We’ve talked about it here before, specifically in terms of me craving it. I can’t help it, you know? My brain doesn’t like to focus. Even when I’m working on something I’m excited about, it’s irresistably tempting to click over to Facebook every five minutes (no exaggeration), or to answer the ping of the e-mail notification just in case it’s a message that will grant me a hit of some feel-good brain chemical, or perhaps give me a novel (ha) distraction.
It’s not just a will-power issue, either. People joke about internet and social media addiction, but it’s not far off. I get anxious and irritable when I’m disconnected, even though I know on a rational level that I’m missing absolutely nothing of consequence.
Seriously, the pictures of my mom’s kitten can wait. He’s adorable… but will still be adorable after I finish working.
But even though giving in to temptation isn’t rewarding 99% of the time, I keep doing it, like it’s a compulsion. An addiction. I scroll through Facebook posts I’ve seen three times already, waiting to see whether something new will pop up. I read Cracked articles that are interesting or amusing, but make absolutely no difference to me in any practical way. My life is not better for looking.
It’s all distraction.
Well, I’m done complaining about it.
This morning I picked up a book called The Distraction Addiction [insert REALLY long subtitle here], by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. $14.99, more than I’ve ever spent on an e-book before, but as of 50% through the book, I think it was money well-spent.
It talks about a lot of things, in a semi-Gladwellian tone: Multitasking (good) vs. stitch-tasking (not at all good), the ways technology shapes culture, mindfulness, meditation, using technology instead of being used by it…
…and Monkey Brain.
From the introduction, emphasis mine:
The monkey mind’s constant activity reflects a deep restlessness: monkeys can’t sit still because their minds never stop. Likewise, most of the time, the human mind delivers up a constant stream of consciousness. Even in quiet moments, minds are prone to wandering. Add a constant buzz of electronics, the flash of a new message landing in your in-box, the ping of voicemail, and your mind is as manic as a monkey after a triple espresso. The monkey mind is attracted to today’s infinite and ever-changing buffet of information choices and devices. It thrives on overload, is drawn to shiny and blinky things, and doesn’t distinguish between good and bad technologies or choices.
Sound like anyone you know? Not a flattering comparison, but an unfortunately accurate one for me.
So as I read, I’m making some decisions. I want to chill my monkey brain. I want to use social media as a tool, not let it capture more of my attention than is healthy.
I want to change the way my mind works, not just fight distraction.
I want to use e-mail as a way to communicate with people who are important to me, not as a means to be fed more distractions.
I want Facebook to allow me to catch up with everyone… maybe twice a day, not every five minutes or when I’m in line at the grocery store.
I want to focus on my work for hours at a time, not in ten-minute bursts.
It’s not going to be easy, but here’s the plan as I see it so far:
- Remove Facebook app from my phone. I can still access it via the internet, but it’ll be a little more difficult, and I’ll have time to think about why I’m looking. (Also, I can access my pages here and messages without a separate app. HA.)
- Turn off the WiFi when I’m working.
- I’m going to *deep breaths* not check e-mails until lunch time, giving me a chance to work without being side-tracked before I even get started. And no Facebook before getting out of bed.
- Turn off e-mail and WordPress notifications on my phone. I’ll respond to them, but on my time, not my phone’s.
- Get up early every day and try meditation. I expect I’ll be horrible at it, but it sounds like even a little practice at it really helps calm the need for distraction and helps with focus on practical and creative tasks. Ding ding! Just what I need, and this might be the key to the whole problem. And wasn’t mindfulness one of my goals for this round of ROW80? Hmm.
- Stop carrying the phone around the house with me.
- Stop notifications on Facebook groups that are just distracting me or (occasionally) stressing me out.
- Put the phone/computer away when I’m with my family… and take a full break from the internet on Sundays.
- And… okay, this might take a while. I’m going to break my habit of checking for reviews on Amazon, and I’m going to not check sales numbers every day. I’m turning my focus back on the work, on bringing my visions to life and putting my stories out in the best way I can, and I’m going to try to let go of the world’s reactions to it.
Whew. That’s going to be rough.
That’s not to say I don’t care whether readers are happy. I do, and I love it when readers are happy. It’s kind of why I publish, and why I do silly things like having an editor. But I don’t think basing my mood or my self-esteem on how people feel about my work (a thing that is not me) is healthy. Sure, good reviews make me feel good, but I can’t accept that boost without also allowing bad ones to make me feel crappy. I’d rather have good feelings come from flow, from focusing on something challenging and overcoming those challenges, from creating something worthwhile and beautiful, and then letting it go.
And also, it’s just another distraction from my actual work and life.
Know what this means for you guys? Nothing, unless you care to join me.
Okay, that’s a lie. It might mean a few, hopefully interesting posts here on how things are going with this. It might mean less angst from me over not being able to focus for crap (YAY!).
It will mean that when you e-mail me with a question, or comment on a post here, or say something wicked on my Facebook page (I do love when you do those things), that it might be a few hours before I respond.
And I hope (God willing) that it will make me a happier, less-distracted, more productive person. I hope it will mean better blog posts and better stories for you all. I hope it will mean a nicer, more focused mom for my kids, and my husband getting a wife whose mind is actually in the same room as him.
Because I’m going to be the boss of my technological extensions*, not the other way around.
Let the experiment begin.
*You’ll have to read the book for more on that.