Too many interruptions: more serious than it sounds

Just read a fascinating post in the wiredscience blog with the provocative title: Digital overload is frying our brains. It’s worth a look, in spite of the creepy photo-shopped picture they lead with. Let me start with en extended quote:

“Paying attention isn’t a simple act of self-discipline, but a cognitive ability with deep neurobiological roots — and these roots, says Maggie Jackson, are in danger of dying.

“In Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, Jackson explores the effects of “our high-speed, overloaded, split-focus and even cybercentric society” on attention. It’s not a pretty picture: a never-ending stream of phone calls, e-mails, instant messages, text messages and tweets is part of an institutionalized culture of interruption, and makes it hard to concentrate and think creatively.”

So begins the blog post, which is mostly an interview with Jackson. The question of attention and focus has become increasingly important, as technologies proliferate that allow us to be interrupted. Jackson says that information workers now switch tasks an average of three minutes throughout the day. This is a problem for pastors … it’s hard to write a sermon in three minute chunks!

Another fascinating connection here: continual interruption is correlated with stress, which is an epidemic today. Jackson again:

“This degree of interruption is correlated with stress and frustration and lowered creativity. That makes sense. When you’re scattered and diffuse, you’re less creative. When your times of reflection are always punctured, it’s hard to go deeply into problem-solving, into relating, into thinking….Interruptions are correlated with stress, and a cascade of stress hormones accompany that state of being. Stress, frustration and lowered creativity are pretty toxic.”

Give the article a quick read. If you don’t get interrupted first.

2 thoughts on “Too many interruptions: more serious than it sounds”

  1. I agree in a huge way. I used to get really frustrated trying to get work done in my office because, staff, volunteer staff, parents, bosses and everyone else seemed to drop by the office. Now I schedule most of my study and project time away from the office so that I don’t get interrupted. At first I was worried that people would be upset that they couldn’t get a hold of me but I find people have no problem with it since I am still making time to meet with people it’s just on a schedule not just whenever people drop by.

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