The other day, as I was trying to finish up writing a piece, I found myself unable to resist the pull of my iPhone. It was late in the day, and I had just gotten off a series of calls. I only had a little bit more work to do on the piece, but it seemed to take forever.
After typing a few words, I’d find myself reaching for my phone.
I checked email, even though I had just spent time clearing out my inbox.
I suddenly remembered things I needed to look up. Google was right there. Might as well do it now.
I was curious about the news, so I scrolled through the stories Google laid out for me.
I opened ClassPass to review my options for that evening.
I pulled down on my lock screen to check the few notifications that I even allow to be in my notifications center.
All the things.
Although I stayed away from social media — I’ve been on another social media hiatus lately — I still fell into many of the traps I typically avoid — and that I teach others to avoid.
I’m human too 🙂
The Age of “Digital Distractions”
Concentration is difficult in an age of digital distractions.
How many times have you heard this?
This is a common rationale given for our tendency to fall prey to distractions.
It’s easy to blame digital and social media for the ease of distractions.
It’s a cop-out. It’s a rationalization, not a reason.
Digital devices are not the distraction. The distraction comes from within.
Then we choose how to feed it — or not.
Most of the time I’m able to write without pausing every two minutes to check my phone — even when it’s sitting next to me.
On that day, at that time, I wasn’t.
I immediately recognized the patterns: it was late in the day, at my low-energy time that is not my peak creative time. And I had just finished a few hours of calls. My brain really needed a break, and I was trying to override this by pushing through to get one more thing done.
The digital device was not the distraction; it was the tool I used to feed the distraction.
If I didn’t have a phone next to me, I would have found another source of distraction: a book, a magazine, a room to straighten up, something to organize, people to talk to, another workout.
The Trigger is Internal
The list of available distraction devices is endless. And it’s crucial to remember that they are not the cause of distraction.
The trigger is always internal.
Blaming the external devices — digital or otherwise — is an easy way to abdicate responsibility and avoid the work of self-inquiry and self-honesty.
We all succumb to distractions; it’s part of the human experience. The difference is in how we approach it.
Once we recognize that the distraction comes from within, we can turn our inquiry inward to understand what is driving our impulse to distraction.
We can then use this information to reveal patterns in what we need to do our best work.