WHY IT'S HARD TO FOCUS
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Because you’re an Efficiency Machine
It’s true. It’s really not your fault. It’s just the way you’re designed. Your brain is hardwired to automate repetitive mental actions to be more efficient and save you from having to think. And the more times you perform a task, the more you “habitualize” it, and the easier it becomes. Many dealership managers have “habitualized” their short attention span and can no longer focus on any one project for any extended period of time. It’s like you’re training yourself to be stupider and stupider with each passing day. And you can thank Mother Nature for that.
Because you’re trapped in the Information-Action Gap
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it’s true. As the amount of information you try to process increases, your ability to think clearly, make accurate decisions and take focused action decreases. Nearly everyone operates under the assumption that they’re better off gathering as much information as possible. That was solid advice when the world operated at a slower pace. You could consume the information, think it through, go back to fill in any gaps, and then focus that knowledge where it was needed. Unfortunately, as the speed and ease with which anyone can access more information than they could possibly need increases, there’s little time left anymore to actually process that information and focus on putting it to use. Unless you’re really disciplined it’s easy to fall into this trap, where the tie between information and action is severed.
Because you’ve bought into The Myth Of Multi-Tasking
This one is huge. We're not sure when the concept of human multi-tasking really exploded into our vocabulary, but it was a sad day. The concept that you could handle information overload by learning to work on multiple things at once is just plain wrong. Your brain doesn’t work like that. The truth is you can only focus on one thing at a time. And when you multi-task, all you’re doing is swapping different tasks in and out of your attention. A study by the University of Michigan found that people who switch between different types of tasks – say, email and surfing the Internet, or writing a blog post and talking on the phone – lose between 20% and 40% of their efficiency.
Now go back and re-read #1. The more that you multi-task, the more you’re training yourself to focus less on any one thing.
Because you’re an Interruption Junkie
Today most people look back at their flip-phones with fond nostalgia. The miracles of technology we carry in our pockets these days offer countless modes of communication – and interruption.
How often do you sit at your desk for an hour or two working on one task without getting up or doing anything else (like checking your email, surfing the web, checking Facebook, reading tweets, answering texts, etc.)? If you are like the majority of people, and you’re being honest with yourself, you realize that it has become a problem. And these “productivity” tools are no longer boosting your performance. They’re chipping away at your ability to focus. If you find that you’re half way down the driveway and you have to go back into the house because you forgot your phone, congratulations, you’ve become an “interruption junkie.”
Because of your lust for Instant Gratification
“Doing things” actually comes in a variety of flavors…From meaningful to meaningless. The problem is there is no difference in the sense of accomplishment that comes with either. Focusing on doing the important, meaningful stuff generally takes longer and requires more focus thereby delaying any gratification you might feel. While doing simpler, more meaningless stuff – like checking your email – gives you that instant rush of accomplishment. But it’s actually a false, and often dangerous, sense of accomplishment. You may have a perfectly clean inbox, but you’re no closer to completing that project that will put you on the map in your market.
Because you're a believer that More Equals Better
A consistent issue I see in many entrepreneurs is their conviction that more is always better. And they accumulate more and more knowledge with the mistaken belief that the business owner who knows the most (or sells the most) somehow wins in business. But the truth is the polar opposite. Because as the amount of information you know climbs, your ability to focus on and master any of it plummets. Take marketing tactics, for example. Auto dealers cling to the idea that the more marketing tactics they know, the better equipped they are to compete online. But since online advertising more closely resembles an auction format than offline, a competitor that’s mastered a certain marketing strategy can actually force you to spend more money for a worse result. The bottom line is that sometimes knowing too much can hurt!
Because your Coping Mechanisms Suck
Back to the idea of efficiency, our brain tends to cope with an overload of information in one of three ways. And all of them are ineffective. We distort, generalize and delete. When faced with new information, we often apply certain biases and filters to it, distorting the reality of what we’re dealing with. Or we’ll try to generalize it by drawing conclusions from a minimal amount of information, and then we try connecting it into some knowledge we already have. And finally, if some information really doesn’t fit our worldview, we tend to just delete it.