A few years ago, I began to observe
something in my own behavior
that made me a bit uncomfortable.
And that was that from the moment that I woke up
to the morning then to the end of the day
my life was a series of screens.
I started the day with the thing that woke me up
first thing in the morning – my phone.
And so I sat there in bed,
watching various cooking videos on Instagram
and bouncing around between a bunch of different applications.
But then, it was time to get out of bed and cook breakfast.
And so the thing that I focused then on,
in addition to the omelette in the pan
was the iPad that was right next to the oven.
And then it was time to do some work.
And so I went to a different screen,
which was attached to another screen itself.
All the while this little devil on my wrist was tapping,
与此同时 我手腕上的这个小玩意儿 也一直在滴滴答答地响
and beeping, and blooping, and distracting me
as I was trying to get important stuff done.
But there was one particular offender
out of all of these different devices
that I wasted more time on than anything else
that was this dastardly thing – my phone.
I can spend hours on this thing every single day,
and so I decided to essentially for all intents and purposes
get rid of the thing for a month.
As an experiment, I thought I’m gonna live on this thing
for just 30 minutes every single day at a maximum.
And so this is the amount of time I have for maps,
this is the amout of time to call my mother,
this is the amount of time that I have for everything that I could possibly wanna do.
To listen to music, to listen to podcast.
And I obsevered what happened during this time.
It took about a week
to adjust downward into a new lower level of stimulation.
But once I did,
I noticed that three curious things began to happen.
First, my attention span grew.
It was like I could focus on things
not effortlessly but with much more ease
than I could before this experiment started.
In addition to this though, as I was going about the world
and especially when my mind wandered a bit,
I have more ideas that my mind arrived at.
And on top of this
I had more plans and thoughts about the future.
Getting rid of one simple device led to these three effects.
Noticing this, a few years back led me on this long journey
to get to the bottom of what it takes to focus in a world of distraction.
I poured over hundreds of research papers
from front to back of my office.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched one of those crime shows
where somebody’s solving a murder
and so they have this big bristled board
and their string attached to papers,
attached to memos, attached to newspaper,
but this is like what the state of my office was.
I flew out to meet experts around the world who study focus.
I conducted more experiments on myself and tell the point.
I have 25,000 words of research notes about
why this is the case.
How does technology influence our attention and our ability to focus?
I want to start with the attention spans that we have.
This is how we pay attention to the world around us
and how much control we have over our focus.
The research around this particular area is fascinating.
It turns out that when we to work in front of a computer
especially when our phone is nearby,
we focus on one thing for just 40 seconds
before we switch to doing something else.
And when we have things like Slack open as we are doing some work,
this lowers to 35 seconds.
But the reason that this is the case is not
what we might think after looking at the research.
We think the problem is that our brains are distracted.
But after looking at the research this is what I’ve come to know as a symptom
for the deeper problem which runs much more deeply.
It’s the root cause of this distraction.
It’s not that we are distracted. It’s that our brains are over stimulated.
It’s that we crave distraction in the first place.
Our brains love these tiny little nuggets of
information, and social media, and e-mail,
信息 社交媒体 邮件
and these things that we do over the course of the day.
There is even a mechanism in our mind called the “novelty bias”
by which our mind rewards us with a hit of dopamine,
one of those wonderful pleasure chemicals,
the same one that we get when we eat and order a whole medium pizza from Domino’s,
that you know the same one that we get when we make love.
We get that same stimulation when we check Facebook.
We get these dopamine coursing through our mind and so we not only crave distraction
but our mind rewards us for seeking out
and finding distraction in the first place.
So this is the state of our minds today.
We are at these hyper-stimulated state
where we bounce around between this bunch of different objects of attention
that are very very stimulating for our mind.
So I thought, OK, if the phone had this impact on my attention span,
what if I lowered how stimulated I was even more still.
And so, you know, this feeling that we experience
when we go from being in a state of high stimulation to a state of low stimulation,
it has a name. That name is called “boredom”.
You know this is restlessness that we feel
when we have this super busy week and then we were lying down a couch on a Sunday afternoon
忙碌的工作日过后 在一个阳光明媚的下午 躺在沙发上
and thinking, “What am I doing now?”
So I challenged to put out a call
to the readers on my website and I asked them,
“What is the most boring thing that you can think of doing?
I’m gonna make myself bored for an hour a day for a month.”
And so I did some stuff that
I still upset about from my readers to this day.
Day 1 I read the iTunes terms and conditions for one hour.
It’s actually shorter and more readable than you might think.
Day 4 I waited on hold of with Air Canada’s baggage claims department.
It’s very easy this is a trick. If you wanna make yourself bored
don’t call the reservations department, call the baggage claim people,
‘coz you are gonna wait for hours if you ever get through it all.
Day 19 I counted all the zeros that I could
in the first ten thousand digits of pi.
Day 24 I watched a clock
“tick…tick…” for one hour.
And 27 other activities this month.
‘Geeze.’ I still think that.
现在回想起来都觉得 “哦 天呐”
But curiously, I noticed the exact same effects
as I did during the smartphone experiment.
It took about a week for my mind
to adjust downward into a newer lower level of stimulation.
And this map curiously on top of research that shows
that it takes our mind about 8 days to fully calm down and rest,
like when we are on a vacation as an example.
Our vacations need to be longer than they are today.
But I also noticed that my attention span expanded.
I was able to focus even more effortlessly,
because I wasn’t surrounded by fewer distractions,
but my mind was so much less stimulated
that it did not seek the distraction in the first place.
But the fun part where these ideas and plans that struck me that didn’t before.
And the reason that this is the case is because my mind had a chance
to wander more often.
There is a great quote that I love
that you might be familiar with from J.R.R Tolkien,
where he says that, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
And the exact same thing is true.
It turns out with regard to our focus with regard to our attention.
If you think back to when your best most brilliant ideas strike you,
you rarely focused on something.
Maybe this morning you were taking a shower,
or maybe some morning in the past and
then your mind had a chance to connect several of the constellations of ideas
that were swirling around in your mind to create an idea
that would never have materialized otherwise
if you were focused on something else, on your phone, for example.
This is a mode especially when we do this deliberately
when we deliberately let our mind wander.
I called this mode “Scatterfocus”.
And the research shows that it lets our mind come up with ideas.
It lets our mind plan because of where our mind wanders to.
This is fascinating.
It turns out that when we just let our attention at rest,
it goes to three main places.
We think about the past.
We think about the present.
And we think about the future.
But we think about the past less than we might think,
only about 12% of the time.
And often that time we were recalling ideas
in these thoughts wandering episodes.
But the present, which is a much more productive place to wander.
We wandered to think about the present 28% of the time,
and so this is, you know it’s something as simple as you’re typing up an e-mail.
And you can’t find a way to free something
because it’s very delicate maybe it’s political.
You go and walk to another room,
you go to another room of the house, of the office.
The solution hits you because your mind had a chance to approach it
and prod at that problem from different directions.
But here is the thing.
Our minds wandered to think about the future
more than the past and the present combined.
Whenever our mind is wandering we think about the future 48% of the time.
This is why when we were taking a shower we plan out
our entire day even though it hasn’t started yet.
This is called our mind’s “prospective bias”
and it occurs when our mind wanders.
If you are good with math, or maths I should say,
not in Canada anymore,
these numbers don’t add up to 100
because the rest of time our mind is dull.
It’s blank or doesn’t have an idea inside of it that is rooted in time.
But whatever it is for you that lets your mind wander,
something that is simple,
something that doesn’t consume your full attention.
Mine happens to be something that is not necessarily stereotypical
of my age, and gender, demographic.
But I love to knit.
Knitting is one of my favorite hobbies.
I knit in planes. I knit on trains. I knit in hotel rooms.
我在飞机上 火车上 在宾馆 我都会织
I was knitting in the hotel room before this event today
‘coz it helps calm you down. It helps settle your nerves.
And I come up with so many ideas when I knit.
I have a notepad next to me.
But whatever it is for you,
might be taking an extra long shower, might be taking a bath,
upgrading your shower to a bath,
so you can soak not just with your body but with your ideas as well.
Could be simple if you are at work walking from one room to another in the office.
Very simple change but if you don’t use your phone during that walk,
your mind will go to the meeting that you are about to attend.
It’ll go to the call that you are just on.
It’ll wander to the ideas that are circulating.
And it’ll make you more creative in this way.
It could be something as simple as waiting in line,
and just, I don’t know, waiting in line.
It could be getting a massage and whatever it is that lets your mind
I love this picture so much [chuckle]
Whatever you love doing, here is a pro-tip.
Ask the masseuse to let you have a notepad in the session,
because ideas always come to you and you are always incubating things,
and so capture them so you can act upon them later.
But I think after doing this deep dive into the research,
we need to make two fundamental shifts
with regard to how we think about our intention.
We think that we need to fit more in,
you know, there is all this talk about hustling.
I’m an anti-hustler.
I’m one of the laziest people you’ll ever meet,
and I think that’s what gives me so many ideas to talk and write about.
We don’t need to fit more in.
We are doing enough. We are doing too much.
We are doing so much that our mind never wanders anymore.
It’s sad. This is when our best ideas and plans come to us.
We need more space.
If you look at what allows traffic to move down the highway,
what allows it to move forward isn’t how fast cars are moving as you might expect.
It’s how much spaces exists between the cars
that allows traffic to move forward.
Our work and our life are the same way.
The second shift.
We like to think of distraction as the enemy of focus.
It is not.
It is the symptom of why we find it difficult to focus,
which is the fact that our mind is over stimulated.
I have a challenge for you.
It’s a two-week challenge,
but it’s a challenge to make your mind a bit less stimulated
and simply notice what happens to your attention,
how many ideas do you get,
how does your focus change,
how many plans do you make.
So for two weeks, make your mind less stimulated.
There are so many great features on phones and devices
that will let us eliminate a lot of the time we waste on our devices.
Use those features, not only to become aware of how you spend your time,
使用这些方法 不仅能让你意识到 自己是如何利用时间的
but how you can spend less so you have more ideas.
Have a disconnection ritual every evening.
One of my favorite daily rituals I disconnect from internet completely from 8pm to 8am.
My fiancee and I, we have a weekly disconnection ritual,
a technology sabbath every Sunday
so we can disconnect from the digital world
and reconnect with the physical world, the real actual world.
Rediscover boredom. You don’t have to do it for an hour.
Please don’t call our Canada, it’s just a world of help.
But rediscover boredom, just for a few minutes.
Lay on the couch and where does your mind go.
And scatter your attention.
You’ll find some remarkably fruitful things, in that attentional zone.
If there is one thing that I’ve found to be true
after doing this deep dive into this world on how we focus,
it’s that state of our attention is what determines the state of our lives.
If we are distracted in each moment,
those moments of distraction and over-stimulation build up and accumulate
to create a life that feels more distracted and overwhelming,
like we don’t have a clear direction.
But, when we become less stimulated, when we make our mind more calm,
we get the benefits of added productivity and focus on ideas and creativity,
but we also live a better life because of it.
Thank you so much!
A few years ago, I began to observe