TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: You There, at the Computer: Pay Attention

You There, at the Computer: Pay Attention

Monty Solomon (
Wed, 16 Feb 2005 22:51:24 -0500


FIRST, a confession. Since starting to write this article two hours
ago, I have left my chair only once. But I have not been entirely
present, either.

Each time I have encountered a thorny sentence construction or a tough
transition, I have heard the siren call of distraction.

Shouldn't I fiddle with my Netflix queue, perhaps, or click on the
weekend weather forecast? And there must be a friend having a birthday
who would love to receive an e-card right now.

I have checked two e-mail accounts at least a dozen times each, and
read eight messages. Only two were relevant to my task, but I
responded right away to all of them. My sole act of self-discipline:
both instant messaging accounts are turned off. For now.

This sorry litany is made only slightly less depressing when I remind
myself that I have plenty of company.

Humans specialize in distraction, especially when the task at hand
requires intellectual heavy lifting. All the usual "Is it lunchtime
yet?" inner voices, and external interruptions like incoming phone
calls, are alive and well.

But in the era of e-mail, instant messaging, Googling, e-commerce and
iTunes, potential distractions while seated at a computer are not only
ever-present but very enticing. Distracting oneself used to consist
of sharpening a half-dozen pencils or lighting a cigarette. Today,
there is a universe of diversions to buy, hear, watch and forward,
which makes focusing on a task all the more challenging.

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