On Being Distracted


Last weekend while playing with my daughter I found myself constantly taking out my phone to check on things. Things like Facebook (and I don’t even really like Facebook), Twitter and Path. I was rarely just enjoying the moments with my kid. I thought I was better than that.

In steps this short video on attention. You can see the original post.

So attention is a muscle and I’ve been training mine to switch quick and not just enjoy the moment.

And just as I said multitasking is a bad idea. The more we do it the worse we get at it. Practicing multitasking is to get better at distraction. This is where Pomodoro steps in for me. In the mornings I use the Pomodoro timer and start the day off right, focusing on the work that needs to get done instead of endlessly cycling between Twitter and emails and who knows what else.

So our phones and devices are a Skinner box. It pays our checking back with the occasional big payoff (someone actually said the image of my kid was cute) which reinforces checking more as we look for that payoff. Now to break that conditioning.

The suggestions made are pretty good, a day without tech certainly sounds like a good idea. I’m not sure that I could turn my phone totally off since we have no landline, but leaving it in a central place (like the old corded phone) means I can’t be checking it. Well at least it means it’s harder to check my phone so it’s less likely that I’ll do it.

I need to leave my phone on the table once I get my daughter from daycare. I have no need of it, except when the wife sends me a message to tell me she is on her way home so I can start dinner. I need to put the phone away and not check it.

I also wonder about not reading on a Kindle (tablet device). I’ve been moving all of my books over to my iPad (in the Kindle software). I’ve got a few books around but they are less and less my favourite books. I can see not reading any ‘work’ books, which would leave me with fiction. Fun frivolous fiction.

I probably should also stop listening to music on at least some of my bike rides. I remember as a teen, I’d ride and work out life’s issues. It was a time for me to just think, I’d often talk to myself rehearsing possible conversations and their outcomes. Now I often view the riding time as a great way to get more podcast listening, or audiobook listening done. Neither is a bad thing in itself but it certainly does decrease the time that my brain can wander.

So, what can you do to cut the distraction and get the long thinking part of your brain working?


2 responses to “On Being Distracted”

  1. teresa says:

    i’ve really been trying to make an effort to put my phone down or ipad down at some point ‘after work’ so that i’m not constantly checking online. i liked when i had a blackberry because it would only blink when there was something waiting. now i check all the time and often there’s nothing there.

    i like this pomodoro technique for work. i get really distracted since i work from home, by laundry, cats, outdoors, twitter etc. 25mins sounds like a long time to me at times 🙂 maybe i’ll try the 15min interval you talked about in your last post.

    • curtismchale says:

      If you’re going to use the Pomodoro technique I recommend reading this book. It does say to start with shorter intervals as you get used to it.

      It’s really hard to put the phone down, I keep catching myself checking it when there is no good reason for it.