In what should have been 20 minutes of work, I compulsively interrupted myself at least nine times. What’s more, the cost of these interruptions goes way beyond the added amount of time to finish this damn thing. They likely distracted my train of thought, reducing the quality of my writing, thus causing a need for more edits and revisions. They likely created anxiety as I spent much of my distracted time anxious about the fact that I wasn’t working and much of my time working anxious that I was missing out on text conversations, email threads, or news updates. They likely made the process of writing itself less enjoyable and caused it to appear more taxing in my mind.
These distractions aren’t just unproductive, they’re anti-productive. They create more work than they replace.
Chances are you go through this do-si-do yourself on the regular. For me, it’s only gotten worse as time has gone on—which is strange, because you’d assume that my attention span and focus would be getting stronger as I get older, but that’s not been the case.
I started blogging in 2007. I remember plopping down to churn out a 1,000-word draft being easy. I’d just wake up and do it and then go get breakfast. It was somewhere around 2013 where I noticed I was often interrupting myself to check Facebook or email. Then it was around 2015 where I felt it was beginning to become a problem.
I felt that I had to pay attention to my attention, that I had to focus on my focus. It was new. It wasn’t something I’d had to think about since I was a kid.
By last year, these interruptions had become compulsive. I didn’t know how to not distract myself anymore and had to go to great lengths to prevent it from happening. It felt like I was living in some kind of digital hellscape, where the process of doing anything significant and important seemed not only fruitless but also attentionally impossible.