Distractions are the enemy of focus. Being able to keep your focus amidst the daily din of distraction makes you better able to use whatever talents you need to apply – whether making a business plan or a cheese soufflé. The more prone to distraction, the worse we do.
Yet we live in a time when we are more inundated by distractions than ever in human history. Tech gadgets and apps invade our concentration in ways the brain’s design never anticipated.
Scientists talk about two broad varieties of distractions: sensory and emotional. The sensory ones include everything from that too-loud guy at the next table in the coffee shop while you’re trying to focus on answering your emails, to those enticing pingy popups on your computer screen.
We are constantly ignoring sensory distractions – that’s the essence of paying attention. William James, a founder of America psychology, wrote a century or so ago that attention comes down to the mind’s eye noticing clearly “one of what seems several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought.”