How often do we get distracted
Whenever I'm confused, I double-check my email twice as usual. I never thought that such behavior is typical for addicts of external stimulation. But once I wanted to calculate how many times a day I look in the mail. The result was amazing: during the day I opened the mailbox fifty-two times. What did I look for there? Mostly I tried to escape from routine duties, but at the same time part of my being was eager to receive an unusual message.
I don’t know if I, in my drug addiction, reached the level of an average American office manager who (according to some studies) looks in his mailbox every fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, I am so used to being distracted that I constantly feel guilty about the unfinished part of the work. This distraction haunts me. Once I asked a friend to calculate how many times I would be distracted from reading a book. He said that while reading Alan Hollinghurst’s novel, I was distracted six times per page. The questions that interested me at the same time - what I would cook for dinner today, who was that woman in Fargo, what else should I read - obviously could wait. I wonder what feats I would be capable of, if not for constant thoughts about what else should I do? How could I have been happy life if I had not hoped that the postman would bring me a new, extraordinary life?
Is the luxury of free time available to uswithout which thoughtful reading is unthinkable? Especially today, when there is so little attention even to watching videos about cats
I think in childhood my brain was less prone to distractions than it is now. I noticed: it has become much more difficult for me to focus on one book, one thing. Who was that boy who, in one sitting, sitting in the living room of his parents' house, swallowed Jurassic Park? Where is the teenager who has read Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations novel and remembered every word from the Sunset Boulevard script during a short sea voyage? And who is this carelessly dressed nondescript man of about forty, who five times tried to start reading “War and Peace”, but never moved further than the hallway? This morning, I picked up a volume of Tolstoy and frowned. Is the bookmark still on the fiftieth page?
Is the luxury of free time available to us without which thoughtful reading is unthinkable? Especially today, when there is so little attention even to watching videos about cats.
Trial by Tolstoy
In his essay, Roger Ebert writes that he firmly decided to force himself to read what his brain required, what he needed. He prescribed a healthy literary diet for himself (and found a room in the house where there was no access to the Network) and "felt that peace reigned in the soul. Vanity and rush disappeared." “I stopped twitching,” he admits. “I stopped reading the news lines, stopped turning over the Internet and responding to tweets. I read ... I guess I managed to reconfigure my brain, return it to the old track.”
I thought that I could do the same and maybe I could, as Seneca said, "strengthen my brain with hot and unceasing care." I compiled a list of responsibilities (professional and personal) and began to strictly adhere to it, without going to extremes. With this approach, moments of distraction from reality again appeared, and I could use them at any time at my discretion. I again got War and Peace off the shelf. A novel lies next to a computer. As I write these lines, he looks at me reproachfully, like a puppy hungry for affection. I open and close the book. Some black veil envelops me. It’s hard for me to do this. Why is it so hard for me?
At first it was not just difficult. It was a real torture. I tried to delve into the book, read the sentences and paragraphs several times. Every couple of pages I was distracted and looked in the mail, and then again dived into the rabbit hole. I do not want to belittle the merits of the book; I only emphasize the moral instability of modern readers. Reading does not contribute to the fact that the world has actively moved away from such activities. In the eyes of many, you look too elitist. Indeed, in “War and Peace” there are one thousand three hundred pages, and the novel weighs no less than a well-fed cat. Each of his thirty-four characters appears under three or four different (Russian) names. The aristocrats deduced in the novel speak almost exclusively French, which seems strange, because just at that time they fought with Napoleon. In my edition, the French passages were translated in small print in the footnotes, as if the translators (Pivert and Volokhonskaya) wanted to say: "Did you really want us to translate this for you too?" In addition, there are a lot of notes at the end of the book, which explain the meaning of obscure jokes and sayings. Therefore, I often had to look at the last pages and bend corners at the first, so as not to lose the place that I read. It is clear that the novel is a fruit of a culture in which there were much fewer video clips from YouTube than in ours.
The opinion of scientists
Douglas Gentil, a friend of mine at the University of Iowa, said in response to my complaints of distracting attention: “It’s the same with me. When I try to write an article, I can’t help but stop looking at the mail every five minutes. I I’m doing it, although I understand how it prevents me from working. " A particular nuisance for Gentil is that he is one of the world's leading experts on the influence of media on fragile young brains. The skate of the professor is a lack of attention. "I know! I know the results of all studies on multi-purpose tasks. I can tell you that everyone who screams about their abilities to solve several problems at the same time is wrong. We know that in fact, the one who imagines himself Caesar does the worst multipurpose tasks. "
The brain, contrary to a common misconception, is unsuitable for simultaneously solving several problems. Many of our problems are rooted in this. We are really capable of parallel information processing processes, for example, to combine visual and auditory data to obtain an adequate picture of the world around us. But attention itself is a point that highlights only one thing at any given moment. Thus, the simultaneous solution of many problems is a fundamentally erroneous concept. There is a quick switch from one small task to another. This is the execution of many tasks with instant application and weakening of efforts, but the simultaneous solution of a multi-purpose task, alas, is impossible.
The brain, contrary to a common misconception, is unsuitable for simultaneous solution of several tasks
It is hardly worth blaming yourself for the charm of the opportunities that the solution of multi-purpose tasks gives. The sharp narrowing of the field of view, which is required, say, for reading War and Peace, is very unnatural, while the stupid jumps on the Internet pages have some primitive appeal. This happens because the computer - like the television before it - affects the most basic function of the brain, called the orienting reaction. This reaction served our species excellently when it lived in the wild. If suddenly the side vision fixes the blackout on the left, you should definitely look there, because it may turn out to be the shadow of some creature that wants to eat you.
Having formed in a world full of dangerous surprises, we are programmed by nature to notice rapid changes. An indicative reaction is a constantly alarming alarm of the brain, and you can not brush it off. It is for this reason that a lecture given on the Internet (for example, within the TED community) captures more than if you listened to it while sitting in an audience. In the lecture hall you have to concentrate and hold attention with all your might.
Peter Bregman is the head of a consulting firm that teaches the CEO to fully utilize the potential of employees. In addition, he is the author of the book “18 minutes. How to increase concentration, stop being distracted and do really important things”, which contains valuable advice: allocate one minute from each hour of working time, as well as five minutes at the beginning and end of the working day, during which you need only one thing - to think about your intentions. Bregman says that he specially tuned his watch so that it beeps every hour, reminding: it is time to correct the course.
In addition to advising me to distract myself from business and consider my intentions, Bregman suggested that I limit my email viewing to three times a day, especially if the work does not move. “The worst thing is to rush back and forth,” Bregman said, repeating the words of scientists about multi-purpose tasks. “In addition, e-mail is one of the most ineffective ways of communication. Regarding the simultaneous solution of many problems, I can only repeat that this is impossible. You are just distracted. "
“It always seems to me that I'm missing the most important thing,” I admitted. "It is because of this fear that we lose several hours every day in vain." Fear is the most appropriate word to describe my emotional state. It is an eternal concern that I must certainly do something else (or that my life is going somewhere else). Bregman argues that people who can prevent fear achieve the greatest success in the business that he (Bregman) has been advising on all his life.
Everything happened without any violence. Actually, I myself did not notice how. Just as a dent forms on the sofa in the place where a person sleeps, so in my mind (soft and supple) a dent from “War and Peace” was formed. Moments of total weaning from the computer began to repeat more often, as did the time of complete immersion in the narrative.
A heroin addict needs about a week to get rid of the withdrawal. Of course, the degree of suffering in this case is not comparable, but to get rid of the manic addiction to computer distraction, requires remarkable patience. That was the case in my relations with Tolstoy. The periods during which I began to dispense with artificial digital distraction became longer and longer. Sitting on the couch, I stopped listening to the phone, I had an obsessive feeling that I needed to do something.
Yesterday I fell asleep on the couch, without having read several tens of pages of a great novel. I heard my phone buzzing. I felt e-mails falling into the mailbox, I saw the green eye of the modem, collecting all kinds of distractions from the air. But I was not up to them. Before my eyes flashed pompous plans of military campaigns, painful experiences of Russian princesses - I saw all this before the refreshing dream ruined me. In the morning I finished reading. The smooth edges of the pages were frayed a bit, the cover warped - once I dropped the book into the bathtub. Holding the book over my head like a hunting trophy, I felt that it had become bigger - from the moment I defeated it.
Book provided by Mann, Ivanov and Ferber