Stop it. Just stop it.
Turn off the youtube video.
Stop scrolling through news articles.
Quit worrying about the stock market.
Just… take your earbuds out.
Turn off your phone.
Listen to your own thoughts.
It’s all noise. Visual noise. Audio noise. Mental noise. It pokes and chips scratches into your brain like a rabid raccoon, digging away at every soft, supple morsel of your mind. Get that vermin out of there! Remember what it’s like to think your own thoughts? When all of that noise dies down, the ambient hum rises. There is a stir of recirculating air, or distant cars beeping, or birds and insects chirping…. It’s quiet. Uncomfortably quiet at first. Disquieting, perhaps.
But breathe in that space. It will come back to you.
Thinking. Remember that? Before you were fed all your ideas. Everything is a take. Aggressive. Calculated. They don’t even hide it. HIT THAT LIKE BUTTON. Ok. EVERY TIME. Why is that? IT’S FOR THE ALGORITHM. What’s an algorithm? SMASH IT. Why so violent? DESTROY IT! Why are you yelling? OBLITERATE THAT LIKE BUTTON! What is happening…? RING THE BELL! What was Pavlov doing with bells? CHECK OUT MY OTHER VIDEOS! Hey, wait! Don’t click that next video… gah… too late.
It’s so easy to hit next, and next, and next, and you might like this, and autoplay. It’s so easy to stay on that treadmill of noise and noise and more noise. And those gaps get smaller and smaller. Those spaces used to be reserved for reflection, and thought, and process… that used to be you. Those gaps are vanishing. Your thoughts are being erased. Your creativity is being erased. Your identity is being erased. Hey hey, what are you doing?! Put the earbuds down! FOCUS!
Why is it so hard to quiet the distractions? Why do I keep going back to stuff I know is not really helping me at all, and actually taking me away from my family and my job?
REMEMBER: You are greater when you focus.
You are a good writer… You can make rational and creative choices… You can be mindful and articulate… …When you focus. When you are distracted, mistakes happen. Things get skipped. Things are mediocre. Excuses happen. People yell (maybe you). People cry (usually you). Maybe 20 years ago you could skirt by on 75% of your clever mind… but you are not that young now, and you are not nearly as clever. And you are not only competing with your peers, but also the younger and the cleverer as well. You need 100% of whatever the ravages of ages have left you! Just to get by! At least until the internet destroys their brains too.
REMEMBER: It sucks to go back and have to do something over again.
Think about an engrossing board game session, or an awesome book or show or movie that pulls you in and takes you somewhere and then lands you feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Now think about those moments when you turn a few pages… your eyes just move left and right trying to get to the end of the chapter… and then, wait, Walter is the killer? Who is Walter?! Then you have to go back… and somehow read the same sentence over and over again because it had the word ‘succulent’ in it… so you end up having to go all way back to the beginning of the chapter already knowing Walter is the killer now… and you just wanted to get to chapter 11 before your son wakes up, and… now he’s up. Good job.
REMEMBER: Your time is not just your time.
Every minute you are killing is a minute you are not doing something. Every minute you are not doing something is a minute you will end up having to make up later. Every minute you end up making up later steals a minute from people that you care about… like your son, your wife, your friends. Your son changes so much in those minutes (he’s already so big now… as I ignore him to write this).
Those minutes are irreplaceable. What is replaceable? Almost infinitely replaceable? Those billions of minutes of youtube videos and podcasts of people mostly just KILLING THEIR OWN TIME. Yes, there are definitely a lot of well-produced, high quality programs out there… but some of them slip, especially over hours and hours week after week. But a lot of them are just people sitting in front of a camera and mic and just filling time. Cynically.
Get back on Duolingo. Do something job related. Make progress on something, instead of making progress on nothing. Don’t just spend your time; invest it.
REMEMBER: Multi-tasking is not a thing.
There was that study or article I read. It was pretty convincing. Citation
It’s hard. But you know it’s worth it. There’s something different between being immersed wholly in an experience, and just observing it – while playing another phone game, with a podcast playing in the background, and chatting with people. It’s noise. Get rid of the noise. Don’t get lost in it. Focus! Get things done and you will be better, and you will feel better. What happens if you miss Philip Difranco today? Nothing. Can you see it tomorrow? Sure. What happens if you never end up watching it? Nothing. What do you gain by watching it? Nothing.
Like that metaphor of the different sized particles in the container. You put the big rocks in first. Then the gravel. Then the sand. And it can all fit (including some coffee grounds). But if you put that sand in first, you end up leaving out the bigger rocks. But all the noise is not even sand… it’s like dust mites and pubic hair (ew). There’s no redeeming value. Just… don’t pour dust mites and… pubic hair into your life container of rocks and… this has gone off the rails. See what happens when you don’t focus?!!?!