Lately, I’ve been noticing how much I struggle to focus on anything, and how I’m constantly doing more than one thing at a time. (Eating breakfast while surfing the web. Half-watching a 30 Rock rerun while cleaning my apartment. Doing work while maintaining a GChat conversation.)
This eternally distracted state isn’t new – it began when I got the internet back in middle school and has gotten progressively more extreme as I’ve added more technology to my life. I used to think it wasn’t a problem. At least I wasn’t multitasking in a dangerous way. (A friend recently told me he watched an HBO special on his phone during a long drive, while he was driving. Won’t be getting in the car with him anytime soon.)
Even so, I’m starting to worry about myself. Yesterday, I must have checked my phone 20 times while watching Pulp Fiction. It’s a long movie, sure, but come on. I feel like the golden retriever from Up: I will be doing something, focusing intently, when – SQUIRREL.
I bet I could get a lot more accomplished if I devoted all my attention to just one thing at a time, and everything I did accomplish would turn out better. Once I started thinking about this, I came up with some easy strategies for work and home that might get me back on track.
- Have no more than two tabs open in Firefox at one time. One at a time is obviously best, but sometimes you need an extra. This rule should keep me from having Gmail open all day, which leads to immediately reading new email and some unnecessary GChat conversations.
- Keep my phone more than an arm’s reach away. My Droid has a little green light that blinks when I have a new email. I can see this out of the corner of my eye if the phone is nearby, and I always check to make the light stop blinking. If I can’t see my phone, this won’t be a problem.
- Set my work email to “Work Offline” when I want to focus on something.
- Take breaks to check all the sites I am now not checking regularly because I am focused. Hey, I can’t be totally productive for eight hours straight.
- Keep my computer at my dining room table and only use it there. Laptops make sitting in the recliner and watching TV while surfing the internet much too easy.
- But don’t use the computer – or do anything else – while eating. I’d snack a lot less if I couldn’t sit in front of a screen while doing it.
- Again, keep the phone farther away. I can pick it up if it makes a noise, but do I really need to be checking Facebook and Twitter several times an hour? No.
I used some of these tactics at work today, and I completed five research requests (all that I had this far for the week! the whole week!), fulfilled all my image orders, and got some pages for the latest launch handbook designed, among other things.
Dang! Let’s see if I can keep this up.