Thinking Out Loud 017: I Have Zero Focus

THINKING OUT LOUD is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column in which we talk about creative process and what might be holding back that voice of yours – whatever form it might take. Send your questions to:

Dear Drooly Dog:
I have read all the articles about how it’s impossible for humans to really multi-task, and how much time is lost to social media and news feeds every day.
Problem is, none of it makes any difference. I am scrolling my life away, looking at every photo and headline that comes across my screen. Then I look up and half the day is gone, or all of the day is gone, and whatever I was writing is still not written. Then I eat ice cream or pizza and feel bad. And then the cycle begins again.
I want to keep in touch with my friends, and occasionally I’ll come across something truly valuable. But I can feel my time draining away. And I can feel my work just sitting there like a lump of lead, useless and worthless.
How do I break this depressing cycle? I know exactly what’s happening and it’s still a problem.
– Sincerely, Zero Focus Bozo

Dearest Zero,
Oh, how this is a problem. Especially when you write or pursue any profession that requires research or online resources. Which is a whole lot of professions.
You click on something, then something else, and pretty soon you’re lost in a forest of lists of must-see clips of kittens that are best friends with iguanas or you’ve just got to know why #5 will make your jaw drop.
It’s awful. I agree. What you need to do is find the thing(s) that will snap you out of it. Because you’re right. You are losing your life to this, and you will not have a damn stinking thing to show for having read a bunch of news feeds or looked at somebody’s vacation photos.
An aside: Why do people post pictures of what they eat? Just asking. I really don’t give a flying crap what you are eating. Unless you’re in an eating contest, or your donut literally looks like a scale model of Jupiter, just don’t. Honestly.
Okay, I’m back.
There will be some solution that fits you and you can’t stop until you find it. Here are suggestions:
1. Use software to take the Internet away for some period of time. Here’s a big ol’ list of those.
2. Set a timer on your computer or phone and use that to control how long you work. 25 minutes seems to be a time period people like, such as The Pomodoro Method.
3. Use paper and pencil. Seriously get the heck off the screen. You can still write and get ideas down.
4. Turn off WiFi. Sometimes all it takes is having that extra click in there.
5. Turn off notifications. Your damn phone and computer should not be making noises when you get emails or other garbage.
6. Go outside, regularly. Walk around. Look at actual three-dimensional objects that are not pop-up windows.
7. Every time you scroll, say something out loud to tell yourself what you are doing.
8. Work out in public. It’s truly embarrassing to have people look over your shoulder at the coffee shop and there you are scrolling Twitter again. Believe me, you’ll feel like a total loser.
9. Get a friend to bug you.
10. Have a social media hour where you cat and goats-screaming-like-humans video the hell out of everything and then turn it off.
I’m sure there are many more, but you get the idea. Maybe you’re someone who can stay on the screen and just turn stuff off and work, or maybe you’re someone who has to physically get out of Dodge for this to be effective. Maybe you’re a schedule or clock person. You’ve got to find the thing that works with your particular brain. Which, by the way, might be cycling through these to keep the novelty. You know, if you’re a novelty person.
But do it. The world needs your ideas, not your damn like on some dumb parkour fail video.
Sincerely, Drooly Dog

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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