Life In The Time Of Distraction

by

Ding. Push. Buzz.
Click. Swipe. Fetch.

We used to have to just keep up with the Joneses. But since the advent of the Internet, it’s the Smiths, the Andersons, the Sasakis, the Garcias. It’s work, it’s play, it’s passions, it’s purpose, it’s people, it’s potential. It’s newsletters, it’s go getters, it’s unfettered. At work, at rest, in-person and online, in bed, and in line. We need insight for the in crowd. We have to be up-to-date and top of mind. We have to know all the things we don’t know yet.

The Internet shows you what is possible but in the same breath, shows you how inadequate you currently are.

I shoot good videos but not as good as him.
I write pretty well, but not as good as her.
I earn a lot, but not as much as them.
I have a good life, but I don’t have that.

We post photos, send status updates, and go dumpster diving for likes, not just due to the fear of missing out but the fear of being left behind.

Happiness is so outdated.

It’s now: life, liberty and the pursuit of relevance.

Relevance is defined as: Pertinent. Connected with the matter at hand.

The million dollar question we’re all struggling with is, what in the hell is the matter at hand?

Right now our individual relevance is a dwindling amount of butter searching for the edges of an ever-growing piece of on-line toast.

Sustainable or healthy, this is not.

 

The Truth About How Not In Control We Are

We often feel dejected not because we haven’t launched our own startup, changed jobs, or written book, but because we can’t focus on one internally significant thing for 30 friggin minutes.

We might all have will, but it certainly isn’t free. Every time we go to look for it, it’s locked up, watching a TED Talk or scrolling through Instagram somewhere.

We suffer from an illusion that once we really want to do something, we can. Unfortunately, our brains have been hijacked by our phones.

Smartphones have destroyed a generation.

Parents aren’t “parenting” anymore.

And our splintered attention is being sold for profit.

To avoid overdosing on digital opiods and becoming part of “The Great Numbing,” we must take back ownership of our own lives.

Here are four ways to fight back.

 

Turn Off Your Push Notifications. All Of Them.

No, seriously.

You can’t play chess in a den of whack-a-moles. And you can’t trust yourself either

Ari Meisel, a friend of mine and founder of Leverage, told me, “Your cell phone isn’t a way for the world to get in contact with you, it’s a way for you to stay in contact with the world.” It might not sound like much of a difference but it all comes down to control.

 

Bathe In Task Bubbles

Now that you’re not being interrupted by the inconsequential, it’s time to go one step deeper. Recently Adam Grant interviewed Christopher Nolan and one thing stood out. You know what Christopher Nolan doesn’t allow on his movie sets? Cell phones. “Phones have become a huge distraction, and people work much better without them. At first it causes difficulty, but it really allows them to concentrate on what they’re doing. Everybody understands. I’ve had a lot of crews thank me. With a set, we’re trying to create a bubble of alternate reality.”

Enter the idea of “task bubbles,” a term coined by Nancy Rothbard. Uninterrupted periods of time. Through the years, I’ve called them “focus sessions,” but “bubbles” is a cooler word and her term is one syllable shorter.

Your focused time must be sacrosanct, so while you’re turning off your push notifications, practice short-term periods of “airplane mode” too.

That which is focused on becomes relevant.

 

Build Something You Can Point At

The difference between the relevance of keeping up with the world and the relevance of contributing to the world is the difference between a shooting star and a glowing star.

This thing you create doesn’t need to unlock the keys to alternative energy, it can just be a thing that pushes your life experience and hopefully some of those around you forward. No matter how small.

Be relevant because of creation, not sensation.

 

Chill Out

It sounds like what i’m saying is all about productivity and success, but really it’s about getting personal significance back. And that can’t happen without balance. For all that is sacred, we can stop “crushing it” now. Find some quiet moments and let them stay quiet. That in itself is significant. Guilty chilling (“guilling”?) is when you say you’re relaxing but you’re actually on your phone comparing yourself to someone’s filtered photo, or about page.

Don’t insult the chill.

Friends. Games. Hanging out. Fiction books. Bike rides. Walks. Naps. We need these things. It helps us build bonds, reflect and recharge.

Don’t worry about the Joneses. They’re not worried about you.

If we don’t define our own relevancy and what we actually care about, the world will do it for us, one swipe, click, ding, buzz at a time.

Don’t let your accomplishments & self-esteem decompose in the silt at the bottom of a news feed.

  • I love all four of these encouragements. Turning off most of notifications (and that damn indicator light) a couple years ago was one of the best things I’ve done on my phone.

    I’m curious, what is your take on creating a task bubble when your work relies on access, like when you are building software?

    • bassamtarazi

      Awesome, Aaron. And sorry for the delay on this. To build software, there are still moments when you have to get something done on your own without any input, right? When you say “access,” do you mean the ability to connect, receive feedback and the like? Email me more details if you think it doesn’t fit the forum