The day I'm trying to finish the copy edits to my book and dealing with an author questionnaire that's about as long as something written for the House Un-american Affairs Committee is the perfect time for both my agent and editor to send me links to interesting pieces about digital distraction. So here goes:
In this age of distraction and multitasking, it’s all too easy to blame technology for luring us away and ruining our writing productivity.
I see writers lamenting Facebook and Twitter as distractions. And they certainly can be. But all forms of technology — even social media — can be powerful tools when used properly.
Since we’re often writing using interfaces that entice us into that distracting online world (desktop computers, laptops, tablets, even phones), it behooves us to take advantage of the many ways to make the most of online and offline technology to keep us on track with our writing.
And perhaps more importantly, since the big dream of writing can trigger resistance, procrastination, and massive quantities of self-doubt, it helps to find workarounds and little tricks to keep writing rather than getting distracted.
I won't reproduce all her recommendations; go check them out for yourself.
Second, my agent points me to a Harvard Business Review piece on "Battling Your Online Addiction:"
How much time do you spend each day responding to email, checking Facebook, sending and reading Tweets, aimlessly surfing your favorite websites and buying things you don't need? How much time, in other words, do you spend doing stuff online that doesn't add much value in your life, or in anyone else's?...
95 percent of our behaviors occur on automatic pilot, out of habit or in reaction to an external demand or stimulus. We spend a crazily disproportionate amount of time seeking the next source of instant gratification, rather than pursuing the more challenging goals that ultimately deliver more long-term value and greater satisfaction.
It's not about summoning the strength to say "no." Each time we intentionally forgo something desirable, we deplete our already limited reservoir of will and discipline. When was the last time you resisted the seductive ping of an incoming email?
So how, then, to withstand this Pavlovian pull? And how, in turn, to take back control of your attention, so you can put it to better and richer use?
The advice in the two pieces is different, but not mutually exclusive. Figure out what works for you.