Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Ever have the impression of spending a whole day working and wonder what you have got done?

There has been a lot of talk of digital distraction (link to an excellent article on Gwarlingo): one can easily be distracted by a little red number on email, a jumping icon, a Skype notification, ping, bing or buzz. Digital stimuli are distractions, but they can also be addicting.

For me digital distraction feels a lot like my reaction to visual stimuli, I have trouble concentrating, I feel tense, I can’t think clearly, but it differs in one crucial way: I run away from visual stimuli, I have been conditioned to react to digital cues.

For example, I can barely last 20 minutes inside an IKEA store before my brain shuts down and I start to feel like I am drowning. The same is true for department stores or those gigantic metal boxes on the side of the highway that are stuffed with shit nobody really needs. I want to run away.  On the other hand, I can’t go 20 minutes without checking my email, it’s the first thing I do after my airplane lands, or I wake up, I even check right after Yoga… a stressful email could ruin my whole evening.

And although, I have learnt that there are times when ‘airplane mode’ can also be used on the ground, these times are still to few and far between. I still have every means of communication open when I am writing or working (right now: Skype, SMS, email, telephone – all possible distractions).

I have two ways to cope with these distractions:

Unclutter: remove the distractions. For me this would be rid my environment of physical tchotchkes and close the digital more frequently. Dealing with the digital requires more of the self-discipline associated with going Cold Turkey.  Uncluttering sets the stage for productive work.

Connect: When you walk, just walk. Let the walk, walk. Focus on the task at hand, pay attention to what you are doing, be aware of the present moment. Connecting allows one to make maximum use of our capabilities.

Climbing allows me to do both. There is no sense in surfing on your iPhone as you are climbing a granite wall, neither can one allow oneself to be distracted by tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list. But outside of tasks that rely upon adrenaline to focus the mind, it seems as if concentration is becoming more elusive.

One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is about the importance of the task at hand. While walking may be a good time to ‘retune’ our minds, it may also be a good opportunity for other valuable activities, like thinking “Only those thoughts that come by walking have any value.” Nietzsche.

On the other hand, if the task is important, perhaps, the metaphor of climbing may be appropriate. We want to reach the summit, we don’t want the wall to win. The same goes for all activities: “If you don’t find a way to create a wall between it and the world, the world will always win.” Jonathan Safran Foer.

Any thoughts?