Numerous PSAs inform us that distracted driving is bad, something we all know, yet continue to practice. It’s hard for us to sit through even a half-hour TV show without checking our phones numerous times. The embarrassingly messed up Best Picture Award announcement at the 2017 Academy Awards was blamed on an accountant distracted by a tweet. Children whose parents pay more attention to their mobile phones are acting out to get the attention they need. We’re failing at paying attention in ways that are inevitably making our lives worse.
Too many of us believe in the fallacy that multitasking makes us more productive and effective. We know better, but we’ve all become experts at distracting ourselves. It’s hard to sit quietly and wait for an appointment, accompanied by nothing but our own thoughts, without checking our phones. When I’m on a deadline, or working on a client or writing project I do manage to shut everything else out. I need to. I know that the results are far better when my total attention is focused. I don’t take calls or look at texts; I don’t stop to check social media sites. I just write. Sometimes I even disconnect from wifi so I’m not tempted to take a little break. It works.
Over the weekend, there was a popup, sudden, severe storm that caused a power surge at my home. The modem failed and since Saturday, our home has been internet-free while we wait for the replacement to be shipped and installed.
It’s been surprisingly freeing.
Work has happened just in the office or at meetings. Entertainment is in interaction with one another or reading books. It’s so tempting to continue internet-free at home for longer, to see if we can resume better habits of paying attention, of focusing on one another or on the tasks at hand. I keep seeing evidence of distraction hurting people around me. I think it’s important to take stock of how distracted we are, and how much we’re allowing distraction to happen, before we lose what matters to us.