What happens when you see that little red marker pop up? A new message? A new friend or like? A new tweet?
It is ever so tempting to stop what you’re in the middle of to check. Straight-away, because it’s so important, right?
Checking an alert all too often leads to checking something else, which leads to time disappearing down a black hole. I know because I’ve been down that vortex.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Using computers and respond to the 24/7/365 stream from social media is something new to all of us. This implies learning some new tricks.
Of course, some people blithely ignore the seductions of constantly checking messages or following up on just one more link. But many of us aren’t so good at this.
At the workshops with Beth Kanter in Auckland recently, we touched on attention and information coping skills.
Everyone laughed when Beth reported that according to one study 39% of people check their phones for updates and new emails in the bathroom. The urge to stay connected obviously comes from a very deep place within.
Talking over Jane Genovese’s mindmap on “How to focus in the age of distraction” (pictured above) at one of the workshops was useful. Even thought I’ve looked at this before, I still found some tips to hone my practices.
I admit I haven’t read all of Howard Rheingold’s book “Net Smart: how to thrive online”, but I am selectively grabbing tips. If I tried to sum up his advice in a single word I’d say it’s breathe!
A glimpse of Howard’s infotention advice can be found freely online – the 15 minute mini-lecture offers a few hints, plus there are articles and links if you want to read more.
Being Zen-like is a topic Oliver Burkeman’s delves into in a recent article on ‘conscious computing’. Setting aside the esoteric rationale, I’ve actually tried a couple of software programmes listed that help focus attention.
Ommwriter offers a 100% blank screen to write on, and Flux dims the screen brightness in sync with the actual time of day.
I don’t sense there is a magic wand that will instantly vanquish distraction. It’s something I sense will take more practice yet (as I return to writing this post after checking a red pop-up signalling incoming mail).
What are your strategis for staying focused and surfing on the sea of incoming information?