I get distracted easily. If a website takes a few seconds too long to load, I have already opened Facebook or Twitter on another tab. And the next fifteen minutes have disappeared into the endless news feed slot machine, before I realise I was supposed to be doing something else. (1)
I am also a pathological procrastinator. I get stuck in a loop where I first check email, then Slack, then calendar, then Evernote, and round it goes to email again. Evernote houses the things I should be doing, but to actually get started with them requires concentration. And if I could concentrate, I would not have been sucked into the loop in the first place.
Luckily I have found the closest thing to a solution so far. It struck me a few months ago as I was taking a walk outside. The key is to have intent, a purpose for the action. Stopping yourself in the middle of whatever you are doing and asking: “What is your intent?”
I am not saying you should stop using Facebook, and I certainly spend my fair share of time on Twitter. But whenever you use those services, ask yourself that question. Is there a purpose for checking them at the moment, or are you just escaping from whatever it is you should be doing? Are you resisting something?
This question can also be used outside work context. Have you ever seen someone channel-surf with intent? Probably not. It’s another kind of loop. You feel like you should be doing something else, but are lacking the energy or interest for it, so the loop draws you in. But if that is the case, then why not intentionally do something relaxing and enjoyable, instead of just procrastinating and feeling the worse for it?
Go outside. Play some games. Watch your favourite show.
We are not machines. Our energy level and mental capacity fluctuates. Trying to act like a machine does no good.
1) You should really read this article: How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds – from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. It’s superb.