On a cold February morning, I started my day by checking on what was happening in the world. I fired up my laptop, opened a web browser, and a headline caught my eye.
“What does it mean when a baby is overstimulated?”
Helpless to such a hooking headline, I dove in. The article described how children can become overstimulated by being swamped with more experiences, sensations, and noises than their developing brains can cope with. “My word, that is horrible,” I said aloud.
I then reached to check my cellphone for incoming texts, as my Alexa blared the news. Meanwhile, my headphones were within reach, and my dual computer monitors were staring back at me pleading to search for other articles to fill my limited brain capacity with.
As my workday continued, the thought kept lingering in my mind: Am I overstimulated?
A Difference in Time
We can all agree that life is different than it was 60 years ago. If you do not believe me, tell an older loved one about how hard you have it and try and convince them otherwise. I must admit, after hearing some of the work our grandparents did I marvel at how far we have fallen into constant stimulation as a workforce. The thought of doing anything without some sort of distraction is incomprehensible for many.
I recently walked into a Target and asked an employee for help but had to wait for him to hear me due to his AirPods being in. I couldn’t help but wonder how employees can work efficiently with all these distractions.
Later that night, I spent some time reflecting on what happened. I realized that I may not have AirPods in all day but, in a way, I concluded most of us are like that young man at Target. We are being overstimulated in one way or another.
A thought consumed me: I bet my grandpa’s generation was more efficient without having the constant distractions that I do.
Look objectively at what your normal workday looks like. Most of us are dealing with the same distractions. Emails flying in, internal chats going back and forth, phones dinging in the background, website browsing, music playing, and the almighty red notification button pleading to be clicked somewhere within vision on some device. The list is endless.
How does this affect your productivity as you are “really trying to focus” on that huge project due next week? Take a second to reflect on what this is doing to your mental psyche and productivity.
Generational Mental Shift
As a workforce, we have grown accustomed to the belief that distractions are part of the job and you just have to learn to deal with them. The truth is, there is a cost to this overstimulation, including higher anxiety, lower accuracy, altered memory function, and the time that it takes to recover from distractions.
To top it off, it may even be affecting how much we like our jobs. A Udemy survey revealed 34 percent of employees like their jobs less when in a distracting workplace. These are issues that we cannot take lightly. Just like overstimulated babies, working adults can suffer from that same mental state 30 years after weaning off baby food and packing away the diapers.
Stopping the Overstimulation
If you are like me, you were able to admit that you are overstimulated. Here are a few ways to combat this:
1. Turn Off Notifications
This may be hard, but disconnect yourself from the red blinking notification. Experiment with turning off email and phone notifications and see how this affects your productivity.
2. Set “Alert Times”
After you turn off notifications, find a timeframe that works for you to take a break and check your notifications. This will allow you to still scratch that itch but do it in a more focused manner. Tie this alert time in with a walk to stretch your legs and kill two birds with one stone.
3. Turn off the Background Noise
I have worked with many people over the years that enjoy listening to music while they work. While the jury is still out on this, most experts agree that music is fine as long as it’s instrumental. This is one that you will have to experiment with yourself. Find music that is relaxing to the senses rather than overwhelming them.
4. Quiet Space
As we now are in a time when many of us are working from home it is important that we have an area that has low traffic and where we can be by ourselves to focus. This is pivotal to having less distractions.
5. Stay Organized
This is a no-brainer, but the more organized you are the less likely you are going to divert from your goal. You will naturally eliminate overstimulation just by adding more structure to your workflow. Take some time and identify what areas you could be more organized in and utilizes the internet or work colleagues and ask about their processes.
If I told you I could make you more productive, less stressed, improve your mental focus, and help you enjoy your job more would you be willing to try anything? I am sure we would all want that opportunity! Well, this article just told you how to do it! Challenge yourself to look at your workday and answer the question: Is my work life suffering from overstimulation? If the answer is yes, use the 5-points to try and eliminate some of that and watch your productivity skyrocket! If you have other solutions, please share them!