracted and enjoyed the experience less. So even moderate levels of phone use undermine the benefits of engaging with others. So what they did with this study, they did a couple of studies, one was a dining experience study. And so they had two groups with one, they basically said just you know, you can have your phones, but just don’t really use them. And then the other study, they had them put the phones like in a, like a closed container, like a basket with like a lid. And then they, you know, assessed their experience. And the ones that that the diners who had some even moderate or kind of even fairly limited access to their phone, they, they would access them and they were distracted. And they they experienced less enjoyment from the dining experience, then, of course, the ones that put their phones in the container, right, they were less distracted, because out of sight out of mind. And they enjoy their dining experience more. So that’s kind of the key is get the phone away from you. Right? It’s not enough to have it in your pocket. It’s not enough to just you know, have it on the table, or face down on the table, but out of sight out of mind.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:05
And then another study presented that so they found that compassionate people spend less time on social media than people who are more self centered and narcissistic. So you know, maybe we would have guessed that. But I think there’s some really interesting findings here. So people with lower emotional intelligence, or those who have difficulty identifying, describing and processing their emotions, use social media more often than those who are more in touch with their feelings. So that’s what they found with this study. So people who are uncomfortable with their own, and others emotions may be more comfortable online, said one of the researchers, so we think that they may prefer text based interactions that allow them more time to process, social and emotional information. So that study built on previous research that has shown that more narcissistic people use social media more often than less narcissistic people. This is some of the first research that has been done to show how emotional intelligence relates to social media use. So these researchers analyzed data from four studies of more than 1200 adult participants that that really looked at narcissism, empathy, emotional intelligence, and emotional recognition, emotion recognition, and the studies also asked questions about how often the participants checked and posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And so more empathic people use Twitter less frequently than those who are not as caring and compassionate toward others. Also, people who are more likely to be able to see the world from another’s perspective, did not spend as much time on Facebook and Instagram. Another finding was that people who scored high on a test of reading Others emotions, use Twitter and Facebook less often. And then they also found that more narcissistic people, and those who feel overwhelmed by the emotional experiences of others spent more time on all three social media sites.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:15
So kind of the question is, you know, does be more emotionally intelligent and empathic cause people to avoid social media, or are lower empathy people more drawn to it. But you know, it could be the opposite. So perhaps frequently using social media, it could impair empathy and emotional intelligence. So right there, the researchers are really right clear to point out that they can’t determine causality with the study, right? It’s just correlational. And that they need more research to better understand how the online digital technology affects people. But they do recognize that they there are those connections, but some other research found that preteens become became better at reading nonverbal cues from their peers, after five days with no screen time. And that college age participants bonded better with their friends during in person interactions, versus you know, the video chat, audio chat or instant messaging. And the researchers, you know, were kind of surprised of the robustness of those findings, because they thought, Okay, well, these guys are all digital natives, right? They’ve always been raised in a digital environment. So they thought that maybe they would do better, and that they, they wouldn’t find such a stark difference. But the differences were very stark, very robust findings. And so, you know, the take home message is, don’t always be so connected, and that when we are so connected to our digital devices, it undermines our social connections, it undermines our ability to be present in the moment face to face with others.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:03
So now let’s talk about digital connection and how these distractions can actually impact productivity, and focus and concentration. So there’s plenty of research that has shown that distractions caused people to take longer to complete a task. But now we have some research from George Mason University that has found that interruptions don’t just take up time, right? Because that’s been pretty clear from the research. When you get distracted, it takes you longer to jump back into your task. So that’s been clear for a while. But it also degrades the overall quality of your work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:42
Okay, so I’m part of the Leadership Development Series. And then also, as a leadership coach, I have an opportunity to tour a lot of different companies. And so I get, you know, I get a bird’s eye view into a lot of different companies and their layout, and a lot of tech companies, and newer companies that are just getting started up and growing. And so I’ve had a, I’ve had a chance to see a lot of different organizations. And there is a real trend toward very open floor plans and workspaces with the goal with the stated goal of collaboration, which, of course, is a really great goal. And I think it wasn’t too long ago, Facebook announced, it was I think it’s like going to be the largest I don’t think it’s done yet. It’s like the largest open floor plan. And it’s, it’s like huge, but they were very excited about it, it’s going to be this huge open floor plan. And of course, the goal is collaboration, also that the state of goals like serendipity and like as people interact with each other, they have these opportunities to build synergy and collaborate. So collaboration is great. But one of the major problems with these workspaces is that they are a recipe for major, major distraction. And I don’t know that that people have thought about that part, or that they have thought that that part through.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:25
So you know, I was recently walking through one of these very cool office spaces. I mean, it was awesome. But there was no way I would ever be able to get a minutes worth of quality work done in that space. It was crazy making. It was so open it was to open. They did have little spaces and rooms where employees could have more privacy. But even with that the whole place was a fishbowl. And so like even the small rooms like the breakout rooms or the conference rooms They were all encased in glass and it was clear glass. And so you know, even with that, you’re really prone to distractions, because like, whenever someone walks by, you would be very prone to being distracted. And so, you know, even if you couldn’t hear what was going on, you could see everything, which still poses a really big problem as far as distractions go. So I, you know, when I was walking through, I was just like, I have no idea how people get work done in these spaces, I just, it would be, it would really be very difficult for me, I don’t I don’t know how other people do it. But that is definitely the trend as and, and I was looking right, like some people had air pods in or, or headphones, you know, that sort of thing. And so I don’t know if that’s kind of how they deal with it if they use one distraction to deal with the other problem. But anyway, I do think that’s, and there has been some discussion of that in the research literature that these open office spaces can prove problematic when it comes to distraction and getting deep work done focused work done.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:19
So the other issue and point that I want to make when it comes to distraction, and especially digital life and living fully connected, is this idea that multi multitasking is not a thing we think it is, we all believe we can multitask, but we really can’t. So the research is so, so clear on this, we really, really can’t. And what happens is we are just lousy at doing two things. So don’t try and multitask, don’t believe that you can, we can’t focus on two things at once. It’s just not a thing. Okay, so let’s see if you might have a problem. So this is from a great little article in entrepreneur. And I will link to it in the show notes if you want to follow up on it. But I just want to do a little checklist. And as I review these items, I want you to see where you stand. So okay, these are some of the signs and symptoms to pay attention to let’s see if you might have a digital distraction problem. It sounds so serious, a lot of us probably do have this problem.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:29
Okay, first, inattention to team members. So I want you to think about this. Think about this with work. Think about this at home, right. So this is kind of speaking specifically to work, but it definitely applies at home as well. So I want you to pay attention to that. So inattention to team members, think about the last time you held a company meeting. Did you at any point lose track of the conversation because you were going through emails on your phone? Okay, guilty? How often do you interrupt a conversation? So you can respond to a text or answer a phone call? That’s not cool. It’s less likely that you’ll do this to clients. But if you do it to team members, that’s bad enough, or if you do it to your family, I think that’s really not not cool. So if you do it to your team members, they may suffer a loss in morale. This is according to the author of the article, which I’ll link to. And you’ll both end up wasting time because you won’t get your mutual goal get to your mutual goals as quickly. Okay, so the first item on the checklist is inattention to team members.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:33
Second, scattered focus and multitasking. Remember I said multitasking is not a thing, thing, technology makes it incredibly easy to multitask. That is it provides the illusion of multitasking effectively. So do you have two monitors full of open apps with a smartphone in your hand? You’re not actually getting more done this way. by splitting your attention you’re actually compromising your ability to effectively handle both tasks, right? You’re just doing two things. Very lousy. So years ago, back when you know TV was a thing and commercials were a thing and actually like saw commercial. There was a funny little commercial about the husband, poor husbands they get they get such a bad rap they get made fun of in all the commercials. The husband was watching TV and he was like I think he was like on a phone and on a computer and sending a fax or something and the wife’s like, Oh your tele-viser-phone-anetting again, right and it was like he was doing all of these things at once. And so that was I can’t remember what the ad was for. But that’s kind of what I say. Whenever I see someone in my family like trying to multitask in quotes, like Oh you’re tele-viser-phone-anetting again, right? Then recognizing like, okay, like be present, be fully present Do one thing. And let’s not, let’s not scatter our focus, let’s not try and multitask. So no tele-viser-phone-anetting.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:11
Okay, item three on this checklist lost productivity. So don’t forget the sheer quantity of available technological applications means it’s actually easier to waste time on things that aren’t worth your attention. Boy, that is so true. checking your email for the 100th time takes only a minute. But over the course of the day, all those checks could sap your working hours. And that’s so true, right? Sometimes we get caught in these repeated loops, but it’s not really productive, it doesn’t actually move us forward on our goals. And so, you know, that’s one of the things with my pursue what matters process that I’ve talked about throughout the podcast, and most recently, in preparing for 2020, the three part podcast series is you’ve got to be really clear on your top three priorities every day, because otherwise, it’s really easy to you know, have a long to do list that doesn’t actually align with your top priorities, and your, you know, like your biggest goals and your values. And so it’s like you can be busy but not productive. And you can be busy, but not actually making progress on your goals and not actually pursuing what matters. And so just because you can check your email easily doesn’t mean you should be checking it throughout the day. In fact, I would say don’t do that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:48
Okay, so those are the, those are the three things. So inattention to team members, scattered focus and multitasking and lost lost productivity. Okay, so these signs and symptoms let you know that first you’re never, you’re never far away from a device. So most of us have a smartphone on us all the time. But yours or is yours is probably constantly open it in and in your hand. So think about how much time you spend away from a screen. If it’s zero, you may have a problem. Okay, so this is from the entrepreneur article, which I’ll link to.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:26
Second, the signs and symptoms might let you know that you always have many tabs and applications open. At any given point of your workday, how many tabs and apps are open. If you’re focusing on one thing at a time, this number should be in the single digits. If your screen is a chaotic cluster of half forgotten tasks, that could mean you have a major distraction problem. Plus, like when you just have so much open, it’s just hard to think clearly. It could also mean that you check news feeds frequently. How often do you check your social media news feeds daily, hourly, there’s not much reason to check in more than once or twice a day. So if you find yourself stuck in loops of constant scrolling, it’s time to take a step back.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:26
And then the last thing so the signs and symptoms let you know that perhaps you feel like you’ve worked hard, but you haven’t gotten much done. And I think that’s actually a really big one at the end of the day, how much you feel that you have actually accomplished. So does the answer seem disproportionately low compared to the effort you exerted? If so, you probably aren’t spending your time efficiently, which often points back to a distraction problem. So of course, we don’t want this to be you, you know, if some of these things sound familiar, I definitely want to help you with some solutions. Because you know that the truth is like these things can get in the way for many of us. And it can be really insidious, right like it, it can happen in so subtly. And I just want to remind you that I have your focus quick fire guide as part of this podcast. So it’s a great resource. Great freebie for this podcast. So make sure that you download that. And it can it can help you. It reviews all of the solutions that I’m going to provide for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:38
So let’s jump into the solutions. Solution one, stop pretending to multitask, you’re lousy at it. We’re all lousy at it. Be present to what you are doing. Be fully focused and attentive. You will do a better job and you will be more efficient than if your focus is divided. Trust me, I promise.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:00
Solution two resist looking at your phone, and especially social media first thing in the morning, this can really pull you into a reactive stance and derail purpose and plans for the day. So I really want you to start your day grounded in your purpose and focused on your goals. So read from the greats, visit the stoics, study from the best books, right, don’t do these things on your phone. So actually read from a book, okay, so leave the dribble of Twitter, to empty calories snacking, you know, after lunch, or after dinner, if you must, right, but don’t do it first thing in the morning.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:49
Solution three, structure your time, have designated times for specific activities and don’t deviate from them. So for instance, maybe you set aside 15 minutes for social media use during your lunch break. Another example is to chunk email at say, like 10am, and 4pm. So you are not constantly task switching, and like checking email several times throughout the day. So task switching where, you know, say you have like all these apps open or all these tabs open on your computer, and you’re constantly task switching, you’re constantly switching between different tabs and applications, that really leads to a ton of lost productivity, and concentration. And every time you do that, it’s a drag on not only your productivity, but it’s a drag on the quality of your work, it makes it so much harder to focus and actually do effective work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:59
Okay, solution four so set a time limit, don’t just set time limits on your apps, such as you know, scrolling through news feeds, or social media, but definitely do that. But also set time limits on projects. So this really adds pressure and focus to help you finish the job. And so adding some time pressure for yourself on projects can be very helpful because it really helps you to focus in and get the job done.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:36
Solution five, make a habit of keeping your phone on Do Not Disturb. So not just silence, but actually do not disturb, so that you’re not distracted by notifications. So I would do that. Like throughout the day, I would really recommend that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:56
Solution six, determine when you are most focused and when you do your best work. And you know, as much as possible reserve this time for deep work that requires focused concentration. So ensure that you are in a distraction free zone during these times. So for example, are you most focused in the morning hours, but for me, that’s my best deep work time. So I have, you know, I have control over my calendar, which is awesome. And so as much as possible, I schedule my writing my content creation, those sorts of activities for the morning hours, because that’s when I’m sharper, mentally and, and can really do my best deep work during those morning hours. So, right that it requires some self awareness to figure out when you do your best focused work. And then as much as possible, try and schedule your deep work for that time. And if you know you’re not entirely in charge of your calendar, have a conversation with your boss, have a conversation with your supervisor and say, Listen, I know you want me to get this project done. I need a two hour block of time. At least you know, a couple times a week to work on this Can Can you support me in that. And so negotiate and work with your supervisor to get what you need to get the team’s goals accomplished.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:34
Solution seven, be present when you are face to face with a person actually be fully present with the person. So get phones out of sight and out of mind. So right like if you’re at lunch, put them away like in a purse in a briefcase, whatever close laptops and fully engage give the individual your full attention.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:00
Solution eight, disable notifications on your phone and computer, as these are really notorious for undermining concentration. So for instance, disable email notifications on your phone, or better yet, disable email on your phone, that would be even better. So make sure your laptop or your computer is free from notifications that are going to distract you. Close your tabs, make sure that you’re not going to get pinged when you’re working on a project. Because right of course, what we know from the research is that not only do the interruptions make it more difficult to get your focus back, but then the quality of your work suffers as a result.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:44
And then solution nine, be wise with your use of social media. So social media apps are designed to keep us scrolling along. So the scroll hole is a real thing. And so if you’re not fully present and attentive to what you are doing, you can easily get caught in a huge time suck. So some of the questions to ask yourself related to social media use, can you be trusted to limit your time on social media? The answer’s no, then just stay off of it. Do you need to set time limits for yourself on apps, you can do this in your phone settings really easily? Do you need to delete distracting apps from your phone, you might need to you might even need to just for a limited amount of time, then that might be a great step to kind of help you create a little more intention and a little more awareness around your use of that app. So this isn’t about depriving you of social media, but it is about you aligning with your goals and values. And if social media undermines your ability to accomplish your goals, or live to your values, then it really needs to go. Or at the very least have some serious limits. So right, it’s all about you living in alignment with your values. And so I would just say let’s keep that perspective in mind, and then make decisions based on those values. Because often we have to make decisions based on what’s best for us that we don’t always really want to do. It’s like no like I want, I want Instagram right now or whatever you know, but it might not be what’s best for us because it drives us to distraction.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:41
Solution 10 consider having a social media Sabbath. So once a week, take a break from social media to exercise those self discipline muscles.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:52
Solution 11, consider taking a social media sabbatical regularly. So, you know, say five to seven days, every 60 days or so, you know, figure out what works best for you. Again, this is a great exercise in self discipline and a good reset to make sure you are the master of your ship. So social media is a great tool but a miserable master.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:19
And then Solution 12 put your phone out of sight and out of mind. So in a container where you can’t see it light up or vibrate. So a communal basket in the kitchen or in your office works well. And I would say just at home that parents phones should go in the basket as well. I think that also communicates as a powerful example that as a family like we’re all in this together. And parents aren’t above what they’re asking of the kiddos. So I think it’s really great. Like I’ve had my kids call me out on my phone use, and it was good. It was actually really, really good. It’s not really comfortable when they do that, but it’s good. And so, you know, you as parents should, should definitely lead by example, when it comes to the phone use.
Dr. Melissa Smith 34:10
And then solution 13 have phone free times. So designate times when you and your family and I would say your team as well. So decide this in terms of like if you have certain meetings or certain portions of meetings, right, and you get to decide based on your needs and your team. But just designate designate times when you’re going to be free of your phones. So put them in the basket and don’t check them. So what are your phone free times? So is it going to be that dinner hour? Is it going to be 7pm to 7am daily? I think other questions maybe to ask are just for yourself and for your family. to challenge whether a phone is always necessary. So I know like I do this with my kiddos like they don’t, they actually don’t use their phones very often. But like I was saying earlier, it can be insidious, where it’s just becomes, it just becomes more natural to start carrying that phone around more often. And so like I did this, actually, just this week with my kiddo, I just said, Are you sure you need to take your phone? Like we’re all going out together as a family? I don’t think you need to take your phone. And like the one kiddo didn’t have the phone. But the other kiddo did have the phone and the kiddo was like, Yeah, I think you’re right, I don’t need the phone. And so the kiddo went and put the phone back in the basket. And so especially like when we think about family outings, making that a phone free time, right, because here’s the thing, like, if they want to take a picture, they can always someone has a phone, right? Probably one of the parents will have a phone, so they can definitely take photos. They don’t need to have their phones with them all the time, all the freakin time. And you know, I know I take walks with my pup every, every night, I almost always leave my phone, at home. And sometimes like I’ll come back. And it’s like, you have your phone, you have your phone, or you didn’t answer your phone or I can’t. Oh, it’s like the outrageous like, okay, the phone is a servant. Right is not a master. And so I think we really have to reorder our relationship with our digital devices, and make sure that it is in the proper order. And we are not a slave or a servant to our digital devices. So really keeping that perspective and keeping that order in the correct order is so so important.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:02
So okay, so hopefully this has been helpful, I have 13 solutions for you and make sure you head on over to my website to check out the show notes. And to grab your focus quick fire guide, it’s going to have all of these great solutions listed there. I think that they can be really, really helpful for you. Whether you have a major digital distraction problem, or even just a mild issue. Most of us do. Most of us have some some challenges in this area. But definitely head on over to the show notes and access that quick fire guide there. You can do that at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-40, one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-40. Remember that I’m available on iTunes, and Spotify. And if you leave a review, it allows more people to find me and I’m so appreciative of you. I’m also social. So find me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. It’s Dr. dot Melissa Smith. And let me know if you have anything specific you’d like me to talk about. On the podcast, I definitely love to hear from you. Also, you know, I’ve got lots of resources in addition to the freebie I will have links to the research that I’ve talked about, I’ll have a little bit of information about Elon Musk, and him breaking the record for the most satellites in space. That’s kind of cool, especially if you if you’re geeky, like the folks at my house. We watched the launch, it was fun. And then the other thing that I’m really excited to announce. And I, you know, hopefully you can watch for it this year. coming later this year. I am so excited to launch an ecourse entitled confidence to lead and it is all focused on helping you lead with confidence. And it is going to do a deep dive and helping you to lead with clarity, lead with curiosity and lead with community and it’s really going to be talking about so many of these principles that I cover in the podcast, but definitely with more depth and more solutions and kind of getting into the nitty gritty of daily actions to really help you thrive in love and work. And so I’m really excited about that you can head on over to my website, you know www.drmelissasmith.com. And you can join the waitlist there if you’re interested in that course. And then you can receive updates about that course. there and of course again, if you want to Check out the show notes and get the focus quickfire guide. The link to that is www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-40. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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