Managing Distractions – Key to Success

Dr. Murthy K N B
Vice Chancellor

There has never been a point in history that the humankind has never truly been free from intrusions which may turn out to be distractions / additive behavioral tendencies. The intrusions were in the form of relatives, radios, paper mail or others. The present day intrusions prevail in the form of television, mobile phones, internet, video gaming, e-mail and SMS notifications, Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook along with a multitude of open browser tabs and pop-ups that volunteer exhaustive information, all of which are constantly bombarding us with information and incessantly competing for our attention and thus causing us to be surrounded in a haze of multitasking activity. Although there is no denying that the utilitarian importance of these that enable us to a lead a more contented existence, while robustly empowering us to readily access any desirable information at the click of a button or a tap of a screen. These slowly begin to sneak-in, excite, give new experience and percolate into brain (mind). They pervade and gradually start disturbing privacy, peace and focus. It is very difficult to draw the line as to when their usage borders as a source of distraction or an enabler of additive behavioral tendencies. It is important to note that the border line varies from person to person and it can be identified when the dependency becomes more and more or when it becomes impossible to keep away from the source for a long time. In today’s technologically evolved society, it is highly improbable that we can locate a single student who does not carry a mobile phone and owing to the radical technological advancements in this pocket-sized gadget, a student can utilize this device to carry out a plethora of tasks such as communicating with acquaintances, accessing multitier information, social networking and so on. Although the smartphone app markets proffer a multitude of applications that cater specifically to the requirements of students and have the potential to boost their academic performance if utilized effectively, studies show that majority of the students only utilize them for recreational purposes and are constantly on social networking apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. The usage of such apps has reached such an extent that students seldom pay attention to the classroom proceedings as they are perpetually immersed in browsing the Internet or busy updating their Facebook status. The primary purpose of paying a fee in order to receive a wholesome education and the requisite practical knowledge for their respective domains is unequivocally undermined due to the lack of attention on the student’s part during critical classroom sessions and thus the substantial efforts tendered by the teachers are rendered vain. Certain studies illustrate that a typical college student engages with their digital device for non-academic tasks on an average of 10 to 12 times a day during their classroom sessions and about 10% of the students have conceded that as a direct result, their grades have declined. The overindulgence in the usage of smartphones and gaming devices have been shown to not only be the central source of distraction for students, but also leads to a number of psychological issues such as restlessness and tends to aggravate sleep problems and cultivates stress, all of which effectively deter academic performance. The pervasiveness of technology in our day-to-day existence will in no manner diminish, but on the contrary, newer technologies will usher in a surplus of novel devices and gadgets. Hence it is the duty of the students to reasonably train themselves to persistently concentrate and suppress distractions. If students get into such distractions, their attention span will be lowered considerably and they will consequently have trouble in succeeding in any given vocation, as the ability to focus is a key element to success that is often ignored. Although parents and teachers are consistently attempting to supervise the students in order to ensure that the students do not overindulge in their usage of such devices, such monitoring policies are seldom effective. Hence it is ultimately up to students to police themselves and ascertain that they use such technologies in a regulated manner and imperatively develop self-discipline in order to ensure their success and persevere in today’s competitive world. An ancient Sanskrit proverb contends, “The elixir of amrita can turn into poison, if consumed in excess”. The key to effectively dealing with such distractions and ensuring persistent academic success is Restraint and Self-Discipline.