Despite many attempts over the last few years of my life it seems like I’m more easily distracted. With growing reliance on my cell phone and email (and my email on my cell phone), it seems I have less and less moments where I’m really alone with my thoughts. Despite being aware of it, I generally respond immediately to the buzz of my Blackberry. My gmail is open literally all day, even though I am well aware that email is the ultimate distraction. Actually email may be my ultimate addiction. I love my google reader. I love my twitter. Basically, I’m overstimulated. Way overstimulated, to the point where I don’t really feel like anything I work on gets the time and attention it deserves.
I found this great blog post over at Information Arbitrage where he talks about the same thing (I feel the same way, except for the wife / kids part, I’m not quite there yet…):
If there is one thing I am, it’s overstimulated. Too many activities. Too many obligations. Too many e-mail. Too many social networks. Huge emphasis on my wife and two boys; coaching, playing, living, loving. Which leaves time for – recovery, maybe. Something has got to give. I love to read; I don’t read enough. I love to write; I don’t write enough. I love art; I don’t see enough of that, either. I love meeting interesting people; I do some of that but would enjoy spending more time with really cool people I can learn from. Bottom line: my attention is very broadly scattered and I hold it all together (most of the time), but I feel like I should be happier and more satisfied given my tremendous effort in all areas.
This, especially in tech savvy crowd, is very common. I realized yesterday in my computer / email sabbath that during the week, I have less than 10 minutes a day in silence (and this 10 minutes is HARD..I’m working on it Jerry). The rest of the time my brain is flooded with information. Constantly. WSJ, phone calls, blogs, phone calls, twitters, IM’s, occasional meetings, the occasional book and emails. Lots and lots of emails. Does any of this stuff actually do anything to improve my life, to move me closer to my life’s goals? It don’t think so. So how can get my brain / thoughts back?
I tried being more organized with my tasks and time. I struggled. I felt like my todo list was more a running tally of stuff I thought I needed to do a few days ago. I tried the GTD system hoping for that zen like state of productivity and concentration, but realized that adding more systems to my life only meant more distractions. I am still very reactive in my days. Yes I set out with goals for each day, but unfortunately my email flow dictates what needs to be done most of the time. I can’t help but react to the buzz of a new message. Living this way (for me at least) seems to be the equivalent of running on the treadmill. It burns my energy, it wears me down, but at the end of the day I didn’t get too far.
I need to make some changes. I need to limit the email flow. I need to set aside time, at least a little time each day, where I am allowed to just think (walking the dog is the perfect time for this). I need to limit my google reader and twitter exposure to certain times of the day. Bottom line: I need to set some boundaries for these many distractions. I need to set my brain free again. After my break yesterday, where my brain felt so clear, I know it is the right thing to do. Perhaps the real secret to success in the information era is not to gather the most information, but to know how to shut it off.
(this post even felt scattered…sorry about that)