By Anja van den Berg
For all its clear benefits, a significant downside to the digital age is our exposure to ever-present distractions.
One research area that is being prodded continuously due to our preoccupation with digital distractions, is work-related productivity.
Research in this area suggests that business policies should regulate and limit the use of social media. Experimental studies do report productivity improvements from the implementation of website blockers.
At the same time, restricting access to apps or sites can also harm productivity and job satisfaction, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London.
Chamorro-Premuzic cites studies which report positive effects of work-based use of social media on team morale and productivity, in part because it enables more efficient knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Chamorro-Premuzic says that a better solution to the negative impact of distractions may be to pick a job or career that provides the right amount of distraction for your natural temperament or personality.
“After all,” he adds, “talent is mostly personality in the right place: if you find a task or job that is a natural fit for your natural habits and behavioural tendencies, those habits and tendencies will manifest themselves as ‘talent.’”
With this background, Chamorro-Premuzic offers four potential careers that may benefit from higher levels of mind-wandering and distractibility:
- Entrepreneur, sole proprietor or business owner
Few career paths will provide you with more variety than entrepreneurship, and this includes its simplest and smallest version, namely being self-employed or your own boss. From coming up with an idea, to finding the resources to turn that idea into action, to interacting with key stakeholders, to selling and developing your business, there’s just no time for boredom or routine when you have turned yourself into a business.
- Public relations or media production
If you have difficulty switching off, disconnecting, or staying focused on the same topic for extended periods, you may also want to consider a career in public relations or media production. There is rarely a dull moment when you have to manage clients from different industries and businesses, be prepared to react to any news eventuality, or learn how to communicate with very different audiences and in a wide range of media.
Another good career alternative if you want to avoid monotony and routine is consulting. There are many different types of consulting careers, but they typically benefit from a fair amount of mind wandering, openness to experience, and dispositional lack of focus. Note that while expertise is the dominant currency in consulting, what you know is less important than what you are willing to learn. Consultants are always more successful when they are generalists rather than narrowly focused on a niche topic or angle.
A hyperactive mind and journalism often go together. This career often combines elements of the three jobs described above. Firstly, you need to brand and sell yourself like an entrepreneur. You would also need to be open and reactive to the news and real-world events. Lastly, you need to be able to switch from one topic to another, always exploring new questions.
Your typical patterns of focus and distraction are an inherent part of who you are. If you battle to improve your attention, identify a role that is a natural fit for your innate predispositions. If you feel the need for extra insight, consider working with a career coach.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/12/4-careers-for-people-who-are-easily-distracted