While traveling this week, I read a few very good pieces on our epidemic of distraction:
- “The Binge Breaker” is The Atlantic profile of Tristan Harris, co-founder of Time Well Spent.
- “The Perils of Peak Attention,” a review of The Attention Merchants and The Four-Dimensional Human at The New Republic.
- “Don’t Look Now! How Your Devices Hurt Your Productivity”
I highly recommend these pieces, which helped me to identify some experiments for dealing with distraction. Among the strategies I’ll try:
- Minimizing and sequestering “black hole” apps that suck users in with one task and then hold their attention for a long time afterward with any number of unrelated distractions (see FB, Twitter, etc.) Tonight I completely eliminated email and social media from my phone. I also deleted every multi-purpose, “black hole” app – the kind that, after I open them for one purpose, hold my attention with various other tasks and distractions. Pretty much every app left on my phone is single-use, highly utilitarian, and very boring. No black holes left (except the web browser, which can’t be deleted). This should keep me less distracted when out and about with friends and family.
- Dividing labor among devices. Using the phone for voice and video calls, texts, calendaring, and single-purpose utilities, especially when out and about. Using email, social media, and web on a tablet that, unlike my phone, doesn’t go everywhere I do. Trying to avoid email, social media, and other time-sucks on my laptop in order to avoid distractions while writing (this will be the hard part, but I have some ides about how to do it).
- Using only one device at a time (e.g., when I’m writing, keeping the tablet or phone at some physical distance and/or turned off; when I’m out with friends and family, taking only the phone).
We’ll see if this experiment works. Seems to me it’s worth a try.