On a recent Sunday afternoon, I spent three hours working on an MIT certification program in AI and machine learning. The intensive program involves watching videos, participating in discussions, reading supporting documents, and writing papers which are marked on a specific rubric.
With a background in digital marketing, online learning, and the non-conspiratorial understanding that every keystroke we make and video we watch has built-in technology that tells the creator of the material whether you are actually paying attention or not, I locked myself in my office, distraction free, to ensure that I actually was learning something and not simply going through the motions.
The bottom line is that I have no doubt that a course from MIT would have built-in technology that lets the instructors know whether or not I am actually paying attention. We implement this same type of technology for clients at the digital agency I founded. I know how these things work and thus, my instructors would know if I was distracted or not.
Distraction is a major issue in business. For example, I know if my employees are distracted because they either do not do the tasks they agreed to, ask questions on material that we covered in a meeting, or are not giving their best in their work. Tony Robbins, master trainer and coach to people like The Golden State Warriors, will ask his employees test questions during meetings to see if they are paying attention. Tools like Zoom meeting are excellent as everyone is now on camera and it is easy to observe who is actually present.
Regardless of the tools used to measure attention span, the reality is that our attention spans are getting shorter. A study of 2000 individuals found that 45% of people admitted to getting easily distracted. Let’s face it, we all do ‘the scroll.’ We are at our child’s performance and anytime our beloved offspring isn’t on stage, we are scrolling through our social media, emails, and texts. Many won’t admit it, however they scroll at stop lights. In fact, the number of pedestrian deaths in 2017, in the United States, was approximately 6,000. Pedestrians are clearly scrolling and walking while drivers are scrolling and driving. It is a lethal combination.
Having a poor attention span can cost us emotionally, physically, and financially. How often have you ever felt ‘unheard’ in a business or romantic relationship? Chances are, the person wasn’t fully present to what you were attempting to say. Have you ever injured yourself because you were not paying attention? I have scars on my knees from a run where I missed a curb and fell. Case in point on that one. In business, we often miss cues, or do not fully learn what is required because we are so distracted. That costs us money which can lead to both the aforementioned physical and relationship pain.
Having taught the Organize Your Life™ principles to business professionals for over two decades, and interacted with thousands of students, the number one reason people cite for not achieving their goals is that they procrastinate. At the root of all procrastination is either voluntary or involuntary distraction.
If your results are likely to be better if you are not distracted, why do we allow ourselves to do ‘the scroll,’ flit from thing to thing never living into our potential, or attempt to do our work while also checking in on social media? One of the key reasons is that distraction can lead to the secretion of our happy hormones:
Dopamine – motivates you to act.
Oxytocin – is associated with intimacy and trust.
Serotonin – is the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Endorphins – released in response to pain and stress.
We literally ‘chase’ these hormones by looking for love, acceptance, entertainment, and thrills. When we do not get them, we seek things like drugs, alcohol, sex, and other means in order to give us a ‘hit.’ When you see someone achieving success in anything, it is because they have chosen pursuits that allow them to trigger the production of these hormones.
Going back to MIT for a moment, forcing myself to sit at my computer on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon was not too much of a stretch. I had already run 10 miles that morning which triggered an ample supply of endorphins, snuggled with my husband which generated some oxytocin, ate a lovely acai bowl which gave me some serotonin, and now it was time for dopamine – the anticipation of completing my second MIT unit.
The easiest strategy to creating a more productive, distraction reduced, workday is to trigger these hormones early in the day. By simply getting your workout in, having a quick cuddle with your partner or snuggling with your child or even your dog, taking a few minutes to meditate, and having a healthy breakfast, you can set yourself up to be more focused and energized throughout your day.
Simple Ways to Activate Your Daily D.O.S.E.
Dopamine – ‘runner’s high,’ is commonly associated with happy hormone. You can trigger this by anticipating accomplishment – think going for a hike and reaching the top, completing a project, s and getting small goals and achieving them.
Oxytocin – personal touch, receiving a gift, and creation, can all generate oxytocin. Men who have higher oxytocin levels are reportedly more faithful.
Serotonin – this is the hormone of significance. When serotonin is low, suicide and criminal behavior increase. Taking time in gratitude or visualizing past achievements can boost serotonin. Allowing yourself to get ‘hangry’ can lower serotonin. Almost 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut so eating healthy and taking probiotics definitely can help.
Endorphins – laughter, the anticipation of laughter – seeing a funny movie or comedy show, a good workout, or even a brisk power walk, can all help with endorphins.
At the end of the day, our bodies are starving for these hormones. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to achieve them. The balanced, productive, distraction-free, happy individual, sets up their life, often unconsciously, to generate as much of these hormones as possible. Ultimately, when we secrete these hormones in ample supply, we do not need to look externally, such as ‘the scroll,’ to feel good, and in doing so, we can focus more on the task at hand and that might lead to better relationships, more money, and of course…not being run over by an equally distracted driver.
For more information on ‘happy hormones’ – check out this great infographic on the D.O.S.E. hormones from Utopian Life.
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