Distractions can be terrible for productivity. Psychology Today suggests that we can still focus despite distractions, so long as we work them into our schedule wisely.
Picture: N i c o l a/Flickr
Mastering something called metacognition, the brain’s understanding of when focus is and isn’t necessary, is the key to allowing distractions between tasks without sacrificing engagement in our primary objective. Entrepreneur explains how this works:
Students watched videos of psychology courses that would be accompanied by a graded test at the end. Researchers told the students they would receive text messages throughout and to answer them. One group received eight messages, another four and another didn’t receive any.
As suspected, students who received only four tested better than those who received eight. However, researchers noticed another correlation. Students who answered the texts immediately tested far worse than those who waited a few minutes to respond to the texts.
The students who waited to respond were using what psychologists refer to as “metacognition,” which is the brain’s understanding of when focus is necessary and when it is not. As their research found, the use of metacognition or knowing when to allow distraction, improves performance.
As the study suggests, if you wait to allow the distraction to take the spotlight, rather than catching your notifications right away, you’ll be better off. This doesn’t mean wait until you’ve completed your entire project, but wait until you’ve found a good break when you can answer to whatever’s distracting you.
Attention Alert: A Study on Distraction Reveals Some Surprises [Psychology Today via Entrepreneur]