Ah we all know the feeling: wanting to really get our heads down and finish that work assignment but we just. Can’t. Seem. To focus.
We berate ourselves for being useless, easily distracted and stupid, when in fact – according to a new study – struggling to concentrate at work could be a sign of increased intelligence.
The study, conducted by workplace productivity firm Steelcase, looked at over 10,000 workers across 17 countries.
“Employers are always on the lookout for the brightest people available,” says Steelcase vice president, Bostjan Ljubic. “However the difficulty to withstand multiple tasks and distractions in the office affects smart people in the same way as everyone else, if not more.”
According to psychiatrist, Dr Ned Hallowell, the reason for this is that intelligent people are naturally inclined to try and “solve each challenge as it appears,” rather than compartmentalise and prioritise.
While intelligent people think they are multi-tasking pros, they are in fact just “switching attention rapidly between things,” he explains.
This leads to a lower overall job performance.
This creates “a feeling of inadequacy and inability to deal with the workload as a whole.”
Additionally, smart people are more likely to have a series of ideas running through their brains, which serve as distractions.
The study also revealed that technology is distracting us more than ever before. Between the constant barrage of emails, meeting alerts and out-of-control Whatsapp groups, it’s a miracle we get anything done.
“Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points,” says Dr Hallowell.
Their research shows that, on average, we are interrupted every three minutes during our working day – including checking our email inbox around 30 times a day and our phones, around 200 times.
Well, we might be distracted, but at least we’re geniuses.