CNET:-Why You Can't Pay Attention Any More

It's sort of like the normal version of attention deficit disorder. But it's a condition induced by modern life, in which you've become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving.

I'd say we are learning and trying to become better and this micro-switching, multi-threading process that is quite inefficient. I have been trying to achieve better focus by shutting down Twitter and Facebook and email when I am trying to write. IM is like the ultimate distraction, and Twitter is just like IM with lots of folks. So, if you want to get something done, TURN IT ALL OFF.

No one really multitasks. You just spend less time on any one thing.

"No one really multitasks. You just spend less time on any one thing. [yes, read it again, learn it, love it]

"When it looks like you're multitasking–you're looking at one TV screen and another TV screen and you're talking on the telephone – your attention has to shift from one to the other. You're brain literally can't multitask. You can't pay attention to two things simultaneously. You're switching back and forth between the two. So you're paying less concerted attention to either one.

"I think in general, why some people can do well at what they call multitasking is because the effort to do it is so stimulating. You get adrenaline pumping that helps focus your mind. What you're really doing is focusing better at brief spurts on each stimulus. So you don't get bored with either one."

And another great adrenaline producing dysfunction is procrastinating. By giving ourselves less time to complete a project we up the anxiety and thus can generate additional energy. The wrong kind of energy in my opinion, but I can't count the number of times I preferred an all-nighter to really dig into a project and get the creative wackiness flowing. The come down was a problem, but that 2am to 5am space was full of silence and great imaginings.

So in the GTD sense of things, figure out what you need to get done and turn off everything else while you do it. And if you find yourself procrastinating and not getting to the project, perhaps you should evaluate what you are gaining by reducing your available project development time. It might be that a 15 minute walk outside could get your creative juices flowing better than putting off the task. And then again there is always the magic 2 – 5 time slot.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

Sharing is nice for everyone.

5 Responses to It's Not ADD Mom, It's Attention Deficit Trait – I'm Learning To Be This Way

  1. Multitasking is definitely one of life's great false economies. Yet attention if we can really "attend" to things is something worth exploring but how much of it is following either the programmed scripts of our media choices or simply out of recency effects where we happen to have had exposure to a certain idea or thought simply because we happen to be doing whatever we happened to be doing.

    The question for me isn't what we attend, but how does it serve to enrich our three score and ten years of life. There is an adage that many people don't live a full life, but simply repeat the same year of their life over and over in a groundhog year rather than groundhog day sort of way. That isn't surprising if we recognize how predictable we really are and how routine our lives become.

    Attention then isn't just a pathway to get us fixed on our goals so we can attend to all that which will lead us to a life of success, but there is this other form of attention which might (I guess) just lead us to a life of originality. An original existence means not being a clone of someone, not following for the sake of following, changing our flow and attention so we add some diversity and variety to our routine life.

    What makes the whole focus of attention deficit interesting is that we as a society are so focused on life as a diseased state. The imperial age of Europeans have definitely cut their mark on how we think in the 21st Century. Think Freud, Think Marx, Think Darwin etc etc. Lots of white European males whose philosophical basis is still the stuff of intellectual attention today and so much of it defines our own attention because more or less, an elite education IMHO would be remiss to base itself on the 21st Century cerebral condition.

    What this means is that while life as a disorder has its merits if disorder serves to mess a life up, there is so much about existence which is actually healthy in constitution but we seemingly ignore those parts where it seems sinful or at least superstitious to even think of it. The way I look at attention deficit is that those who are "blessed" with this way of thinking (and it is a way of thinking) then it is a case of figuring out what to do with "attention multiplication"?

    The opposite frame for attention deficit is superfocus. ADD people are superfocused i.e. if they love what they are doing, they will do way more of it and if they don't love what they do, they won't do it, won't even think of it. Now I can see how the latter state can get in the way in terms of the success criterion our society has, but if one is lucky or fortunate enough to "do what they love" – man, what a condition to operate with.

    Then it isn't a case of attention deficit but "attention multiplication order" i.e. trying to figure out whether there is a new way to order all this excess of attentional energy with productive rather than counteractive or disastrous results. Why should I take ritalin to conform to the commercial life? For sure I have to lower my expectations but in moving from a mindset that is focused on disorder, to a mindset that wants to explore order, then surely the net result is to create a life that is more original than most. Then the question is how to put such a life to excellent and/or worthy purpose.

    What is then the central purpose of life other than that it is our own life and we either develop the brains to know ourselves, or we mess up because we never had the capacity to be original or creative in the first place. Yet if we really comfortable living in our own skins and our doctor informs us after each of our medicals – a clean bill of health. Then attention has a simple purpose – to live one's life well.

    [Em]

  2. Jack Leblond says:

    I'm finding more often that I'll look up from 10 minutes of Twitter to discover 2 hours have passed and my 'multi-tasking' intentions have instead turned into 'twitter-tasking'. I do need to shut down the distractions more, put on the baroque tunes and concentrate harder.

  3. Jack Leblond says:

    I'm finding more often that I'll look up from 10 minutes of Twitter to discover 2 hours have passed and my 'multi-tasking' intentions have instead turned into 'twitter-tasking'. I do need to shut down the distractions more, put on the baroque tunes and concentrate harder.

  4. Jack Leblond says:

    I'm finding more often that I'll look from 10 minutes of Twitter to discover 2 hours have passed and my 'mult-tasking' intentions have turned instead into 'twitter-tasking'. I do need to shut down the distractions more, put on the baroque tunes and concentrate harder.

  5. Jack Leblond says:

    I'm finding more often that I'll look from 10 minutes of Twitter to discover 2 hours have passed and my 'mult-tasking' intentions have turned instead into 'twitter-tasking'. I do need to shut down the distractions more, put on the baroque tunes and concentrate harder.

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