It's time for some deep work

10th of July 2019 Article by Lynn Webster
It's time for some deep work

Lynn Webster in the UK examines how screen use could be affecting our concentration at work.

There has been significant news coverage of the excessive use of social media by children and young people. But it is not just the millennials. Social media is ingrained in people’s everyday lives; nearly all of us use it daily. 86 per cent of people use social media at least once a day, including 72 per cent who use it multiple times a day. According to some research almost 20 per cent of people cannot go more than three hours without checking it.

However, what we haven’t considered is the way social media has also taken over many of our business and executive lives too. We are constantly being bombarded with multi-screen stimuli that impact on our brains. So perhaps it is time to consider how we are being fuelled by social media engagement.

Such conditioning of our minds also brings health issues, both physical and mental. This includes the symptoms of anxiety and depression, along with our outlook and perception of the world and of our self-worth. Physical illnesses such as eye strain, neck pain, and lower back problems develop and the way it encourages sedentary behaviour can exacerbate conditions such as obesity, heart disease and nutrition problems.

We are facing what is being termed in some circles as FOMO – the fear of missing out on something; resulting in unrealistic expectations of real life with such platforms ruling our lives. People begin to suffer negative personal image, unhealthy sleep patterns and poor sleep quality. So, is this an addiction? Ask yourself …when did you manage a whole day without checking your social media accounts? Have you ever considered taking a sabbatical from your social media world … or is that a bit scary?

So how does this also apply to your business life? The loss of concentration created by these mediums can reportedly result in people today not being able to concentrate for more than eight seconds on a deep level. In comparison a goldfish manages nine seconds! This lack of what can be termed ‘deep’ work, to commit to depth of work outcomes can have a major impact on business resilience, as ‘in the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties’ or ‘an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change’ (Merriam-Webster). Individuals tend to move their focus onto the shallow activities of superficial work; losing the strategic edge of their business.

So, what do we do? …… Not to suggest we remove ourselves from the Twitter feed; ignore all those Facebook posts; close our Instagram account but recognise how the algorithmic curse may be stopping real thinking.

Consider the depth of your work input, are you able to fully concentrate for a couple of hours on a specific task of deep, meaningful work? Question how often you check your media activities. Is it distracting you from effective, purposeful work time?

How do we fix it.? Address our concentration, producing reputable deliverable results; allocate specific time and limits on social media sites with planned time for access; applying restrictions and fully switch off as a matter of routine; giving yourself ‘me’ time and making that time meaningfully important. After all ‘burn’ is good (whether in the office or at the gym!) but ‘burn out’ is not. It is not only the young that are being swamped by social media; we are at risk of drowning ourselves.

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