My Takeaway from The Shallows: Awareness

I’m typing this post in a Word document (opened to fill half the screen), while in the background my Firefox browser has not one, not two, but fifteen tabs calling to be opened, tugging at my attention like a two year old hanging on my leg:

  1. Gmail
  2. Goodreads
  3. A Sear Portrait coupon I’d clicked on from email (thinking I could use an updated, more professional profile shot at some point)
  4. An article on “How Social Media & Game Theory Can Motivate Students” (clicked on via StumbleUpon via email)
  5. A WordPress “Add New Post” tab for this post
  6. E. Victoria Flynn’s recent Penny Jar post, “You Are Beautiful Just the Way You Are,” that I want to comment on before the day is done
  7. A post from Mary St. George proposing a “Mass Blogging Event” about gifted education that I want to participate in
  8. A Mashable post that I want to link to here at some point: “9 Ways To Increase Your Productivity While Working From Home” (guess I can check that item off my list!)
  9. Pam Parker’s delightful post on “Writer’s Notebook(s): IDEAS” that I’d meant to comment on yesterday but didn’t
  10. Steve Hardagan’s interview with Ken Robinson that I want to read
  11. Twitter
  12. Mary St. George’s blog schedule to this point
  13. NPR’s article about Hamlet’s Blackberry
  14. Facebook
  15. Hoagies’s Gifted Education Pages’ Gifted Library

How did these tabs get there in the first place? I have my browser set to open to whatever tabs were present when I closed it rather than to a single home page. This was supposed to be a technique to help me to carry ideas and tasks over from one day to the next, but I’m finding that it only, well, carries ideas and tasks from one day to the next, and the next, and the next.

Also, I’ve gotten in the habit of, while reading email, clicking on articles, blogs, and other websites that I want to “get to” today. The problem is that I usually don’t get to them, or else I open them sporadically and read them shallowly rather than in depth.

Dealing with distractions and self-interruptions is obviously a continuing work in progress for me. I do feel myself making progress, but I’m not going to change all my habits overnight, especially since I’m still working out what I want to put in their place.

Cover of The ShallowsMy most important takeaway from reading The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr, has been a greater awareness of some of the things I’m doing that cut into both my productivity and my peace of mind. I’m still working on an extensive list of specific, practical suggestions/idea/goals—not just from Carr’s book, but from others, such as Hamlet’s Blackberry—to share later, for example, setting aside at least one day on the weekend to be mostly offline, or making better use of organizational features in social media to lessen the distractibility factor. For now, however, simply noticing my habits is helping me to change them.

Being aware is always the first step.

What have you noticed lately about your work or writing habits?

Other posts in The Shallows book review series:

6 thoughts on “My Takeaway from The Shallows: Awareness

  1. I’ve had to download WriteMonkey just to get any writing done on computers. It’s not just the internet pulling on my pant legs but also the temptation to change fonts, look at old photos, change my background, etc. Blocking everything out really makes things simpler for me.

    • You’ve convinced me to give WriteMonkey a try. Virginia would approve, don’t you think? 🙂 Thanks for the tip!

  2. I’m going to have to look at that WriteMonkey. Last night, writing the shortest little blog post (Thank you, Lisa ;)) took hours browsing online, looking through reviews of restaurants I’d visited, trying to find photos of avocados, popping between all the networks…I need horse blinders.

    At least when your tabs are open, they’re open to exciting things.

    • Victoria, your avocado piece is amazing. Seriously one of your best to date.

      I agree that I don’t want to give up completely those exciting, open tabs. That pesky balance thing. 🙂

  3. Like you, I have noticed how easily I become distracted when I am using my computer, especially the internet. Even when I don’t need the internet, when I turn my computer on, I go to open a browser, just out of habit. To make sure I don’t carry my tabs over to the next day, I make myself close the browser and not save the tabs at the end of everyday.

    • Katie, I’m going to steal your idea and force myself to have only one tab open, too! Otherwise that habit just takes over. 🙂

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