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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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35 Stay Focused

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston Churchill

Staying focused is something that's harder and harder in this age of information. Did you know that 90% of all the data in the world has been created over the last two years?

The lure of social media is constantly dragging us away from important tasks. You think you'll just have a quick look and before you know it, half an hour has passed. The distraction of email is just as bad, but we console ourselves that “it's work”.

While there's more and more information vying for our attention, our ability to focus is, if anything, getting worse.

It's not helped by information being fed to us in smaller and smaller chunks. Look at movie trailers for example. In the 1950s, the average amount of cuts per minute was twelve – now the average is thirty-eight; over three times as much.

But the trouble isn't just the speed and the amount of information that's thrown at us, it's that our brains can't multi-task.

David Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at Michigan University and one of the country's leading experts on multi-tasking, says “You can't do two cognitively complicated tasks at once. When you're on the phone and writing an email at the same time, you're actually switching back and forth between them, since there's only one mental and neural channel ...

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