Newsletter 576 – Controlling Distractions and Cognitive Overload

Interruptions 2How do you handle distractions and interruptions? According to one report “distraction costs billions of dollars a year in lost productivity.” Our lives are “being taken over by email texting, Facebook, Twitter, the Web, and other annoying electronic static.” One respectable research study found that “heavy online users….had less control over their attention and were much less able to distinguish important information from trivia…They’re suckers for irrelevancy. Everything distracts them.” And for increasing numbers of us, this cognitive overload gets worse the more we give in to it. These sobering assessments begin a fascinating article in Inc. Magazine (May, 2014). Does this sound familiar? I once had a bell sound on my computer whenever I got a message, including spam. Eventually I could not ignore that bell and felt compelled to check every time I got a message. This week I’ve been looking for a new cell phone, meeting sales people who gleefully explain how I should be getting up-to-date email wherever I go, 24-7. In the midst of useful technological advances, we are letting distractions, lack of focus and interruptions become “insidious productivity sapping maladies” that zap our energy and gobble up our time. Agreeing with this assessment is easy. It’s much harder to do something to control it. Probably you have read articles on controlling cognitive overload.In his recent book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman argues that “we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to survive in a complex world.” He suggests using mindfulness exercises (sometimes called attention training) and the development of new habits and skills to help us ignore and control the interruptions. In time we can train our brains to focus, to concentrate, and learn to bring back attention on demand. There also is value in blocking the disruptions by, for example, turning off those cell phone bells and vibrators that pull us away whenever new messages arrive. Try setting specific times to check messages. Then keep within those limits. Pull away from technology on a regular basis. Without this, cognitive overload controls us and innovation sinks. How have you dealt with interruptions and cognitive overload? Please comment.


  1. We all need to continually work at relationships. With God first, family then friends and business associates.
    Electronics have continued to challenge the focus to put people first, from the introduction of the radio, TV, phone, the internet, and mobile technology of today.
    Let us never hesitate to protect the Sabbath and invest in meaningful relationships.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s