The interweb killed my attention span.
February 28, 2009 6:41 PM Subscribe
I have the attention span of a gnat.
I find it incredibly difficult to get any meaningful work done. I seriously cannot even get up from writing simply to change a CD without being distracted by something shiny and then falling into a two-hour timewarp and then I look up and it's 5pm and instead of working I'm brushing my cat and I still haven't even changed the damn CD, and nothing gets done.
I think my attention span fell apart for three reasons:
1. I went freelance and now have less external structure to keep me productive.
2. I got a laptop and now spend about 6 hours a day online, sometimes working, but more often clicking around the internet. The ability to keep switching my focus by clicking to a new page seems to have trained me to change mental channels constantly, and drastically shortened my tolerance for boredom. I read an assload of stuff online, and can easily get focussed on something interesting, but if it's boring... NEXT.
3. The work I do now is much harder than the old work.
I did okay when a prof or boss would give me an assignment and a deadline. I could just cough something up, revise it, and get it in on time and reasonably well-done, without caring too much. All my writing was a re-explanation of something I already knew or had just researched, no problem- there's pretty much a "right answer" for that kind of work, and the job is just to write the right answer with some finesse. That I can still do.
But now I'm trying to shift my work, so that I mostly write fictional things that I have to generate myself. There are so many possibilities, none are right or wrong, and just considering the ideas daunts me, let alone writing iterations of those choices. And I really want my writing to be perfect, so the easiest way to do that, obviously, is to procrastinate. There's no deadline, no accountability, and the work itself isn't fun. Sure, the reward of "having written something" is great, but the process of "writing something" kicks my ass.
This is the real problem, I think; how to kill the brain-imps who would rather I have a sparkling clean apartment and an unwritten screenplay forever?
I've read articles on many major productivity websites and the GTD book. They didn't really help. I would rather not go on prescription stimulants (even though I probably do have ADD). I have no substance abuse problems and I'm in excellent health.
So far, the best I can do is earplugs + coffee + a very granulated to-do list + a timer set for short increments of time (10 minutes) to keep me on-track in bite-sized amounts. Those work OK, but there must be more good tricks where they came from.
So hive, what do you do? How do you motivate yourself to work on rewarding long-term projects that are boring in the short-term? How do you avoid the sugar-high that is MeFi and the rest of the web, and focus on the insoluble fibre that is your pet project? How did you train yourself to have discipline?