Monday, September 13, 2010

Attention Deficit - did I miss something?

Two lines of a song...Shrieking of a cartoon character...incessant rant of a newscaster...another cartoon...dubbed into Hindi from

All of that in less than 60 seconds...

I ask my 11 yr old son on what he is watching, and he gave me a good answer. He was 'Channel Surfing'. Sigh! Which today qualifies to be a legitimate activity.

Funny part is, even when we watch a good program, we tend to navigate away from it at first opportunity.

....we may be in the middle of a conversation or a meeting...but can't resist to see who sent the sms. (Clearly SMS can't be urgent...right?)

The age of instant information has created a huge attention deficit problem.

Look around you and you'll find that everybody is doing something + more.

Well we can always argue that the human brain can actually handle multiple tasks...we drive while we listen to radio. Or eat popcorn, while watching a movie.

Which is true, but for one distinction. Awareness Vs Focus.

We can be 'aware' of many things but focus is singleton.

There's passive information and stuff happening in the background, that you get bombarded with, but that doesn't really take away anything too much. However, there is active information that make you think and takes away your attention from task at hand.

So what's the down side, if you do indeed multi-task?

I think, two key problems tend to happen.

#1: We don't get to enjoy a good thing going.
#2: People feel short changed.

Would you really enjoy a good movie if you keep checking email every 10 mins?

There should be a very good reason, why you should stop a nice little conversation with your mom, to look at the SMS that just came in.

We show dis-interest in the current activity or person, when we switch away.

It is almost, as if we are looking for something else to do.

To be fair, a lot of this happens very involuntary but that's exactly the problem. We have almost gotten used to it so much that we have accepted it as part of the life.

It isn't supposed to be so.

Believe me, nothing different will happen if you check email at the end of the meeting.
....look at the sms after you are done talking to one person.
...don't check status of something while you are on vacation.

Enjoy what you are doing right now...without worrying about what may be happening else where.

Make the current conversation the most important conversation for this moment!

Everything else can wait. Really!


  1. Hi Rahul,
    Nice thoughts...
    I have read a couple of articles related to this topic. Let me summarize my thoughts.
    First of all, I would like to brief about the “Concept of Flow”. As per this concept, flow is characterized as a state of completely immersible, focused energy. Here, Flow is the mental state of operation that a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. (Wiki)
    The human mind has 65,000 (approx.) thoughts per day. The time when there were no cell phones, distractions controlled around 1% of human mind. Today, this value stands tall at around 14%.
    During distractions and multi-tasking your pre-frontal lobe falls in a sleepy, deteriorated state. As a result when your distractions increase, your focus, intelligence and mood decreases.
    When you are waiting in a queue, do not bury yourself in phone chats, games, etc. By this you are forced to interact with the environment around you. You suddenly become aware of everything around you.
    Try to duplicate the environment one typically does when on a vacation. You do this to become more focused, action-oriented person.
    I also do this in order to better enjoy life.

  2. @Amit: Excellent Comment. Very interesting information and thoughts. Thanks for sharing this. Can you point to the study on the human mind that you quoted. I'd certainly like to read more on this.

  3. Hi Rahul,
    I have read umpteen number of articles & books, which are closely related to this topic. A few resources that I could recollect are as follows:
    • “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr
    • -
    In this article, search for the following paragraph:
    “In my experience thinking is a process that involves a few variables, reasoning or cognition, intuition, and habit. Dr. Deepak Chopra once quoted a study (in "Quantium Heeling", I think) in which the researchers concluded that the average person thinks approximately 65,000 thoughts per
    • Quantum Heeling by Deepak Chopra

    I will supply you more literature on this as and when I encounter them.

    Food for thought: The cell phones and Pagers came in India around mid or late 90s. The IT and Marketing companies were still functioning properly before that. What was that which kept them going...

    Best, Keep writing...

  4. this one is very good...most of the ppl suffer from this problem....

  5. Most counted example:'Guys involved in an important discussion and suddenly a girl walks in.
    This is followed by some beautiful comments and guys have to think really hard where they left.'
    Just want to say DISTRACTIONS are everywhere but ATTENTION is in our mind.We can't control our surroundings but we can always control our mind.
    Focusing on one thing at a particular moment will always yield good results.

  6. The evidence to this fact is the mushrooming yoga centers everywhere charging hefty monthly fees and teaching us "how to concentrate".