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Distraction is an epidemic, how our brains work against us

Distraction has become a leading cause of under performance, but our brains are wired to work against us. Here’s how it all works and why.

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I have Adult A.D.D.

I’m easily distracted. I jump from task to task. I seldom watch TV without my iPhone or Kindle Fire (why did I not spend the extra $200 for the iPad? And… I’ve lost focus). I use two computer monitors with several programs typically running at once.

Sound familiar? When I explain to people what exactly makes me have ADD, I get the same response at least 80% of the time, “that sounds like me.” The only difference between you and me is that I can get medication if I want it. I have ‘a history of ADHD diagnosis,’ one of the many benefits of talking too much in class. Boom.

I used to convince myself that it somehow worked for me. It was part of what made me successful. I had a unique ability to multitask, to take in information from a number of sources.

Until I started my own company. It’s amazing how much less room there is for waste when my livelihood is dictated by both the quantity and quality of my individual performance.

This led me to study the issue.

And I kept studying. The science behind attention and the brain fit perfectly into the two topic areas that I speak on professionally (generations and communication), so I can justify that this use of my time is NOT, in fact, a distraction. I gathered some key ideas along the way:

Distraction is an epidemic. Yesterday I received 94 emails from friends about non-work related topics. YouTube links. Philosophy articles. Justin Bieber’s recent Ferrari mishap (Hollywood people problems).

None of these are necessarily bad uses of my time… taken individually. It’s just that the overwhelming number of distractions together create a recipe for a day chalk-full of waste.

  • Email overload
  • Facebook updates
  • Twitter on-demand
  • Coffee breaks, aka office gossip
  • Meetings, meetings and more meetings

We are in denial. I asked a number of my friends how they felt about the amount of time spent on various distractions. Many actually responded, with a straight face, that it didn’t affect their job performance. Either they are in complete denial, or their company should replace them with a monkey.

Why a monkey? Because no one can multi-task.

No one can multi-task. No one. Seriously. Not you. Not me. No one. Our brains were wired to keep one idea in our consciousness at a time. Every time we switch between tasks, there is a reboot period where we are forced to review past work. The result is lost time and performance quality.
If it makes you feel better, we are set up for failure. In the history of human kind, never have the tools used for work also been the source of our easiest distraction.

Here’s what I mean: Two hundred years ago, if I’m farming, I don’t have the option of turning my plow into a game where I attempt to use an ‘angry bird’ to knock down a building. The plow is used for one thing- farming.

To add insult to injury- humankind has survived in large part by because chemicals in our brain attract us to new stimulus. When we see something new and novel, we receive a jolt of dopamine… and we like dopamine. If our brain didn’t work this way, then I don’t notice that bear coming at me from 200 yards away. And I’m now the main course.

No more grizzly bears

Today, we aren’t likely to be attacked by a grizzly bear while sitting in our cubical or at the coffee shop, rather, we get our dopamine release from all sorts of fun new information available to us at any moment with the click of the mouse.

So what do we do given that we are hardwired to do something that actually hinders our performance in today’s world? I have found a few solutions that work for me, but I am most interested in what keeps you focused throughout the daily grind. Next up, I’ll share an organized, detailed list of tips.

In the interim, it’s time for me to get back to preparing for the 90 minute speech I have to give in Seattle this afternoon.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

Business News

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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Business News

Las Vegas’ largest dispensary gets massive Infinity Wall expansion

(BUSINESS NEWS) Las Vegas’s largest dispensary is getting a big, expensive makeover, thriving while other brick-and-mortar shops are struggling.

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Planet 13, Las Vegas's largest dispensary, set to get a huge expansion.

Have you ever heard of an Infinity Wall? If I were you, I’d check it out right now because it’s utterly mesmerizing.

An 80-foot version of this wall is just one of the new features that Planet 13 (or The Company) announced it will be implementing in Las Vegas’ largest dispensary, The SuperStore, this past Monday. In addition to the futuristic entertainment feature (I honestly can’t get over that thing), they will be doubling the sales floor and expanding the dispensary to ~23,000 sq. ft. For reference, the entire Planet 13 SuperStore complex is 112,000 sq.ft.

Why expand an already massive dispensary during a pandemic, when most brick and mortar stores are suffering? Well, according to Larry Scheffler, Co-CEO of Planet 13, The Superstore is actually thriving beyond belief.

“We are achieving record sales even with Las Vegas at ~50% tourist occupancy. As Las Vegas returns to normal and this industry continues to grow, we anticipate that this will be first of many expansions we will undertake to keep up with demand.”

The expansion adds 40 points of sale to uphold the outstanding customer service reputation Planet 13 has. If you do have to wait, you have a state-of-the-art entertainment system to enjoy. It’s win-win for any and all visitors.

The CapEx cost of the expansion between is $1.5 – $2.5 million. The project is expected come to completion by the end of Q1 2021.

Las Vegas has become a sort of cannabis mecca. After all, it’s home to MJBizCon, the industry’s largest networking event attended by thousands from around the world. And the popularity and overall acceptance makes it an easy choice for any cannabis aficionados. The SuperStore, like most things in Las Vegas, is huge, glamorous, and caters to tourists.

I have no doubt that when the city bounces back from the pandemic, this new-and-improved dispensary will be a must-visit destination.

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Business News

The future of work from home will be a hybrid, says Google CEO

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google is looking to adapt a more flexible, long-term hybrid work model for their employees, which includes partially working from home and partially being on-site.

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Work from home woman at a laptop.

Google, the world’s largest search engine company (yes I know they do other things), is positing that the corporate office will look completely different post-COVID-19.

In September Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai said that the organization was making changes to its offices that would better support employees in the future. This includes “reconfiguring” office spaces to accommodate “on-sites”, days when employees who regularly work from home will come into the workplace. The move comes after Google was one of the first major tech companies to announce that employees could possibly work from home through next summer.

“I see the future as definitely being more flexible,” Pichai said during a video interview for Time 100, “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said. “So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something.”

It was reported that Google’s decision to work remotely into mid-2021 was originally in part to help employees whose children might be learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Pichai said that several factors went into the decision, stating that improving productivity was a major concern.

“Early on as this started, I realized it was going to be a period of tremendous uncertainty, so we wanted to lean in and give certainty where we could,” Pichai said. “The reason we made the decision to do work from home until mid of next year is we realized people were trying hard to plan… and it was affecting productivity.”

Pichai also mentioned that the decision would help the firm embrace the reality that remote working wasn’t going anywhere once things returned to normal. A recent survey at Google found that 62% of employees felt they only need to be in the office on occasion, while 20% felt they didn’t need to be in the office whatsoever. While the work from home trend had already been growing over the past several years, the pandemic accelerated that movement greatly.

With housing costs surging in the San Francisco area, where Google headquarters resides, many employees have been forced to move outside of the city to afford a mortgage. This caused many to commute long hours into the office, something Pichai realized was a problem.

“It’s always made me wonder, when I see people commuting two hours and away from their families and friends, on a Friday, you realize they can’t have plans,” Pichai said. “So I think we can do better.”

It’s too early to tell whether or not Pichai’s vision of a “hybrid model” will be adopted by other companies when the pandemic ends. One thing is for certain though—work will never be what is pre-COVID-19.

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