Distracted Much?

by Deb Andrychuk

14 September, 2012

Someone shared a blog post with me recently where the author, Joe Kraus, talks about how we are creating a culture of distraction: he says we have created an environment where we have become increasingly disconnected from the people around us and unable to engage in creative long form thinking all due to overuse of technology. He laments our loss of ability to truly interact with people and develop real relationships and how we are further diminishing our ability to think creatively because we are filling our down time with texts, tweets and emails and other tech related interruptions. For example, instead of waiting in a line at the bank and spending five minutes letting our minds wander and having time for our long form creative thinking to kick in, we immediately look to our phone to stimulate us, to fill the gap while we wait. Have you ever glanced at the car next to you while stopped at a red light? Look around, and you will see everyone is head down, intently focused on their smart phones, and terrifyingly disengaged with what’s happening around them. It’s no surprise to me that there were 100,000 accidents last year involving texts according to the National Safety Council. Frankly, I am shocked the number isn’t much, much higher.

Do you get your best ideas in the shower? If you do it’s because it’s probably the only place where you haven’t implemented technology to divert you. Just think how creative and productive you would be if you weren’t getting pinged every 2 minutes on email. Or, how much more relaxed would you be? What could you accomplish if your mind was able to meander quietly a few times a day?

In addition to the negative consequences already mentioned, this unhealthy over stimulation of the brain is also causing us undue anxiety. The constant need to send that pay off signal to the brain when receiving emails and texts is comparable to the feeling we get when we are playing a slot machine. I’m sure all the hard core gamblers are thinking this could be okay, but seriously, it’s not good for you! We need to change!

My commitment to myself is that I am going to put forth extra effort to be less distracted, more present in social situations with clients, friends and especially family.
Here’s my personal plan to be more engaged, less stressed and “wired up”:

  1. Sunday will be a Tech Free Day. On Sunday’s, I will be strive to be 100% present with my family. No technology allowed at all. This will be very difficult for me as I love to “check in” on Foursquare, scan Twitter and Facebook and am constantly reading texts.
  2. During the week, especially in meetings, I am committed to not sneaking peeks at my smartphone emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. and focusing solely on what everyone is saying right in front of me and being the best listener I can possibly be. Admittedly, if I am in a long meeting, I am dying to check my phone.
  3. When I need to focus on getting a project done, I will shut off my email for set periods of time. This will be a game changer for me.
  4. Despite the magnetic pull to do so, I will refuse to check my smartphone for texts/emails in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. I will at least save it for after that first cup of coffee.

So, I will let you know how this new way of living is working for me. I hope that you will give it a shot as well. I would love to hear what your experiences have been! We could all benefit from fewer distractions. It’s time to start living again…exchange words…listen to each other. Day dream. Be present. Enjoy life!!