Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Detox Time – Why Wait Till Jan. 1?
You see a new e-mail arriving at your virtual doorstep and you can’t resist opening it. You never know. Could be important, right? Your smart phone beeps and, as Pavlov would have loved to see it, you automatically check your latest text message, outperforming any well-trained animal and enjoying (are you really?) the instant gratification known as being connected, responding instantly, being seen, or whatever the gratification seems to be. You respond without giving it any serious thought as to what would be the wise, the efficient thing to do for you. Or you give it a thought and decide otherwise. That darn urge.
What do the so-called experts tell us? Efficiency and productivity experts seem to agree on at least this: Do not switch from A to X to L and then back to A again. It doesn’t make you faster or smarter and it certainly doesn’t make you more efficient or productive. Focus, full and undivided attention, and smart scheduling is what’s being preached. So what are you going to stop doing? What are you going to give your undivided attention and time? What is on your “To prevent and ignore” list? How are you going to let go of the interference?No lists with tips here, I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s up to you – it’s what works best for you. Because, the other side of the story, the opposite perspective of eliminating and (re)focusing is that for some people it’s not intoxicating or poisonous to be checking and switching. For some people it really works to check some tweets while working on a challenging task (still, switching constantly probably wouldn’t work for them either). For some people it helps to move from that delicate report they’re writing to a news article. It takes their mind off the roadblock they’re facing and it clears their thinking, even if they switch more than once. Reading some tweets and articles can provide you with new stimuli and perspectives – perspectives you might not have had access to if you had not taken that side road to twitter or Harvard Business Review’s website just to name two.
So am I for or against distractions and switching? Neither. I think there are two main questions to be asked:
1. When is it beneficial to distract myself and when is it not?
2. Which are usually my motivations to allow distraction and switching to take place?
Denial, procrastination, and response-pressure do not seem to qualify for great motivations - renewing and looking for fresh perspectives do. Hence I ask myself: Am I procrastinating a dull task? Am I fleeing from a difficult situation or am I reloading my energy and seeking new eyes with which to look at what’s at hand?So my resolution for right now (why wait another 13 or so days?): honest self-reflection regarding my habits, my motivations and my level of efficiency. Different days and moods might well lead to different conclusions. As long as it is within my awareness and under my control, I will be on the path to detox.