Your boss is bugging you to hand in that status report, your husband wants you to sit down and talk finances, your son needs help with his science project. You're feeling the urgency of it all, yet here you sit, frittering away precious minutes, Googling from link to link or flipping from channel to channel. Pretty soon you're consumed with guilt and frustration and you're kicking yourself for wasting so much time.
It's not plain old laziness. We're riveted by these electronic distractions because of the way we're hardwired, experts say: Our brains instinctively cue in to unexpected sights and sounds, a trait that has helped us humans thwart danger and survive for about 2 million years. Manufacturers and marketers know this fact well; that's why they keep adding flickering lights, insistent sounds, and other bells and whistles to computer monitors, cell phones, PDAs, and the like, in order to amp up the number of these attention-grabbing sensory shocks we receive known as "jolts per minute."
"The jolts make our brains release adrenaline, and we can easily get used to this heightened level of stimulation, but there's a price to pay for that," says psychologist and attention expert Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D., author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload. "The more adrenaline we generate, the more we want, and high amounts of this hormone put us into overdrive, making us feel intense, worried, excited, angry, or afraid." What's more, because we get accustomed to these high adrenaline levels, we feel bored, sluggish, and restless when they drop off.
"Our days can easily swing back and forth between the two extremes, and over time, we lose our natural ability to stay in the zone of just-enough stimulation, in which we're both relaxed and alert and able to get things done," says Palladino. But it's when you're in that just-enough zone what she calls the "focus zone" that you have the greatest capacity to manage your emotions, make good decisions, and reach your goals, all while feeling energized and on top of the world. Try these smart and very doable steps, and let them help you bring out your peak performance.