I’m working on this post, but I am also watching Mad Men on TV and looking at Facebook and reading email and drinking a cup of tea and eating some grapes.
I am distracted.
You’re distracted. Less than half of the people who are reading this sentence will finish the entire post. And this isn’t a very long or complex article.
I wrote earlier about how I was told by the abbot at a Zen monastery where I studied for a short time that I have “monkey mind.” My thoughts jump about like a monkey in a tree.
My reading habits are also distracted. I start a lot of books and articles all at once. I finish about two-thirds of them. I skim. I skip.
I was reading The Distraction Addiction. (It’s full title, like too many books these days, has a long subtitle – “Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul”).
We have all read or heard news stories about how many of us spend too much time on out mobile devices and the Internet and also about people trying to have a “Digital Sabbath” away from the tech.
Scientists have been studying “switch-tasking” which is described as trying to do two similar but unconnected things at once. There are lots of examples: me typing this and watching TV; texting and driving. That is not the same thing as multitasking. In switch-tasking you are more likely to make mistakes. You are more likely to overlook things. Multitasking is doing several tasks that are related simultaneously – watching a video and taking notes as you watch. Or doing two tasks that do not detract from each other – listening to music while running.
In The Distraction Addiction, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is pushing less for putting the tech aside and more for us to convert switch-tasking to productive multitasking. He calls this “contemplative computing” – an effort to use information technologies in ways that help you focus and be more creative, not fractured and distracted.
Mindfulness is something I pursue despite all distractions that pull my attention. It’s not a riddle to be mindful to the lack of mindfulness in our lives.