The Art of Manliness

#338: How to Beat Distraction and Stay Focused

The Art of Manliness

If you’re like me, you have a love-hate relationship with your digital devices. On the one hand, they give us access to unlimited amounts of information, connect us with friends and family, and allow us to work from pretty much anywhere. On the other hand, they can captivate our attention so much that we feel distracted and angsty. And try as we might, we often find it hard to ignore the itch to stop scrolling through Instagram and really listen to what a loved one is saying. Why do these devices feel so dang addictive? My guest today is a neuroscientist who’s studied that question in depth. His name is Adam Gazzaley and he’s the founder of Gazzaley Labs at the University of California at San Francisco. There, he and his team have researched what goes on in our brains when we use our digital devices, why they distract us, and what we can do about it. Today on the show, Adam and I discuss the science of distraction and focus. Adam walks us through the cognitive functions we use to focus our attention and to avoid distraction. He then explains why these evolved cognitive functions are mismatched to today’s constantly buzzing digital devices, using a theory of optimal food foraging borrowed from biology. We then discuss action steps grounded in science on how you can beat distraction and stay more focused throughout the day. We end our conversation talking about Adam’s work creating prescription video games (yes, prescription) that can be used to help elderly patients and individuals with ADHD.

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