In a world where we have all the information and entertainment at our fingertips it can be difficult to focus. Scrolling through Facebook is endlessly distracting, mildly amusing, often annoying but never truly engaging. Social Media is very superficial in it’s appeal and so we spend countless hours perusing the inanity looking for depth.
Even the business-oriented LinkedIn is awash with personal appeals and shameless self-promotion. When everyone is their own brand every utterance is an advertisement. I have a hard time taking any of it very seriously anymore. We are so completely distracted by the device in our pocket that we forget to see the real world. Augmented Reality is the lens through which we identify the random insect on the porch, Virtual Reality has transformed our gaming interface, and an infinite number of streaming services have required more time investment from us to find the one 45-minute character driven episodic worth watching. It’s exhausting.
It used to be when you stepped out your door you listened to the cars and the birds, you said hi to your neighbors, then Sony invented the Walkman and suddenly everyone was buried in a personal soundtrack. Today the devices that follow us around the world are pinging us every time something trips the motion sensor on our doorbell, pushes us a notification with every new episode, and makes us feel so vitally important that we are compelled to live stream our relationship to the skinny double latte we just picked up.
One of the reasons why corporations have seen an increase in productivity during the work-from-home shift is that employees are less distracted by their daily commute, by co-worker shenanigans, or by what the dog might be doing while left at home alone. Conversely for the worker it turns very quickly from working from home into living at work. The pressure to always be on, to respond immediately to every email and requests can be very draining.
So how does one cope with the constant bombardment of stimuli? Well there are a number of techniques I employ to keep myself grounded in the time of endless connection to the cloud:
I will turn off wifi connections on many of my devices at predetermined times of day, whether it is to prepare for a meeting, process some heavy thinking or to just power through an assignment it helps when you phone is not vibrating off the table and you can’t slip into the Twitter fog of a lost afternoon.
I feel that 3 minutes is a lot longer than we think and you can get a lot done if you block your time in spans of 5 minutes instead of say 15 or 30.
I find it best to keep your phone free of invasive entertainment apps that want to send you an endless array of preview push notifications, social media that wants to monopolize your attention and games that suck your time. It is possible to be productive when sitting in the doctor’s waiting room or on the slow-moving train if you are not scrolling Facebook or crushing candy.
Don’t get roped into a last in first out approach. I always want to respond to the latest email or jump onto the last request, but it is really easy to burn up time and attention this way. It is best to stay on task and manage new requests in their own time. Certainly, it is good to prioritize but don’t get distracted by the latest shiny thing that came in.
In short, make sure you separate yourself from the push notifications and social pings. We all keep a calendar to track our time and keep our days in order, but we need to schedule our attention too.