Commentary on How to Focus in The Age of Distraction–Permission to let your mind wander.

How to Focus in The Age of Distraction- From Learning Fundamentals

I was shared this from a colleague (Thanks Danielle Lewis). I know I fall on the addict branch often. My only problem with the branches are that the pesky green branch in the middle which says get away from the computer. Umm I work ON the computer. Kinda hard to work and do what I do and get off the computer.  The other thing was the red branch???Paper?  I work in a nearly paperless environment, but yea I use inboxes…so kind of.

The more I thought about this the more I said now wait-this is a very biased opinion of what we do with computers today. Being on the internet is part of my job. And I focus quite well on the internet.  Well sometimes, sometimes I blog….

Again I am drawn to wondering if the way we think today is just different, so fundamentally so that what to these folks seems a “distraction” is really just a different conceptual schema altogether.

I recall an experiment involving rats in a maze.  The researchers wanted to determine if the distracted unmotivated rats were really accomplishing anything.  So they put some rats in the maze with a cheese goal.  They did this several times in succession and noted the rats increase in rate of finding the cheese goal.  The rats who were goal oriented got faster with each iteration.

When the researchers removed the cheese and put new rats in the maze and let them explore.  There was no goal.  The rats were aimless if you will.  After several runs of un-goal oriented exploration, the researchers added the cheese goal to the maze.  The result: the aimless rats found the cheese at a faster rate than their goal oriented peers!  Their learning curve was exponentially faster. (Experiment most famously attributed to Edward C. Tolman)

Phineas and Ferb Maze episode.

So what would I change on the visual above?  First I would remove the no computer branch on the green-obviously it doesn’t apply except in brainstorming sessions for my work-life. Secondly I would replace that branch with wander aimlessly in your field whether its reading blogs, tweets, trade mags, or what have you.  But workers today should spend sometime in non-goal oriented professional development and exploration, followed by reflection on what they learned– AKA start a blog 😉 By doing so, your “focused bursts” will gain from your latent learning and you will look more like a rock star for your valuable insight.


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