Shooting a free throw in basketball always connects with battling distractions of staying focused on your goal. For those not familiar with the game, if the defensive player fouls the offensive player in certain situations, the offensive player gets to shoot the ball at the hoop free of a defenseman from 15-feet away. Hence a free throw. Typically an easy shot, especially for players that practiced this shot for the past 20-years. Unusually though, there is a high percentage of players that miss these shots during the game.
Take for example Hall of Fame star Shaquille O’Neal who would routinely make 80% of his free throws in practice but only make 52% during games. Two main variables come into play with the pressure of everyone watching you perform, being isolated to the situation. The other variable is that during games there are distractions in front of the shooter.
During basketball games, the crowd is encouraged to participate in the free throw process for the opposing team by creating distractions. This can come in the form of yelling, the crowd moving in unison, or other distracting motions. This triggers a break in focus for the shooter. Typically, younger players will have a lower free throw percentage, but they will get better as they mature in their career and get better at focusing beyond the distractions.
Take any average day and walk through the office or any workplace and count the minefield of disruptions. Coming in the form of bumping into acquaintances and the small talk that follows. Then the dreaded more detailed discussions on nothing while you are just trying to get to your desk.
Then at your desk you battle the mass of electronic interruptions. What used to be just phone calls has acquiesced to e-mails. Now pings, messages, or other quick alerts have risen. New mediums for quick communications come because we get good at tiring out of the old ones and ignoring them.
Lastly, the next disruption grenade is people stopping by your desk. These could be small questions, but they interrupt focused thought all the same. In that same category is working with a variance of background noise. For some that rhythmic hum that can be ignored, for others it is the nuisance of their existence.
Research repeatedly finds that working at a home environment improves productivity. Looking back to 2015 a work from home study observed a productivity increase of 13%. Controlling the environment reduced external distractions ad enabled better concentration.
However, working at home still consisted of phone calls, instant messages, and e-mails. While reduced meetings and impromptu conversations must be endured. These instances are considerably less.
The home also presents new challenges of distractions. Starting with kids and spouses. Depending on the house and family dynamic they can be a prime disrupter and if things get terse you still must live with them at the end of the day. Household chores make an impact as well spurring many to multitask between office work and getting the house cleaned up. The last main distraction is the dynamic between a family pet and their nemesis the delivery driver, this only appears to happen when you are leading a call.
The main culprit of distraction, the device. Coming in the form of smart phone, tablet, or computer each designed to ensnare your attention. It is their specialty. Being geared to get you to look and engage most of us stand a little chance in holding our concentration.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dedicated his life’s research on the phenomenon of flow. Simply, flow is the state of mind of utmost concentration that leads to creativity and breakthrough performance. He found that it would take up to 15-minutes to get back into a state of concentration if your mind found a distraction.
Taking smart phones for example loaded with potential distractions. These distractions come in the form of notifications, calls, or the ability to procrastinate enjoyably. In turn, your ability to get into a state of flow and follow through with work has become severely diminished.
Mankind struggles because our minds are hardwired for triggers. Set by evolutionary standards thousands of years ago, stay alert stay alive. Sounds, motions, etcetera out of the normal trigger’s curiosity. Early mankind that didn’t trigger to these anomalies died off when the saber tooth tiger snuck up behind them.
Today’s technology taps into this. Their goal is for you to follow a notification or trigger only to engage with them on a certain level. The more engagement they receive, the higher their advertising revenue gets.
For a quick insight into this phenomenon, access your smart phone’s settings to view usage tracking. The amount of time spent on a day-to-day basis may not be shocking, but the accumulation over a year’s timeframe will be. Smart phones are very useful, but they encourage and are designed for you to overuse them. It is not uncommon for a user to be on a smart phone over 2,000 hours a year. Is that how you want to spend your life, your attention being manipulated by an external party?
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