“Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.” —Adam Hochschild
An epidemic is among us. (Most of us, anyway.) Distraction is a drug of choice.
It’s the leading cause of sitting in a chair for two hours before typing word one of a column.
It’s the leading cause of laundry setting in the dryer and homework not getting done before 10 p.m.
It’s the reason focus can feel like a fantasy.
It’s the reason dogs stare into space, silently wishing they could master the lock on the door because the love of their lives forgot to let them out all afternoon.
It’s the reason for sleeplessness and anxious brains at 1 p.m. and then again at 3 a.m.
During the daytime, distractions can be cleverly disguised as “multitasking,” which I am just now beginning to see as completely overrated, despite the fact I have always thought of the ability as a badge of honor.
Author and “boredom advocate” Manouch Zomorodi said, “As much as people would like to believe otherwise, humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online, which can happen upward of 400 times a day…. That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day…. You’ve used them all up.”
On the boredom front, Zomorodi credits boredom for not only some good ideas, but for her best and most creative ideas. Her example of boredom was walking for miles and miles every day to calm her colicky baby.
I think of long stretches of monotonous cleaning, when physical movements lead the brain into autopilot and it’s allowed to wander into places that aren’t systematically controlled by an app or an inbox or the television.
It is time that may not feel productive, but is actually the most productive of all. As opposed to the hours upon hours we lose into the abyss of either all out overload or pinging from thing to thing.
Have you tried tracking the food you eat all day? Or every dollar you spend for a week? Those minute, singular things stack up quickly and grow into a big scary ball of “What have I done?!”
I imagine how I would feel if I tracked my distractions for a day and talley the times I check social media or pop over to my email. (I hear there’s an app for that, ironic.) The more I think about these innocent glances, the worse I feel about how much of my attention they get.
If my own guilt of distracted time wasn’t enough, this quote about the goal of social media platform tech experts only reinforces my quest for less distraction: “The only people who refer to their customers as users are drug dealers and technologists.”
Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures. She can be reached at email@example.com.