Recently I read that our state of mind is one of our greatest assets. The blogpost that it appeared in mostly discussed how perpetually distracted people tend to be nowadays and deep concentration is a rare skill to be treasured. Whereas I agree with the author’s premise when it comes to our personal choices on how and when to employ media, there are other, external factors at work influencing our attention spans and devouring our most productive times.
Society in general is structured to demand our concentration all throughout the day. Personal preference is never considered, despite, in some cases, mounds of scientific evidence illustrating the benefits changing a given standard would have. The best example of this, in my opinion, is school starting times. It has been proven many times over that teenagers should begin school later because their brains are „asleep“ until at least mid morning, so it is pointless for them to have any lessons before nine or ten o’clock. My own experience and observation of my teenage daughter confirms this, too, but still, nothing changes. The long summer break is another thing that could be done away with since none of the kids I’ve ever dealt with – in my own childhood or my daughter’s – have ever needed to help out with the harvest, the original purpose of summer holidays. One could easily balance out the school year and create a schedule much more conducive to adolescent learning if the time was used efficiently. As a result, the students AND teachers would be much happier, while enjoying a higher level of job satisfaction as well.
The world is also set up to serve the early birds, albeit this has, in recent times, become easier to circumvent. Online shopping, tele-working and flexi-time are just a few examples of how late-risers manage to be equally-contributing members of society. There are, unfortunately, enough other aspects that can make life miserable for the night owls, such as doctors who only have hours from seven to eleven; government offices that are just open before noon; and even mail or package delivery that arrives at the crack of dawn. Anyone going to bed after midnight will not feel like waking up at six because it is some kind of societal norm.
Establishing a universal timetable when it comes to individual personal efficiency will remain elusive, if not impossible. I, for one, stumble around like a clumsy oaf after waking and am not remotely near peak performance for at least a couple of hours. That’s why, for me, the time after getting up is best used for routine tasks which require little brain power, but, even then, I occasionally catch myself grabbing my toothbrush to comb my hair! In the end, I feel it is the night owls like myself who get a raw deal when it comes to attaining a state of deep concentration. Self-imposed sources of distraction are more easily addressed than the ones civilised society has constructed. Being a night owl might even be one of my greatest, unrecognised assets, and give me great presence of mind – if it weren’t for that delivery van every morning at 5:30…. sigh.