We live in curious times. It’s called the Age of Information.
We’ve come into this Age without being aware that it was happening, or realizing its consequences. Sure, we knew that the Internet was proliferating, and we were excited about that.
The opportunities offered by this online world are a really good thing. However, with the constant distractions, the increasingly urgent pull on our attention, the stress of multitasking at an ever-finer granular level, the erosion of our free time and our ability to live with a modicum of peace, we could also call this period of time the Age of Overwhelm and the Age of Distraction.
… perhaps we didn’t realize how much this would change our lives.
While humanity has never been free of distraction — from swatting those bothersome gnats around the fireplace to dealing with piles of paper mail and ringing telephones — never have the distractions been so voluminous, so overwhelming, so intense, so persistent as they are now.
More and more, we are connected, up to our necks in the stream of information, the crossfire of the battle for our attention, and engaged in a harrying blur of multitasking activity.
There’s the addicting lure of the web browser, which contains not only an endless amount of reading material that can be a black hole into which we never escape, but unlimited opportunities for shopping, for chatting with other people, for gossip and news and lurid photos and so much more.
All the while, several new emails have come in, waiting for a quick response. Several programs are open at once, each of them with tasks to complete. Several people would like to chat, dividing our attention even further.
And that’s just in front of us.
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
From the sides come a ringing desk phone, a ringing mobile device, music from several different co-workers, a colleague coming to our desk asking a question, incoming papers needing attention, other papers scattered across our desks, someone calling a meeting, another offering up food.
With so much competing for our attention, and so little time to focus on real work, it’s a wonder we get anything done at all.
We have the mobile device, with incoming text and email messages, all needing a reply, with incoming calls that can’t be ignored. We have reading material, either in paper form or on the mobile device, to keep our attention occupied. We are bombarded from all sides by advertising, asking for not only attention but our desires.
Then, there’s the television constantly blaring, with 500 channels all asking for yet more attention, with 500,000 ads asking for yet more desires. The home computer, asking us to do more work, sending us more messages, more distractions, social networks and shopping and reading. There are kids or spouses or roommates or friends, there’s the home phone, and still the mobile device is going off.
This is unprecedented, and it’s alarming.
I think, with so many things asking for our attention, it’s time we paid attention to this. In this new glorious year, with new dreams and new goals, how do we manage all of this distraction and add more to our “to-do” lists?
Taking a deep breath with you….