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This is a little exercise that David Greenshell shared with me the other day. Take a few minutes and watch the video below. DO NOT SCROLL DOWN UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED!
Did you make it? I did manage to watch the entire video without opening any other tabs, but I still fidgeted a little and part of my brain kept wondering about what else was happening on the net. I find myself with Facebook running in the background pretty much every time I’m on a computer with internet access. My attention span, while still long enough to see me through a movie or a book, is woefully inadequate for many other creative tasks, like drawing or sewing. I manage about 30 minutes to 1 hour of writing a day. If that. I even contemplated not writing an entry today because my mind was racing and yet producing nothing of substance.
I don’t like that about myself. I don’t like getting distracted constantly. I can do without the Internet; we didn’t have access to it until I was 12 years old and I was perfectly content. Instant gratification and pervasive multitasking is the way of the world now. It’s a fact of life. I like near-instant gratification and while I’m pretty good at multitasking, I don’t like it. I don’t like what it does to me and other people. As someone who works with the public, I suffer through the demands of patrons all day long. Too many of them react with derision or scorn or impatience if I don’t have all the answers to all of their questions instantaneously. I don’t even think they realize they’re doing it and how frustrating it is. I try to make sure I don’t act the same way when I’m the customer.
How can we combat this culture of instant gratification and multitasking? I don’t know. There might not be a way to defeat it, since technology has it firmly entrenched, but perhaps by being mindful we can try to regain some control over our lives. Try to spend part of each day focusing on just one thing. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Live in the moment; experience it rather than thinking of all the things you have to do in the moments to come. If you have vacation time, use it to get away for a day or two. Try to get your family and other loved ones to do it too so you won’t be going at it alone. Turn off the phone and tuck it in the depths of your sock drawer so you won’t be tempted to check it. Leave work at work. Unplug the internet or get a timed blocker so if you want to do something on the computer, you won’t be sucked down the rabbit hole.
These are just some suggestions, and I know it’s easier said than done. I am not an expert by any means, as I still struggle with the problem of focus myself. But becoming aware of the problem is the first step towards fixing it. Good luck.