Find Your Focus Zone An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload
By Lucy Jo Palladino
Free Press Copyright © 2007 Lucy Jo Palladino
All right reserved. ISBN: 9781416532002
You and I live in a 24/7 culture, and someone is always upping the ante. New technology makes you more productive but pressures you to pick up the pace. You have a new cell phone? Good. Now, your boss can reach you on your day off. Wireless PDA, huh? Excellent. We'll expect e-mails, too. Mini-PC? Even better. We'll instant-message you those files.... Whether you work inside or outside your home, you juggle a schedule of constant demands and always-on electronics. Multitasking is rampant. For better or worse, we're rewiring our brains for what the technology industry now calls "continuous partial attention."
In the digital age of distraction, we function at new levels of stimulation and anxiety. The Internet spews information like a fire hose, but to digest information we need to sip it through a straw. Overwhelmed and overloaded, we have no time to process or reflect. Sunday is not a day of rest, but an attempt to catch up and clear your clutter. Old ways of paying attention can't keep up. We need new tools.
Attention Makes the Difference
Having control over your attention is a critical skill. I specialize in working with human attention because paying attention matters. Every one of us needs the ability to direct our attention, or we willnot reach our goals. In my thirty years of practice as a clinical psychologist, I've helped thousands of people solve myriad problems by improving their attention. Learning attention management skills has made life better for just about everyone who has walked through my door, not just for those with attention deficit disorder.
This morning, for instance, my first appointment was with an executive who'd recently had a heart attack. He came to see me to learn stress management skills that will help him prevent another one. His biggest challenge is to get his mind off his highly competitive workplace when it's time for him to go home and relax. Next, I saw a woman in her thirties who is battling depression. "Everyone tells you to stay positive," she observed, "but no one tells you how." I'm going to help her unglue her attention from negative thoughts of worry, blame, and self-criticism, and focus instead on hope, trust, and self-appreciation.
I saw a college student with social anxiety who's learning to redirect his attention away from his memories of rejection and onto cues he can get from others so he can succeed in social situations. Then came a baby boomer trying to lose weight, struggling to pay more attention to fruits and vegetables than to rich sauces and pastries. A young perfectionist couple have a weekly appointment with me to practice ways to focus on each other's humanity, not on each other's faults. Attention control is a necessary ingredient for each of us to be healthy, happy, and successful.
How Does Digital-Age Distraction Hurt You?
When it comes to attention and the digital age, we each have different strengths and vulnerabilities. What's your style? Are you prone to attention swings, back and forth between boredom and overdrive? Or do you tend toward one end or the other -- lost in space or racing against the clock with no time to spare? Take a moment to ask yourself which style describes you best.
Do You Have Attention Swings?
Most people today fluctuate between boredom and overdrive. Do you:
- Buy books that grab you at the store, but don't finish reading them at home?
- Buy the latest high-tech gadget, play with it while it's new, then turn it into a bookend (to hold up all those unfinished books)?
- Stop what you're doing to answer a cool e-mail, but have two or more half-written e-mails in your drafts folder?
- Agree to go to places that sound like fun when you're invited, then make up excuses when it's actually time to stop what you're doing and go?
- Ambitiously start a diet by buying ingredients for unusual recipes, but toss them out when they grow mold and turn into a science project in your fridge?
Are You Scattered and Spacey?
Some people find that they're more the scattered and spacey type. It's a constant challenge for them to stick with what they're doing. They spend a lot of time overextended, underpowered, and indecisive. Do you:
- Go to the store, browse through some books, see one you like, put off deciding whether to buy it or not, go home, wish you'd bought it, and eventually go back to the store only to find that it's no longer on the shelf?
- Put off buying the latest high-tech gadget, and when you finally do get it, leave it in the box until your tech-savvy neighbor comes over to set it up for you?
- Have six or more half-written e-mails in your drafts folder?
- Agree to go to places that sound like fun when you're invited, look forward to going, and then arrive late no matter what time you started to get ready?
- Consider starting a diet for a few weeks, go to the bookstore to find (but not buy) a diet book, read magazine articles about losing weight, and put a recipe on your refrigerator door (if there's room) to think about it awhile?
Are You Hyperfast and Hyperfocused?
Some people are wired for speed and intensity. They find it hard to say no to constant stimulation. Do you:
- Go only to bookstores that have wifi so you can stay connected while you're there?
- Be the first to own the latest high-tech gadget, trade up your current gadgets for the next generation right away, and have a gadget for every purpose?
- Check your e-mail continuously and wrt msgs ryt awy lk ths?
- Agree to go to places that sound like fun when you're invited but in the back of your mind know that if a better opportunity comes up you will call and cancel?
- If you need to lose weight, gulp down breakfast shakes and power bars -- a great reason to eat on the run!
Whatever your style, you will benefit from Find Your Focus Zone.
Copyright © 2007 by Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD
Excerpted from Find Your Focus Zone by Lucy Jo Palladino Copyright © 2007 by Lucy Jo Palladino. Excerpted by permission.
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