Monday, May 09, 2016

Week 18: Goldfish | Always Distracted

If the "symptoms" I am about to describe don't sound at least faintly familiar to you, you are a) a member of a cult whose guru strictly forbids the use of digital devices and social media, b) the proud user of a first generation Nokia dumb phone and Dell computer that runs on Windows 95 or c) likely a very smart person who knows how to focus on tasks really well and should write a self-help book on this talent that would become an international bestseller. 
Myself, I fall in neither of the above categories and thus am one of those sad creatures who reach for their phone a gazillion times a day and regardless of the fact whether they are sitting in front of their laptop at home or at the office are distracted every 5 minutes or so by newsletters, chat windows, incoming e-mail, the ever-present allure of online sales, etc. I have long ago tried to mitigate the damage on my goldfish brain by filtering e-mails, deactivating pop-up notifications both on my Macbook and smartphone, but it only helps to a certain point. It's not so much FOMO or stress, but a deep-rooted habit and endless circle of "checkemailcheckinstagramcheckbloglovincheckcalendar" that makes it difficult to focus on one single task. I notice it at trainings I give, too. Regardless of the subject matter (and I also pride myself of not being a boring presenter most of the time) 15 minutes max seems to be the longest time-span before people start reaching for their phones furtively or you can tell that they are reading through their Facebook feed on their laptops.
Why the long preamble? Well, I managed two things last week that a few years ago I would not have regarded worth mentioning, but which really reminded me how my work style and consumption of reading matter have changed in the last decade. For once, I got a feeling of slight panic when my new boss sent me a friendly e-mail on Wednesday afternoon saying she would like me to help her put together a presentation for a call on Monday. Thursday was a holiday and I did not do any work that day and I had planned to spend a chilled day working (no, make that "working" from my parents) on Friday. I knew that I would need to do research on the subject matter as I was new to it and reports (I hate spreadsheets, full stop) were involved, too. Eventually, I did all of it on Friday and it was a walk in the park. I sent her the final draft at 3 p.m. on Friday and she was thrilled and praised me. Just the fact of having a short deadline and knowing I would need to focus on a single task immediately made me uncomfortable and this really made me realise what a digital degenerate I have become. It is ridiculous really as if there is one thing I have consistently been praised for by managers and colleagues alike it is my good time-management skills and being able to deliver in the face of short deadlines. 
The other mundane task that felt like a major achievement was finally finishing a book (as in actual offline paperback) I had borrowed from my parents and had begun reading when I was home for Christmas. I found it hard to get into it at the beginning and a bit pretentious, but then ended up really liking it. In any case, what took me so long despite the fact that I am a very fast reader is that I don't really carry books around me any more. They don't really seem to fit in with my lifestyle, crazy as this sounds. I basically only read them at home and in fact made most progress with this book during several bathtub soaking sessions. However, even at home, I am in the habit of watching YouTube videos and reading magazines more than reading books. I constantly feel I need to fight with magazine backlog and to decrease the pile in my living room. That not buying any (and I have in fact gotten much better at buying less) is the simple answer to that problem is obvious and I am of course aware of it. I don't even carry my (first generation) Kindle with me any more, but have been reading books on the Kindle phone app when on public transport. Since the beginning of this year, I have read 3 books this way and I really don't mind the small screen at all. So it's not that I don't read and reading actual paper books are still my favourite and so superior to their digital equivalent. I definitely want to change the way I consume books and try to read old school books for longer periods of time. Summer holiday goals, I guess.


Anonymous alcessa said...

[an anecdote, written by real life :-)]: I attended an 8-hour seminar on Criminal Law on Saturday and one of the participants (a nice guy) had concentration problems, which he always admitted and asked for a break. Since there were only 3 students present, that wasn't any problem, but: in the afternoon, he started googling what our teacher was talking about :-D. Googling and reading it outloud. Because he couldn't listen anymore :?: I found that terribly funny, our teacher only partly so :-)

5/09/2016 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger onemorehandbag said...

@alcessa - wow, that makes me feel so much better. I like to think I have not quite sunk THAT low, haha.

5/09/2016 11:16:00 AM  

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