When was the last time you sat down at the computer and just focused on one project, one issue, for one hour, without being distracted or checking your email, or finding out the latest celebrity gossip, or seeing how your sports team did, or finding a really funny video showing a cat water-skiing.
Yeah, I thought so. Me neither. But don’t worry. You are not alone. OK, we are not alone.
Short attention span
According to a new study, in the past decade the average attention span has dropped dramatically from 12 minutes to five minutes. Five minutes. That’s barely enough time to boil a hard-boiled egg. Hardly enough time to make a decent cup of tea. You wouldn’t even be halfway through the Derek and the Dominos classic “Layla” (OK, that dates me) before your time is up.
The study says that today the average office worker checks their email 30 to 40 times an hour. An hour. It’s like a Pavlovian response. The little image appears in the corner of your screen or a sound goes off telling you there’s a new email in your inbox and you rush there to check it out. Odds are it’s going to be worthless or something that could have waited a few minutes, or quite honestly a few hours, or days or weeks or you could even ignore it completely and life would go on. Yet still you feel the need to go and check it out right, right, now.
To delay might mean. Well, what!
Exactly. We are rushing around from one thing to another and not necessarily doing anything better or more skillfully or thoughtfully. All we are doing is doing it faster. The downside of that is that anything that forces us to slow down, or – god forbid – stop – then just drives us crazy. We’re addicted to speed. Addicted to multiple stimuli at the same time.
Addicted is the right word to use in this context. This new study found that social media may even be changing the way our brains work, re-wiring our circuitry, making us impatient and forgetful and distracted.
OK, what was I saying?
Slow down, let it sink in
Think about it. When was the last time you watched a video – other than a movie – that lasted more than a few minutes. How often do you just dismiss out of hand anything that looks as though it might take a few minutes to watch or read. How often do you just move on from an article that actually requires some real thinking, maybe even reading it a couple of times to understand it.
We are trying to save time. Instead we are losing our minds.