Technological advances have been credited with streamlining the work of many industries. Whether it be in the medicine, retail, sports or the like, modern technology has vastly altered the way humans perform daily operations.
Although one of the primary reasons for the adoption of new technologies is to increase efficiency, it seems that just the opposite is happening. We may have successfully managed to make phones slimmer, lighter, faster and capable of holding more memory, but these advances have done little to improve our efficiency.
It comes as an ironic twist that the advances we’ve made in order to accomplish tasks more speedily have actually become a detriment to progress.
We previously thought that creating sleeker and faster technology would allow us to expand our day, that we might be able to stretch out a few more hours of productivity if we weren’t waiting around for the internet to load or our phones to charge. It turns out that modern devices have done just the opposite, distracting us so much that there are very few productive hours left in a given day.
The easy accessibility of technology – be that a phone, tablet, laptop or any device – combined with high-speed data and a multitude of free social media applications, have pulled people’s attention away from the work that matters.
Sure, years ago we would have to strain our arms to get a few bars to send an SMS message on a flip phone; and maybe we had to use dial-up internet access because Wi-Fi wasn’t available or around. It may seem like a blessing that those days are over, but in reality, those days were much longer than the ones we live in now.
Because the world was slower, people were able to provide more focused, undivided attention on all tasks – be it work-related activities or even leisure time. Reading a book meant going outside, grabbing a book and reading. Reading a book today means grabbing a book, putting your phone on your lap and checking your notifications every time there’s a slight vibration.
This means it takes 10 times longer to read a book, and it’s nearly impossible to fully engage with the reading or immerse oneself in the world because you simply don’t allow yourself to fully commit to any one activity.
Our brains work in such a way that even though we are able to multi-task quite efficiently due to the phenomenon of selective attention, we compromise on our skill level on tasks that we perform simultaneously. If I were to sing a song while cooking a meal, I may be able to sing in a mediocre way and cook a decent meal; however, if I had sung the song with my full attention, and then cooked the meal with no distractions, each one of those tasks would have been performed with a higher degree of precision and finesse.
Overall, nothing can compare with undivided, focused attention on a task. And although it may be painful to think about waiting to check notifications until after a chapter of reading is done, that chapter will be read much faster and it will be much more enjoyable if it’s the only thing you’re doing.
In a TED-Ed video titled “How to practice effectively…for just about anything,” a study was mentioned in which 260 students were observed while studying. It was found that on average, the students were only able to maintain focused attention for six minutes at a time. Social media apps, such as Facebook and Twitter on smartphones, were found to be the biggest distractions.
Gulrukh Haroon is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.