No wonder it takes us so long to get anything done...
According to a new study, we spend over 25% of our time being distracted – and not only that, but these daily distractions are also linked to a lower level of happiness.
The study, commissioned by Center Parcs and conducted by Professor Nilli Lavie of UCL, saw more than 450 volunteers tested using a ‘Distractions Diagnostics Tool’, which measured the level of distraction people experienced when engaging in typical daily activities and when interacting with each other.
The tool recorded how much our smartphones encroach on everyday life, as well as intrusions from vehicles and advertising, in different environments including on the high street, at the park or in bars, restaurants and pubs.
The level of distraction reported by the volunteers was then correlated against their level of happiness at the time of testing.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that the daily distractions of modern life, particularly those from personal technology devices, were associated with a lower level of happiness.
Mobile phones distracted people the most, on average accounting for 17% of people’s time but rising to more than 50% for 15% of people. Those distracted by mobile phones were also most likely to report a significantly lower level of happiness.
Being distracted can also impact on our memories being positive or negative, as the study showed that those who recalled themselves or others being distracted also remembered being less happy during the occasion than those who did not remember distractions.
‘Our study provides clear evidence for the popular claim that we live in the age of distractions,’ said Professor Lavie. ‘While we have little control over our environment (except for walking away, or taking a break) we do have control over how much attention we pay to personal gadgets such as our mobile phones – yet these were found not only to be the most distracting but also significantly linked with lower levels of happiness.
‘The fact that the findings went on to reveal a negative link between the memory of distractions and happiness also suggests a robust and lasting association that may not be easy to break. Being aware of the significant link between our ability to pay undivided attention and our feeling of happiness, could help us improve both.’
You heard it from the Professor, kids – put down your phone, go out for dinner and enjoy some old-fashioned conversation. It might just make you happier.