Published in El Pais, 23 February 2019.
I always preach in my class at the university that technology is one of the biggest drivers of development and productivity increase in an economy. However, when I see my students often looking at the screen of their laptop, phone and tablet, I know this is not for taking notes. This is not helping their learning process, neither their grades. Despite what some people think, human beings are not able to multitask. We are not able to pay attention to the teacher, take notes, check Facebook, and answer WhatsApp all at the same time.
Let’s face it, technology has created many blessings, but also became huge distractions and time eaters. All these distractions risk a low grade, failing a class, lose time and reduce productivity.
I can of course turn nostalgic, thinking about the time I was in university and nobody even had an electronic distraction for the class. Even so, it often was a challenge for teachers to keep the attention of the students. Taking notes with a pencil was not only effective to learn and understand, but also to prevent falling asleep during a boring class. In exams period, it was easier to read the books as reading was a habit to kill time. Nowadays, it is a challenge the short attention span that students have. Thus, it is important to find new solutions to deal with it.
For both, the students and the rest, the solution can be simple. Switch it all off, go off the grid! Start taking notes with pen and paper to keep concentration. Maybe the real addicts will get shaky, sweaty and nervous, can opt for something less rigorous and start by switching off the sound notifications, and turn off the tabs of the browser that are not related with what you are doing. For the advanced ones, switch off also your email or even stow away your entire tech that is absolutely not necessary for the task you are doing. Try it!
A second solution to increase concentration time span can be setting goals and deadlines for yourself. Write them down. Define the tasks you want ready at the end of day or class. It has been proven that when your boss or teacher gives you hard deadlines, you follow them, work harder, are more productive and are less distracted. On the other hand, when there are no deadlines, distractions crawl up easily and eat up your time to eventually end up the day without having done anything. Be your own boss and set the goals for the day!