The Distraction of Our Digital Age
We recently posted a quote from Seth Godin on the wall in our lunch room at the office. This quote rings true, I believe, because we live in a society of great distraction.
“A big part of doing your work is defending your time and your attention, so you can do your work.”
Why is our age more distracted than others before us? I’m guessing the first thing that comes to mind is something related to smartphones or iPads or technology. Am I right? Ever look around in a waiting room, at a coffee shop, or even while sitting at a stoplight?
I recently sat in a conference room with the general manager of an international company, and I couldn’t carry on a significant conversation with him because his phone was simply more important, than whatever we had to discuss. I understand that I am a pretty laid back guy and my jokes are, as my children say “dad jokes”, but I really believe I would have had to light a small fire on the conference room table to keep his attention.
It’s not all about work. This goes for relationships and families too. Rewind things in your mind to just about 5 years ago, or maybe a little more for some people. We had this thing called conversation. Yes, that is where you actually talk to those that you know, or maybe even converse with a stranger in a waiting room and meet someone new. Maybe there is no one to talk to, but even then, it does not hurt to just meditate, pray, or give your mind a chance to think through things without additional stimulation.
Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy my technology, and I struggle with this too. I am a very focused person, and if I am on my iPad, I often tune everything out. I guess that is why I am bringing this topic to the table. I struggle with the distraction of technology, as much as anyone else. I have a few things I am trying to do to cut down on the encroachment of technology in my life. So here they are.
5 Ways to Cut Out the Digital Clutter
CREATE TECHNOLOGY FREE ZONES
This is strictly a discipline. It is a rule at our house that technology is not allowed at the dinner table. Before there were cell phones, we would not even answer the land line, if we were all at the table. As my older children got cell phones, this got more difficult, but it became a rule that they could not use them at the dinner table. We even have text-free vacations, much to their dismay and protest. I’m finding that I have to impose the same rules on myself. I have to admit, I’m not always that good at it. Technology only for note-taking in meetings, not for email reading. No looking at that iPad or phone during a person to person conversation.
ALWAYS PUT PEOPLE FIRST
This goes back to my conference room example. It is my firm belief that the people directly in front of me, in person are so important that I should never let the digital distraction take over. For some crazy reason, in spite of this conviction, it is a tough thing to do, and I don’t always succeed. What if those beeps and alarms are important? What if there is news of a new lead or deal in that email? Focus on that important person right in front of you and save the digital for later.
TURN OFF THOSE NOTIFICATIONS
This just plain goes back to good time management. You don’t want to be distracted for every email, every news feed update, and every fluctuation in your investment portfolio. Reserve time to check on these things at appropriate intervals and turn off some of those alarms. Help those who may need to reach you urgently know how to reach you in such an instance and train them not to expect immediate response to every type of communication.
READ A PAPER BOOK
I have been trying to do this, and when I succeed, it offers some good time to just wind down. Many of us look at a computer screen of some kind all day long. Setting the electronics and the TV aside and focusing on something without a backlight, alarm, or flashing thingy in the corner can offer a real opportunity to just relax.
LEAVE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND
If you don’t have the technology with you, it is not a temptation. Consider leaving your phone behind when you go to that important meeting. Or, maybe leave your phone and iPad in another room after you get home from work. If you don’t have it, it won’t be a temptation. Yes, withdrawal symptoms may occur… that feeling that your phone is vibrating when it isn’t even in your pocket. “The reach” where you extend your hand toward that device that isn’t even there. Really, it will be okay.
There is another quote from an unknown source that I find particularly appropriate, and maybe even convicting.
“You make time for what is important to you.”
Wait… uhhh… I have to go… that alarm… might just be important…
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.