Focus and concentration work like a muscle; the ability to concentrate intensively is a skill that must be trained to be developed and kept performing well. It takes hours of practice to strengthen your “mental muscle.”
[…] it’s common to treat undistracted concentration as a habit like flossing—something you know how to do and know is good for you, but that you’ve been neglecting due to a lack of motivation. This mindset is appealing because it implies you can transform your working life from distracted to focused overnight if you can simply muster enough motivation.1
A dependence on distraction can destroy the efforts put into deepening your focus. Research from Clifford Nass showed that constant attention switching could have a lasting negative effect on the brain.
People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand.2
In this research, the effects of becoming used to on-demand online distractions get apparent. It’s hard to shake the addiction when you want to concentrate.
The people we talk with continually said, “look, when I really have to concentrate, I turn off everything and I am laser-focused.” And unfortunately, they’ve developed habits of mind that make it impossible for them to be laser-focused. They’re suckers for irrelevancy. They just can’t keep on task.
Once you’re wired for distraction, you crave it.
Cal Newport. Deep Work (2016). ↩︎
Clifford Nass. The Myth of Multitasking (2013). ↩︎