I've recently read Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman and was struck by the statement that "what you pay attention to will define, for you, what reality is" (Burkeman, 2021: 91). Burkeman goes on to suggest that by being distracted, I am no longer choosing how to spend my time. It's made me think about when I become distracted and the impact this has.
If anyone was to ask me if I was interested in celebrity gossip, I would say no. However, the home page of my web browser serves me up a daily dose of gossip, and I find myself scrolling through and clicking into stories. I can easily spend 20 minutes being enlightened on things that really have no impact on my life and which, no doubt, then feeds back into the algorithm that provides more of the same. Worse still, when I surface I’ve forgotten what I had been planning to do initially! It can be similar when scrolling through posts on social media, with time spent away from the task I had planned to do.
While not all distractions are necessarily a bad thing - the few moments that I watched a tiny wren hopping about on the patio earlier were joyful and brought me back into the moment. It's just that it is good to be intentional about what we spend our limited time on (the 4000 weeks of the book's title are a bit of a sobering thought!)
There’s been a simple solution to getting caught up in celebrity gossip – I’ve just changed my home page so that I only see the tabs that I tend to need for work or home. I am also now more aware of when I have become distracted from the original task, and can choose to refocus, or not, depending on the situation and circumstances.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what distracts you and techniques you use to avoid or limit them!
Thanks to Sheila McDerment, friend and fellow coach, for the book recommendation!
Burkeman, O. (2021). Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. London: Penguin.