Wick Communications

Driven to distraction

In Writing techniques on August 4, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 4.09.29 PM

“I’m addicted to my smartphone.”

In a compelling presentation before the Stanford Graduate School of Business, MBA student Desiree Peill confesses that she used an app to track her cellphone usage and was appalled to learn that she unlocks the thing 130 times a day – every seven minutes over the course of her waking day. Think you are different? Research indicates that the average working American checks the cellphone 120 times a day.

“Our phone is like a slot machine,” she says. “We never know what new reward awaits us. And the result is that we lose our focus.”

We have been sold a bill of goods about “multitasking.” Friends, I am here to tell you that no such thing exists. What you mean when you say you are multitasking is that you are serially focused on several things for short bursts of time. You work on your story for 3 minutes, 23 seconds. The phone rings. You talk for 41 seconds. You look at your story again for 1 minute, 2 seconds. The sportswriter wants to ask you about the Little League tournament. That takes 6 minutes, 52 seconds.  You take in all that stimuli, but are you producing anything worthwhile over that time?

Peill, who by the way is a German journalist who went to work as a management consultant for McKinsey and Co., says this sort of thing precludes her best work

“At work,” she says, “I am present, but absent.” …

Peill suggests a novel concept she calls “deep work.” She says that truly focusing on one thing for a prolonged period of time (which, let’s face it, could be as short as a couple hours) results in increased productivity, improved quality and a sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship.

It works. What’s more, it can feel like an indulgence, which is it’s own reward in our fast-paced world. Last week, I put music on my earbuds and announced that I was tuning out for a bit. I used the morning to work on a long story. The result was my fulfilling work this year. It’s just one example. It’s not scientific, but I bet you know in your soul that turning off the distractions will improve the quality of your work.

Try it yourself. Carve out some time away from your distraction device, email and other things that separate you from your best work.

Clay

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