Like so many people today, our family owns and uses computers, smart phones, tablets, and ipods. For much of the day, an observer would notice that most or all of us is doing something with an electronic—listening to music or audio books, checking email, playing a game, writing a blog post, looking at facebook, reading an article, and so forth. Most of those things are not a bad way to spend time necessarily but what I’ve begun to notice is that the more time I spend doing things electronically, the more distracted I become.
I have been musing about how to approach this difficulty I’m having with distraction and this week I read two articles which gave me some ideas on how to minimize or, even better, reverse some of this trend of thinking shallowly due to my continual distraction. The first was an article on Facebook (how ironic that it would be on one of the biggest timewaster sites of them all!), 7 Skills Your Grandparents Had that You Don’t. While some of my friends and I agreed that we do know how to do all of the things on the list (except perhaps haggling), none of us write real letters any more and we regret that loss. The second article, Unplugging Your Student–Focusing and Communicating in the Present, is one I read this morning about ways to help your students learn to manage the distractions in order to study more effectively.
Since I am quite sure that my increasing inability to focus on the task at hand is due, at least in part, to my increased use of electronics, these articles helped me to think about some things I can do to help to reverse this shallowness:
1. Write real letters again. Two of my friends, who live in distant states, and I have decided to each write a letter a month to the others. While two letters a month is not very much, it is a start, and I’m curious to see if my communication with these friends will be of a different quality via pen and paper vs. email. I will have to slow down and think more carefully before writing with pen and paper than when I write digitally.
2. Read my “real” Bible instead of the Bible on my tablet and use my paper journal at least five times a week. I used to copy Scripture and devotional reading as well as write prayers, lyrics to hymns, and my thoughts on my reading almost daily for many, many years but I’ve noticed that I rarely do so now that I use my Kindle Fire for my devotional time. I suspect that fact many account for the feeling that my devotions are more shallow than they used to be. I want to see if it makes a difference if I go back to the older style of reading and note-taking.
3. Only allowing myself to check my phone or tablet after I’ve spent a minimum of 45-50 minutes on a task, whether that be cooking dinner, ironing, reading a book, correcting papers, gardening, or working on schoolwork with my students. By re-learning how to focus on the task at hand for a reasonable amount of time, I’m hoping to also relearn how to think more deeply than I have lately.
4. As a companion to #3, I intend to stop checking my phone when I am with other people_–family, friends, or even standing in line at the store. I used to talk with the people around me so much more than I do now that I can bury my face in my electronics. Instead I need to leave my phone and tablet in my purse or in another room when I am reading with the children, playing a game, having a meal, or just relaxing on the sofa with my husband.
My plan is to start these four things immediately. I’ll be sure to check back at the end of the summer to report how things are going.