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Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better by Gina Trapani

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Chapter 5. Firewall Your Attention

Your attention is your most endangered resource. The technical props of modern work life — email, instant messaging, mobile devices, and constant Internet connectivity — make limitless amounts of information always available at the press of a button. Every minute of every day, advertisements, software notifications, ringing phones, blinking voicemail signals, and buzzing pagers vie for your attention. But there is a finite number of minutes, hours, and days in your life.

Modern gadgets and software are designed to help you multitask: that's why you can have a dozen windows open on your screen simultaneously, each doing a different job. The problem is that modern computing devices have outpaced humans' capabilities to multitask.

Further, email software and cell phones and instant messenger make you reachable and interruptible at any moment in time. We live in a culture of constant connectivity, so we respond to those interruptions in kind. But this type of interruption-driven existence can have a devastating effect on your mental focus and your ability to perform. It makes for workers who are distracted, irritated, overwhelmed, and run ragged.

Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell calls the condition ADT (Attention Deficit Trait), a workplace-induced attention deficiency caused by the constant distraction of high-tech devices. He says, "It's sort of like the normal version of attention deficit disorder. But it's a condition induced by modern life, in which ...

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