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Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overloadby Lucy Jo Palladino
You and I live in a 24/7 culture, and someone is always upping the ante. New technology makes you more productive but pressures you to pick up the pace. You have a new cell phone? Good. Now, your boss can reach you on your day off. Wireless PDA, huh? Excellent. We'll expect e-mails, too. Mini-PC? Even better. We'll instant-message you those files.... Whether you work inside or outside your home, you juggle a schedule of constant demands and always-on electronics. Multitasking is rampant. For better or worse, we're rewiring our brains for what the technology industry now calls "continuous partial attention."
In the digital age of distraction, we function at new levels of stimulation and anxiety. The Internet spews information like a fire hose, but to digest information we need to sip it through a straw. Overwhelmed and overloaded, we have no time to process or reflect. Sunday is not a day of rest, but an attempt to catch up and clear your clutter. Old ways of paying attention can't keep up. We need new tools.
Having control over your attention is a critical skill. I specialize in working with human attention because paying attention matters. Every one of us needs the ability to direct our attention, or we will not reach our goals. In my thirty years of practice as a clinical psychologist, I've helped thousands of people solve myriad problems by improving their attention. Learning attention management skills has made life better for just about everyone who has walked through my door, not just for those with attention deficit disorder.
This morning, for instance, my first appointment was with an executive who'd recently had a heart attack. He came to see me to learn stress management skills that will help him prevent another one. His biggest challenge is to get his mind off his highly competitive workplace when it's time for him to go home and relax. Next, I saw a woman in her thirties who is battling depression. "Everyone tells you to stay positive," she observed, "but no one tells you how." I'm going to help her unglue her attention from negative thoughts of worry, blame, and self-criticism, and focus instead on hope, trust, and self-appreciation.
I saw a college student with social anxiety who's learning to redirect his attention away from his memories of rejection and onto cues he can get from others so he can succeed in social situations. Then came a baby boomer trying to lose weight, struggling to pay more attention to fruits and vegetables than to rich sauces and pastries. A young perfectionist couple have a weekly appointment with me to practice ways to focus on each other's humanity, not on each other's faults. Attention control is a necessary ingredient for each of us to be healthy, happy, and successful.
When it comes to attention and the digital age, we each have different strengths and vulnerabilities. What's your style? Are you prone to attention swings, back and forth between boredom and overdrive? Or do you tend toward one end or the other — lost in space or racing against the clock with no time to spare? Take a moment to ask yourself which style describes you best.
Most people today fluctuate between boredom and overdrive. Do you:
Some people find that they're more the scattered and spacey type. It's a constant challenge for them to stick with what they're doing. They spend a lot of time overextended, underpowered, and indecisive. Do you:
Some people are wired for speed and intensity. They find it hard to say no to constant stimulation. Do you:
Whatever your style, you will benefit from Find Your Focus Zone.
Copyright © 2007 by Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD
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