Why We Can’t Concentrate Anymore (Hint: It’s Not Our Fault)
I’ve always been fascinated by the development of the human brain. It’s a phenomenon we don’t fully understand yet (and one we might never comprehend), but what we do know is the brain has a unique and impressive ability to adapt – especially during development. In today’s society, often we find we can’t concentrate. Because our world is constantly demanding our attention, it’s not conducive to completing a single task.
For example, here’s what humans used to spend their days worrying about:
I’m certainly not discounting the threat of a mountain lion (personally, I hope I only ever stumble across one at the zoo…) or the suffering our ancestors went through gathering food, building shelter, and (!) discovering fire (thanks for that, sincerely).
My point is, of course we can’t concentrate. The human brain developed in a world where one’s ability to find a single camouflaged lion in a sea full of tan plants (what is that stuff, wheat? Clearly, I wouldn’t have survived the Stone Age) was the difference between life or death… And now we live in this world:
We’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions, and our brains, no matter how adaptable, were simply not built for it. We have at least twenty tabs open on our browsers at any given time, we’ve got school or work from this time to this time, then we rush straight to this activity or this obligation (maybe we have a few minutes to scarf some food down during the drive from one place to the next), then we have the gym (or, in my case, the T.V.), and all the while, we’re checking our smartphones, iPads, and laptops for any “pressing” e-mails, adorable puppy videos, or new likes.
While we’re waiting for our brains to catch up to our new world’s demands, there’s a lot we can do to take ownership. Here are a few:
1. Follow the One Tab Only Rule:
This isn’t just about your browser, it’s about your life. Don’t start a new task unless you’ve completed your current task (or taken it as far as it can go for the moment). There’s a lot that demands our attention, which is why we can’t concentrate – choose to prioritize your time.
2. Fort Knox Fortify Your Time:
Learn how to say no. Decide in advance what is worthy of your time, and what isn’t. I’m not necessarily an advocate of “cutting time-wasters” – we need to unwind sometimes – but often we think we’re busier than we really are.
3. Cut The Drama:
Don’t let anyone else’s drama derail you. Another reason we can’t concentrate is because we’re letting other people (or other people’s posts) distract us. Sometimes the distraction warranted, but often, it’s not.
3. Put First Things First (Thank You, Stephen Covey):
Here’s a clip I like to remember whenever I catch myself telling a friend or loved one “I’m too busy”: