Managing attention

Attention management is a major challenge—especially since the advent of smartphones. Concentrating on what matters is called for.

Knowledge was never as easily available as it is with a smartphone. At the same time, studies show that the presence of a person’s smartphone reduces their cognitive performance—even when it is switched off. As part of a recent study, US behavioral researchers asked 500 test persons to take part in standardized tests for measuring concentration and attention. Some of the them had their smartphones lying on the table. Others had them in their pockets, while the smartphones belonging to a third group of people were outside the test room. Although the smartphones were switched off, the result was clear: the closer a smartphone is to a person, the lower their cognitive performance.

Involuntary attention

Interestingly, virtually all of the test persons said that they did not think about their smartphone during the tests. The researchers regard this as credible, which does not make the situation better. They assume that this attention is involuntary—as it is when parents hear a baby crying. With smartphone users, part of their attention and concentration – both limited resources—is blocked as a result of communicating via the devices.

In light of this, the behavioral researchers recommend staying away from smartphones for set periods during work or free time. Avoiding distraction is another reason for doing this. According to recent studies, the average user looks at their phone 80 to 250 times a day. This means that they are distracted from what they are actually doing every five to ten minutes.

Managing attention

Smartphones are a major distraction in everyday life. In order to resist being distracted, experts advise people to manage their own attention. This means making plans and resisting the temptation to deviate from them when working. A helpful tip: Agree phases or individual weekdays with colleagues when no one speaks to each other and all communication takes place via e-mail. It is also important to prioritize tasks and only tackle them when it is really necessary.

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