To develop our Intentional Productivity, we first need to exercise our awareness skills.
It's important to understand the true impact of our broader cultural context…
And the pressures our digitally-focused world places on our ability to be productive and focused over time.
Many of us now work in what is known as the knowledge economy, using our mental faculties in a digital environment.
For this kind of work, our brains are our most important asset. But they are also the weakest link as they don't have the same stamina as a computer.
For our brains to operate at their best, they need regular downtime for rest and recovery.
They also need environments that support their ability to work in a focused and productive way.
Unfortunately, our environments don't always provide what our brain needs to function at a high level.
So what is affecting our productivity in our world?
To start, the lines between our home lives and work lives have become blurred. There's no more traditional 9-5 and we're always contactable and always on.
The good side of this is that we have the opportunity to work more flexibly, in a way that can fit around the other responsibilities in our lives.
The bad side is that it's easy to get into cycles of behavior where we don't switch off when our workday is done. We continue to answer emails and message colleagues during what should be downtime.
Our pandemic situation also means that many of us are having to juggle both personal and work responsibilities simultaneously in a day, and that puts additional strain on our cognitive load and attention.
Being connected and online all the time, means we have content and information coming at us from all sides, all the time.
It's a lot for our brain to process and we end up trying to multitask in autopilot mode.
It can put us into an anxious, reactionary, fire-fighting state. It can trigger our brain to go into survival mode and spike our cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that performs certain much-needed functions in the body. But when too much is triggered too often, that puts a strain on our body and mind over time.
Operating in a culture of cortisol can cause burnout, which is an umbrella term for physical and mental fatigue.
The way that we engage with our smartphones also leads to habits that further fracture our attention.
Our phone is typically by our side all the time. It's become an extension of our physical selves as we carry, hold, touch, and use it regularly throughout the day.
Our phone has also become a key component in creating our identity as we use it to communicate with the world and to demonstrate how we want others to see us.
Dopamine is our pleasure hormone and our attachment to our devices has been caused and leveraged by what is known as the dopamine economy.
Most social media and gaming platforms have been deliberately designed to hijack our brain's dopamine response so that we spend more time on these platforms.
In doing so, we escape the pain and discomfort that stressful work and life can bring, but over-usage can give rise to autopilot and anti-social behaviors.
Research shows that our attachment to our phones and their contents can cause mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, as well as addiction responses and withdrawal symptoms.
For example, Nomophobia is a classified anxiety disorder, which relates to the fear of being without, or being unable to see or touch, our phone.
The way we have become conditioned to use our smartphones and digital devices damage our focus and concentration. And this is incredibly disruptive for intentional productivity.
So if we want our brains to operate at their best when we're doing attention focused work, we need to support our abilities to concentrate better.
I'd like you to consider your situation and make a note of your answers to the following questions:
- Do you feel stressed and distracted in your work and life?
- How much time do you spend using your phone every day?
- What impact does your phone usage have on your productivity?
- Are you able to give sufficient time, focus, and attention to something that matters (in your work and or personal life)?
- If not, what's stopping you?
Your workspace, and the way that you use your digital tools to do your work in that space, are other factors that impact your attention and productivity.
So we'll be covering workspaces, work styles, and workflows in the next lesson.