Distraction as a 21st-Century Common Phenomenon Among People

Distractions are known as activities we engage in that interfere with pursuing a preset goal that is of importance. Nowadays, in the 21st century, many people believe that multitasking is a kind of skill that they need to develop. Multitasking or task-switching is defined as the ability to switch tasks which entails making a serious attempt to perform multiple tasks that require attention at the same time. The fact is, however, that multitasking is just not as effective as you would want it to be, it hinders your productivity and could damage relationships.

Studies have shown that our brain cannot perform two difficult tasks at the same time unless they are very simple or do not need the same amount of mental effort. Consequently, it would become evident that multitasking can contribute to mental distraction. Naturally, this means that unitasking is the best way to increase one’s output on any given task or project, as it would require one to focus on one task from the start to the finish. It is worth noting that background tasking is not the same as multitasking, and therefore it does not have the same effect on your performance. Doing a task while something mindless occurs in the background, such as exercising while listening to the music, can improve overall productivity.

Why Do We Get Distracted?

Distraction impedes human endeavors, especially when pursuing a personal goal. There are two kinds of distractions:

  • External distractions like the sound of someone knocking on the door or phone calls.
  • Internal distractions like thinking of a gift we want to buy for a friend or what to wear to the party.

Distraction occurs as the result of a conflict between two fundamental characteristics of our brain:

1.Our ability to guide our attention toward attaining a personal goal

2.Our ability to block out distractions, also known as cognitive control

The fact is that our cognitive control is limited. So, it can prove difficult to manage these two forces simultaneously.

Distracted Learning Among Students  

A distracted mind is a commonplace phenomenon among students and it interferes with their studying and overall academic achievement. Distraction is widely acknowledged as a widespread and serious problem with detrimental effects on students’ learning capabilities. Researchers believe that distracted learning is not a new problem in our digital world. Distractions have existed as long as humanity itself. Digital technologies like smartphones, the internet, and social media have just significantly increased the frequency and ease of getting distracted and have therefore heightened the problems associated with distracted learning. This seems to be an ongoing problem since students display little to no desire to change their behavior unless they realize their learning is suffering due to their multitasking. Some of the negative consequences of multitasking while learning are as follows:

  • It takes a long time to complete tasks. Students have to refamiliarize themselves with the materials due to the amount of time spent on distracting activities.
  • Students’ mind becomes fatigued due to switching back and forth between tasks.
  • Long-term retention is impaired with divided attention.
  • Distracted learning can result in being less skillful at extending and applying knowledge to new contexts.

So, What Can Be Done to Prevent Distracted Learning?

Some universities offer valuable information on how to manage distractions on their websites. Others develop clear policies related to the use of technologies such as a smartphone in the classroom. One such policy falls into the category of prohibition policies that has its own proponents and opponents.

The advocates of this method argue that banning cellphones in classrooms is beneficial as students learn they can live without having access to cellphones that has turned into a phobia in itself known as “nomophobia” which means no-mobile-phone phobia. This phobia could cause various levels of anxiety in the person who suffers from it. On the opposing side, anti-proscriptions believe that getting readily available information from the internet via cellphones is critical in this age. They argue that we are suggesting to our students that they are children who can not utilize technology appropriately. Anti-proscriptions believe technology should be a servant, not a master.

How to Undistract Yourself

There are several ways to manage distractions that move toward improving the ability to control one’s mind. Below you will find several useful ways to boost your focus:

  • Increase One’s Cognitive Control Ability: This can be done by meditation, physical exercise, playing certain video games, drug treatment, neurofeedback, etc.
  • Manage the Distractions Around Us More Effectively: By modifying one’s environment and behavior to better focus on performing a specific task.
  • Increase Metacognition: By understanding the problem completely. What distractions are, how they affect us, and the solutions.
  • Decrease Accessibility: By removing all distractions from one’s workspace or learning environment such as cellphones.
  • Decrease Boredom: By taking measures that would help one in taking pleasure in doing one’s work.
  • Decrease Anxiety: Creating a safe space to work or study in. This can enhance one’s ability to focus on a specified goal and decrease internal distractions.
  • Increasing One’s Determination: This can result in developing and improving one’s determination, persistence, and resilience.