Driven to Distraction at Work: A book review by Bob Morris

Driven:Distraction@Work Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive
Edward M. Hallowell, MD
Harvard Business Review Press (2014)

How to “modulate distraction and overload while becoming happier, healthier, and more productive in the process”

I have reviewed most of Ned Hallowell’s previously published books — notably Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder (2005), Answers to Distraction (Paperback), co-authored with John J. Ratey (2010), and Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (2011) — and I am by now thoroughly convinced that his mission in life is to help as many people (of all ages) as possible to accelerate their personal growth and professional development. I include Shine in this brief commentary because much of its material correlates very nicely with material in his latest book, Driven to Distraction at Work. In it, he focuses on a major problem: attention deficit trait. He devised the term — ADT — in 1994 to describe an increasingly more common problem in the workplace then, twenty years ago. It is much worse now, probably because of the rapid and extensive adoption of electronic communication devices. Today, many people seem to have the attention of a Strobe light blink. They have lost their ability to focus on anything, while “always in a rush, bouncing from task to task like boats against the current, worried that they’re falling behind even as they strive to get ahead.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Hallowell’s coverage:

o Symptoms of ADT (Pages 5-7)
o The Six Most Common Distractions at Work — and How to Overcome Them (10-13)
o Table 1-1: Beneficial and problematic aspects of electronic devices (28)
o Symptoms of Internet gaming disorder (30-31)
o 10 tips for reducing screen sucking (37-38)
o 10 tips for multitaskers and people who can’t say no (53-55)
o The despair of infinite possibility (61-64)
o 10 tips for idea hoppers (75-77)
o 10 tips for dealing with toxic worry (95-96)
o Altruism and the curse of the toxic handler (101-107)
o 10 tips for helping you take care of yourself, not just everyone else (115-117)
o 10 tips for adults who have ADHD (131-133)
o Creating the optimal state for excellence (137-140)
o What is flexible focus (140-144)
o How to Achieve Focus Three Words at a Time (145-146)
o The essential ingredients of a self-improvement plan: energy, emotion, engagement, structure, control (152-154)
o Preparation’s “sensational six”: sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, stimulation, and positive human connection (157-170)
o The myriad benefits of meditation (172-174)
o The forgotten key to health and success, however defined (193-195)
o Quick Tips for Managing Psychology (221-222)

Oliver Wendell Holmes once expressed his high regard for what he characterized as “simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Few books published in which their authors explain how to achieve personal growth and professional development reach the other side of that process’ complexity. Edward (“Ned”) Hallowell is among the precious few and I congratulate him heartily on this latest brilliant achievement. The wealth of invaluable information, insights, and counsel he provides is unsurpassed. Bravo!

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