Life in the Fast Lane: The myth of busy and our ever-decreasing attention spans

Let's start with a visualisation.

Remember back to the last time you jumped into an Uber on the way to a work meeting. As you bundle your laptop into your bag and triple check that your mobile phone is still glued to your fingers, the driver asks where you are headed. After mumbling a destination, your eyes glued to your phone, and you start on your journey.

You flick through emails to see if you missed anything in the two minutes since you stepped out of the office. Then to Instagram to see posts that you have already seen that day, then you pop onto Facebook and scroll through quickly. Nothing really grabs your attention.

The driver looks into the rear view mirror and asks how your day is going. Without so much as a second thought, an automatic response is blurted from your mouth.

"Oh you know - busy"


A Self-inflicted Truth

We have all been guilty of this careless response, be it to the Uber driver or to a colleague who we pass on the stairs. We might not even be aware of how boring we are being, spewing out that we are ‘oh so busy’ when people have taken the time and energy to ask how we are. But is there any truth in it? The day literally flew and I barely had a moment to breathe – that means I AM busy…right?

Let's go back to the Uber trip. In a space of three minutes, I jumped into a moving vehicle, checked my emails, scrolled through at least three social media networks and maybe even checked my LinkedIn messages. I also started a couple of emails, added some random things that I remembered to my to-do list and texted a friend about dinner. This definitely seems like a busy person’s life.


The Scary Numbers

I’m going to put it out there and say that this is a poor excuse for ‘busy’, but rather a very good example of ‘distracted’. Like me, many of us find it difficult to concentrate and be efficient in our everyday, with a plethora of interruptions out to get us.  Did you know the average person picks up their phone 1500 times a week? That our attention span is currently sitting at 8 seconds and that office workers check their email an average of 30 times every hour. It’s exhausting.


A Balancing Act

For many, these numbers are not surprising. We have all heard about how we are pretty much Goldfish, and emails are the death of productivity. But what is new, is how this idea of being in a constant state of ‘frazzled’ can affect not only mental wellbeing, but also the ability to be the best and most productive versions of ourselves in both a work and play. It’s a constant balancing act between discovering and consuming new mediums of content, data and information with keeping your sanity.

Image via Wordpress

Image via Wordpress


What it means for Brands

Brands need to dig deep. We know the landscape has changed, and it’s more important than ever to cut through the noise. Investing in research, and really getting under the hood to understand what makes your consumer tick is imperative.

Content is king. But not content for the sake of it – rather, educated, well researched and targeted within an inch of its 8-second life. To spend marketing money blindly, and to assume what will work - will truly make an ass out of u and me.

Partnerships tell stories. Amongst all the craziness, people are seeking out unique experiences and welcome brands that can provide just this. Integrated, strategic partnerships provide a platform for brands to connect on a deeper level. The success of the ‘rebel women’ campaign is just one example of many, the latest series leveraging rebel’s partnership with the AFL to elevate athlete profiles from the inaugural season of AFL Women’s.

What it means for Employers

Businesses need to practice what they preach.

To minimise internal emails clogging up the inbox and our brains, we have bought in “Talk to each other Tuesdays”, internal emails are banned and - shock horror – we can physically tell the person sitting beside us that we are going to lunch at 12:30 if they want to join.

Image via LinkedIn

Image via LinkedIn


To minimise distractions and time wasting, we have brought in flexible working hours, which senior management have specifically labelled as ‘guilt-free’. If you can get your work done with your dog on your lap in your lounge room, then do it.

And to minimise general madness, we have bought in a corporate wellness program. Yes it’s a pilot and we don’t know where it will take us – but I’m guessing somewhere good, and calm.

So I leave you with this. Next time someone asks you how your day is – maybe take a step back and surprise them. Engage with them and take a second out of the mayhem that is life these days – you never know where it might take you.


Feature Image via Wallpaper Safari