Do you often find yourself getting off task at work? Are you in fact reading this at work right now? Well, the good news is that trouble paying attention at work might be a sign you're smart. I'm sure your bosses will be very pleased.
A recent study of more than 10,000 workers from 17 different countries found that not only is technology making us less focused at work, but more intelligent workers actually tend to be the least focused. “Employers are always on the lookout for the brightest people available, however the difficulty to withstand multiple tasks and distractions in the office affects smart people in the same way as everyone else, if not more,” Bostjan Ljubic, vice president of workplace productivity firm Steelcase, who published the research, told Telegraph.
So why is this? Well, basically the theory is that smart people tend to instinctively want to tackle each problem and address each issue as it arises, and in a world full of distractions, that means that more intelligent individuals are more likely to get sucked in. So basically, if you're supposed to be working right now but instead have a few dozen non-work-related tabs open (including this one), it might be a sign that you're super smart. Congratulations!
With the advent of the Internet, everyone's life is filled with more distraction than ever. Steelcase points out, based on a sampling of other research, that the average worker gets distracted once every three minutes, checks their phone 221 times a day, has eight windows open at any given time, and checks their email 30 times an hour. And when it comes to more intelligent people, the theory goes that they feel they are brilliantly multitasking, when in reality, multitasking is inefficient and really they're just distracted.
But hey, is it really anyone's fault? Speaking as someone who currently has more than 30 tabs open across four different windows, iTunes playing, and a smartphone within reach, I feel like actually we all should get some sort of medal for how well we manage to get work done in spite of these legions of distractions. As psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell told Steelcase, “Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points.”
But if you want to improve your performance at work, Steelcase says that mindfulness might be the key. Practicing mindfulness trains your brain to recognize when your focus is wandering and to gently pull your attention back.
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