Chuck Bartok hosted a good call on Talk Shoe radio on Wednesday evening which prompted me to go off this month’s topic of Overcoming Adversity for this post.
Among the issues discussed were distractions, systems or tactics to keep them to a minimum and methods of using time effectively.
One of the reasons that the internet in general and social media in particular, provide such a rich source of distracting material is that electronic media are endless. With the possible exception of blog posts or articles, there is no clear cut off to indicate the end of that sample of media that you are viewing or reading.
Compare that to old-fashioned system of reading hard copy, a newspaper or magazine. You could see at a glance of the page which headlines were interesting enough to get you to read the article, read it then move to the next page. After you had read the last page – or first if you started with the sports page – you put the paper down. You did not find endless links in the content leading you to other newspapers. Bulky weekend newspapers came in sections, it was easy to read a section, then do something else and read another later.
It was similar for magazines. Sections could be read in one sitting, photos looked at, then the magazine put down in the knowledge that it could be picked up at any time to read another article. No need to book mark it or risk of forgetting its web address.
There was no danger of missing out on new developments or something that might be interesting. In hard copy, you saw it, read or ignored it and finished with it. If you wanted information on different topics or from other sources, you bought different magazines or newspapers.
Books were similar. They had pages and chapters. A reading session could be a number of pages or a chapter or two. Much easier to choose a stopping point. There is something much more definite about turning a page, reaching the start of a new chapter or seeing “The End” than remembering to stop scrolling down an electronic screen.
It is difficult to hold two or more newspapers, magazines or books and gather little bundles of words from each. We don’t generally do it. But we happily flip backwards and forwards through multiple open tabs or windows on our screens, like bees darting between flowers to collect pollen.
Social media is even less segmented. Someone much wiser than I, wrote that “there is always one more Facebook update, tweet or Instagram post to see – they never end”. It might have been Chris Brogan in one of his excellent daily OMFG emails. Regrettably I did not bookmark or clip the article with Evernote, in days gone by, if I had read it as hard copy, I would have just copied and filed it.
One of the problems is that stuff on Social Media is free. In the good old days when we had to pay for newspapers and magazines, we did not go and buy every paper or magazine in the news agents. – Unless we thought our name or photo would be in them! We only bought what we could reasonably consume, we were discerning.
That’s why I find the best way to keep distractions under control is to work to a strict schedule as well as an action list.
I said on the call that I would put a copy of my schedule in a post, here it is:
The schedule has 7 columns, one for each day of the week including weekends. It continues in 30 minute segments to 9:30 pm. All absolute commitments are pre printed as in the example above. Commitments for the week ahead are entered during my Sunday evening weekly planning session if they are known or during the week as they arise.
My daily action plan is derived from my weekly goals / action plan, then individual activities are written on the weekly schedule in pen.
The schedule is a simple spreadsheet which I print out and have hanging where I can see it from my desk. That saves the distraction of opening a window on my computer to use or look at it. An appointment planner or diary with 30 minute intervals would work just as well. I prefer to keep it simple and just concentrate on one week at a time.
I do use a diary and a month at a time wall planner to keep track of activities further in the future.