Aligning work and life
Finding a work life balance in a technical world means taking steps towards a digital detox. If you ache for that ‘quick fix’ to read email, check social media updates, or surf for breaking news, your need for rapid response has a real and calculable impact. Rapid access to information takes the smallest windows of time and turns it into instant entertainment.
Excessive use of technology affects social habits, perhaps even reshapes personalities. A ‘virtual lifestyle’ can cause impatience, impulsiveness and forgetfulness. Digital distraction can diminish empathy by limiting how we engage with real people, affecting connectivity and social ties.
Published in the Star Medical Journal in the UK, human communication is 93% body language and paralinguistic cues…while only 7% consists of words.
Bad news…a goldfish now has a longer attention span than most humans. New research from Microsoft found that since 2000, the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to a mere eight seconds.
That’s one second shorter than the attention space of a goldfish.
That means most of you didn’t even make it to this sentence.
A UN statistics report published in March 2013 states 6 of the world’s 7 billion people have mobile devices, but only 4.5 billion have a flushing toilet.
What’s been the biggest change since the turn of the century?
The omnipresent smart device!
If your smart device remains in hand, you likely suffer from smart device separation anxiety. The ping sound of a new message causes a rise in dopamine levels, much like the need for a fix. When you focus on seeing the world through a restricted technology field of vision, you’ve stopped living in the moment. By establishing a set time every day to turn off technology and turn on reality, you actively alter your own tech obsessive habits.
Because many of the businesses we belong to strongly encourage the building of real relationships, consider your own technical addiction. Do you talk rather than sell? Engage rather than pitch? Connect rather than network? If statistics show that the average working adult spends at least one hour a day completely distracted by a digital device; that distracted hour increases exponentially with each additional device. According to surveys blogged by the Wall Street Journal, that distraction is equivalent to more than $4000 per person annually in lost work related revenue.
The term digital dementia, coined by top German Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer in his 2012 book, describes how overuse of digital technology is resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities in a way commonly noticed in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness. When Siri and Cortana are your best sources of information, you are victim to memory laziness. Excessive digital connecting deprives the brain of down time. The internet encourages rapid, distracted samplings of small bits of information from numerous sources; instead, retrieve information organically. If screen lives become more compelling than real life, we merely retain bits of random information with no common element, thus becoming a participant in a thread of virtual discussion.
Information learned while partially distracted is often quickly forgotten, making learning tragically shallow. Reading an actual book has been shown to improve memory retention. Experts contend we ‘use it or lose it’.
The June 2013 IDEAfitness Journal questions whether technology is supporting or threatening our wellbeing. Be mindful that physical exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to the brain. Electronic devices, if unmanaged, can undermine our ability to pay attention to any one task. While the convenience of mobile technology brings unprecedented advantages, excessive electronic stimulation can produce negative consequences.
The idea that we can ‘multi-task’ is a misnomer. Rather, when bouncing from device to conversation to activity to device, we are merely ‘task switching.’ Juggling more than one task at a time is one of human brain’s greatest strengths.
So how can we capture the attention of an increasingly fragmented and inattentive audience? Digital distraction contributes to an already hectic lifestyle, preventing concentration information retention. When you feel overwhelmed, focus on doing one thing well, rather than doing a number of things badly.
Overuse of technology hindering balanced brain development does raise questions. Young people raised in a digital world are showing signs of short term memory dysfunction. According to a blog post from November 2013 on the Alzheimer’s web site, an eye-opening study based in Seoul, Korea stated more people are connected to digital devices (over 67%) than anywhere in the world. A similar study from UCLA has revealed that young people are spending upwards of 7 hours a day attached to iPads, smartphones, computer’s and gaming consoles. The after-effects are proving to be very damaging.
Technology has truly exceeded our imagination and become a new reality. Digital experiences overwhelm the senses, while real time information sharing remains at a premium. When engaging in your next discussion at any upcoming conference, forum, networking event, or business meeting, allow your brain to stay focused to stay on just one thing…that conversation.
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