Cramming it all in means juggling lots of plates simultaneously. We also live in a really noisy world where information – important stuff and fluff – are begging for our attention constantly. While we rely on our outsized capacity to multitask, it can get counterproductive, especially when we need to focus.
When I’m at work, I’ve got to stay focused and power through so I’m fully ‘on’ when I’m there, so I can be fully ‘on’ when I’m home..but the distractions are tempting!
Stickiness is rarely a good thing. Not good on walls or on car seats. Also, not good when it comes to mental gymnastics. Those who study attention, have examined the phenomenon of Attention Residue or “stickiness”: the tendency for our minds to remain partly on a prior task as we start a new one. Whether that’s switching from project to project, interruptions created by texts or stopping to scroll Instagram. As CIAIY moms, multi-tasking equals survival and we love the little break a notification brings, but those breaks come at a cost. Every single time we switch our attention, there’s a reduction in our cognitive capacity. Thankfully, Professor Leroy and others obsessed with the study of attention have suggestions that unstick for the mind:
What To Do (Bites)
Just don’t look. Period.
We mean just don’t peak at your texts, your emails, your insta feed. It’s killing your focus and productivity. You think you’re just doing a quick check, but your brain is still thinking about what you just, even briefly, looked at, as you try and think through whatever is in front of you. Set time to do your emails, texts, whatever – just don’t mix it in with your thinking work.
Manage the human interrupters.
It’s not just technology that is stealing your attention, it’s the person who pops in or calls you in, who is interfering with your mind-time and burning through your cognitive power. If they’re repeat offenders, gently explain that this is your focused time and you could use their help in giving you the window to get your work done, uninterrupted.
When you can’t blow them off…
Help your brain dive back in later by capturing where you are on the task now and the key steps to resume your task. Seriously, ask for a few seconds to write it down – it will help you move into the conversation or task (read:interruption!) without your brain staying focused on what you’ve been pulled away from (releasing some of the residue). So you’ll be a clearer thinker on whatever the next subject at hand is, and you’ll be able to more swiftly resume the task you left behind.
When you’re pulled from your task, use a transition tactic to switch your brain. Be sure to clear your mind from the last task. If it’s work, you can do breathing exercises to chill and clear your mind. Or you can grab a coffee or hit the ladies’ room as a transition tactic. Remember, while you’re there, recognize that’s what you’re doing and consciously tell yourself to clear your mind.
It’s really hard to put away or silence technology, but remember the trade-off. In these situations where it can sap your cognitive ability, stealthily and almost unknowingly to you, keep your eye on the prize. For many CIAIY moms, the prize is being present so they can do their best work/best momming and use their time in ways that create value. Know your distractors and actively manage them.
Don’t be the interrupter. Remember how painful it is when someone interrupts your thinking time. Do you want to be that person? Think about what is really worthy of interrupting someone else.