Focusing in the Age of Distraction

Focusing in Age of Distraction

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues within the gifted community today, and least understood, is how to deal with distraction. The advent of new technologies strains our ability to focus. It has become a major concern in the classroom as well as the boardroom.

This week at #gtchat we tackled some important questions such as how do we focus in a society that has created and accepted the expectation of constant connection? Is it possible to balance the creative nature found in mind-wandering with the need to increase engagement for ourselves and for students? What effect does our lack of focus have on cognition? Finally, we looked at the benefits that come from sharper focus and the strategies that would get us there.

In this new world of connectedness, what are the downsides of being constantly in touch with others? Ironically, at the same time, we are experiencing the deterioration of human interaction. Not unlike an addiction, being connected brings quick, positive reinforcement; but long-term negative consequences. It erodes our free time, weakens personal relationships and leads to higher levels of stress as we seek to complete our work by constantly multi-tasking.

Balancing task engagement with the brain’s desire to wander seems almost impossible. However, researchers at Boston’s Attention and Learning Lab tell us, “Staying on task isn’t about pouring all your energy into the job – it’s about allowing the brain to wander occasionally and gently nudging it back on course.” (Concentrate! How to Tame a Wandering Mind) Mindfulness Training (How to Focus Under Pressure) and long-term meditation have both been shown to reduce mind wandering.

What effect does our lack of focus have on cognition? The ubiquitous nature of technology brings with it heightened expectations of our attentive abilities. Distraction has become commonplace and forces us to take actions and make decisions that strain our cognitive abilities. Harvard professor, Sendhil Mullainathan, has written that, “the more we focus on red-flag [urgent] tasks, the more our fluid intelligence, or “bandwidth,” is taxed. Help lies in learning to manage not just our time but our bandwidth relative to the tasks at hand.” (Taming the Ticking Mind)

The benefits of sharper focus are accomplishing goals, changing unhealthy habits and enhancing our quality of life. People who have a sharper focus are more successful and happier. Strategies that help re-learn focus include visualizing thoughts on paper, establishing routines and decluttering, taking time to connect and simply occasionally disconnecting. A full transcript may be found on our Storify page.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:



How to Focus in the Age of Distraction

Focus and Mindfulness

Managing Online Distractions

Declutter Your Life for a Razor Sharp Focus

Dealing with Information Overload

How to Motivate Yourself at Anytime

27 Things to Do with Students Who Are Not Paying Attention

‘From Evaluation to Inspiration’ (video) with Scott Kaufman at Aspen Ideas Festival

7 Tips To Help You Focus In Age of Distraction: Are You Content Fried!

Review of Developing Razor Sharp Focus

Focus A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction (pdf)

Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century (Amazon)

Future Ready is Overrated

TED Talk “Connected, but Alone?”

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Posted on December 26, 2014, in gifted, gifted and talented, parenting, Psychology, Social Emotional, Twice-exceptional and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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