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Noise

Living and Leading When Nobody Can Focus

By Joseph McCormack
12-minute read
Audio available
Noise by Joseph McCormack

Noise (2019) is an antidote to our distracted times. In an age of shrinking attention spans and divided focus, it shows us how to reclaim our natural powers of concentration.

  • Tech addicts trying to break their bad habits
  • Procrastinators who need to rediscover their ability to focus
  • Leaders interested in distraction-proof communication

Joseph McCormack is an entrepreneur, author, and marketing executive. He runs the BRIEF Lab, which offers courses in effective communication. He also produces a podcast series called Just Saying and is the author of Brief (2014).

©Joseph McCormack: Noise copyright 2019, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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Noise

Living and Leading When Nobody Can Focus

By Joseph McCormack
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Noise by Joseph McCormack
Synopsis

Noise (2019) is an antidote to our distracted times. In an age of shrinking attention spans and divided focus, it shows us how to reclaim our natural powers of concentration.

Key idea 1 of 7

Information overload is damaging our ability to think.

These days, people disagree on many topics, often more fiercely than ever. Whether it concerns our elected representatives, pressing environmental issues, or even just celebrity spats, it seems that there are very few issues that we can all unite behind. 

But what about the topic of information? The more information you consume, the smarter you are. And the smarter you are, the better. Right? Surely that isn’t controversial?

Well, it might be time to reconsider. 

The key message here is: Information overload is damaging our ability to think.

You see, these days, we actually suffer from an excess of information. Whether it’s a stream of incoming messages or a frantic, never-ending newsfeed, most of us are inundated with irrelevant information from morning till night.

Now, this is more than just a minor nuisance. When we subject our minds to this informational onslaught, we actually prevent them from working at full capacity.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that your mind needs nutrition, just as your body does – so when you hop from one screen to another, skimming information and never really settling down, you actually undernourish your brain. 

By keeping things superficial, you fail to consume anything of substance – and, like living on soda and popcorn, this can weaken your mind over time.

The more you consume information in this manner, the more your brain starts to adapt to constant, novel information. Instead of being content to settle down and engage with a task properly, your mind learns to expect hit after hit of gratifying but ultimately superficial stimulation. 

Tweets, emails, snaps, you name it – they all rewire your brain and train it to anticipate constant interruptions.

You might think there is nothing inherently wrong with that. After all, you can multitask! Interruptions don’t really bother you – right? Well, not exactly. Glenn Wilson, a professor of psychology at Gresham College in London, estimates that multitasking depletes our IQ by 10 points. In fact, he’s argued that your cognitive skills take a sharper dip when you try to multitask than when you smoke marijuana.

You probably wouldn’t want to make important life decisions and business deals while high on drugs. So why would you try to do it while fending off a barrage of attention-sapping information?

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