Distracted Living

Driving while distracted is a big topic these days, as well it should be.  Anyone who’s been driving down the highway at sixty-plus miles per hour and glanced over  to see the driver of the car in the next lane texting with one hand and sipping a coffee with the other one knows the sheer terror that distracted driving can invoke.  It is a huge problem that has caused far too many accidents, and I believe it continues because so many people pride themselves on their ability to multi-task safely and efficiently no matter what they happen to be doing.  And they don’t find out until it’s too late that they are wrong.

I’m happy to say that I never text while driving, but please know that by saying that I’m not trying to claim a high moral ground.  It’s easy for me to resist the temptation to “just glance at” my phone when I hear the familiar ding of a text because I know for a fact that I can’t multi-task.  And I’m not just talking about while I’m driving, either.  I can’t multi-task at anything, ever.

Sadly, these days the inability to multi-task is fast becoming, if not something to be ashamed of, at least something that makes it hard to cope with the normal fast pace of life.  My computer is equipped with the ability to send and receive text messages, which means that when I’m trying to write a blog post I am often interrupted with a text notification, usually from someone who wants an answer to his or her question this very second.  Since I tend to require complete concentration when I’m writing (I turn off the TV, put my cell phone in another room, and wake the dog if she’s snoring), the interruptions are a problem for me.  I lose my train of thought, and what could have been a stunningly brilliant blog post is lost forever.  Which explains why my blog has yet to win the Nobel Prize for literature, I’m sure.

If I’m trying to cook a meal and someone insists on talking to me, I often forget an ingredient or burn one of the courses.  (Why all those people on HGTV want an open floor plan so they can “be a part of the conversation” while they are cooking is beyond me.)  When I worked in an office, I had notes for everything I did, because the constant interruptions meant I was also constantly forgetting where I had stored my information for a donor report or what the latest procedures for a job applicant happened to be.  I even had a note on how to properly transfer a phone call, and consulted it often.

I sometimes think I might have been a happier person if I had been born before the advent of all this technology, when people had the time to focus on the project at hand without being besieged by constant and conflicting demands on our attention.  I would certainly be more self-confident if I didn’t find myself constantly apologizing for not being able to pay attention to several, or even two, things at once.  But life is what it is, so I just muddle along and trust those who know me best to understand my limitations.

At least I know that I can’t text and drive at the same time.  That should count for something, I think.

62 thoughts on “Distracted Living

  1. I understand that multi-tasking is now considered an undesirable trait based on how our brain processes data. Apparently, the belief is that single tasking is for more capable of producing good results. Multi-tasking simply allows many things to be done at the same time… but they will all suffer re quality of work! They probably knew this eons ago hence “Jack of all trades, and master of none!” We just had to reinvent it! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think focusing on what’s in front if you and not worrying about the peripheral stuff is much more relaxing and rewarding. Sometimes the world doesn’t allow us that luxury so we just have to fight for it ourselves.
    Like you, I need complete silence in order to write. When I was writing a book I would write when everyone went to bed but that’s sometimes tough to do on a regular basis especially when I had to get up and go to work the next day. I don’t know how people can write with music on in the background.
    But that’s just me.
    Great points, Ann.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, focusing on the important stuff helps, but sometimes I have to struggle to do that. I didn’t know you wrote a book! If you don’t mind my asking, what was it about? (And if you do mind, that’s perfectly okay!) I once read that George Elliot wrote “Middlemarch” at night, secretly, by candlelight and I always admired the dedication and focus that would take. Me, I ask my husband to leave the room if he’s breathing too loudly when I’m trying to write……

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol…yes, breathing is a definite distraction and I don’t mind you asking at all…:)
        Well, I wrote a book but never did anything with it which my family doesn’t understand. It was a mainstream relationship story with some twists.
        I always wanted to write a book and even though it took me three years while also going back to school and getting my degree when I was in my 50’s, it was just something I wanted and needed to do for me.
        I enjoy the writing process. I enjoy creating characters and deciding where I want to take them. But I know I wouldn’t enjoy the business side of the process and I didn’t want that to affect or take away from what I enjoyed doing.
        I wrote for me and though it must be pretty cool to see your name on a shelf in a bookstore, it was never that important to me.
        I know that kind of thinking goes against the grain for writers but I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m just someone who likes to write..:)
        So that’s the book story. Not very exciting but it was fun. Maybe I’ll write another one soon. Something about blogging and bloggers. A mystery. Now that would be fun..:)

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi George – You’ve aroused my curiosity! Is there any chance that your characters in your book may have been “masked versions” of people you know? If you answer “No”, then my response will likely be “Are you really sure about that?” 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          • That’s the obvious question, isn’t it…:)
            I don’t think the characters were conscious versions of people I know or of my life in general. I was careful not to use names of people I knew so I wouldn’t have preconceived impressions or be influenced in any way. Not being a writer, the only way I can answer that question is to say that I think when someone is writing a relationship story it’s difficult not to let some of who you are in the story. Difficult but not impossible. If someone was writing a mystery or espionage story I think it’s easier to separate yourself from emotions because there may not be the same kind of relationship issues.
            I remember taking one of many writing classes when I went back to school and one of my female classmates wrote a fictional story about spousal abuse. He husband happened to read it and didn’t want her to present it in class because he thought people would think it was autobiographical and she was abused.
            I think that’s always in the back of the minds of people who know you and read your stories. They wonder if that’s the way you think, if you ever had those thoughts. They see you in a different light.
            Horror stories will generate one kind of response. Murder another. Erotica yet another.
            I think many people are influenced in terms of what they write because of who might read it and how they might be perceived. It’s a strange process.
            So I guess the long answer to your
            question is yes, it’s possible. But I never felt that on a conscious level.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Writing purely for personal satisfaction would seem to be a perfectly good reason to write, but there is usually an underlying desire to share and (hopefully) receive feedback. Most of us write in order to share our thoughts etc ….. as exampled with Blogging! Perhaps your decision not to pursue publishing is a subconscious driven strategy to avoid potential misinterpretations by people you know?
              Perhaps you might want to reconsider your publishing decision? Regards.

              Liked by 1 person

            • As you suggest, the feedback on writing, at least for me, comes from blogging. My family has read the book and any other stories or poetry I’ve written. As for others, I’ve come to a point in life, (65), where what others think are not as important to me as what I think or how I feel. I don’t mean that to sound harsh or insensitive and I still care about the feelings of others, especially those close to me, but not to the point where what I do and say will be altered if I feel strongly about something. I think when we’re younger, those thoughts and feelings come into play a little more. When we get older we enjoy the freedom a bit more..:)
              Maybe someday I’ll reconsider the publishing decision. I never rule anything out..:)
              Thanks for your feedback, Colin, and thank you Ann for letting us use your space..:)

              Liked by 2 people

        • Actually, I do understand that! Writing a book is fun, and when I was younger, I desperately wanted to get a book (or books) published, mostly because we needed the money and I needed the validation that I am a writer. Now it doesn’t seem to matter nearly so much, and I almost think it may have been a blessing that my books didn’t sell. It would have broken my heart when they went out of print, or didn’t sell enough copies to even justify a second printing. And they were children’s books, which meant I would have been expected to go around to schools to “give talks” to promote them. The very idea strikes terror in my heart! So, I get what you mean about avoiding the business side of it!

          Still, I’m glad you wrote the book for your own enjoyment…and it is fun, isn’t it….because I believe writing fiction is deeply satisfying. Characters that have been rattling around in our heads come to life! And we get to decide what happens to them! What’s not to like about that?

          Finally, neither of you should ever apologize for having an interesting discussion on my comment section. Because that is what blogging is about: the back and forth between the readers and writers. It’s what makes being part of a blogging community fun, and I am glad to host the discussion!

          Liked by 2 people

  3. This is interesting. I don’t so much multi-task, which implies successful attention at hand and success at several things at the same time, as try to do a ton of things at the same time because I can’t focus on any one of them and have forgotten what the first few were anyway! This is good in many ways (just don’t ask my husband because he would spit out his coffee) because when I’m teaching I know EXACTLY what is happening in every corner of the room but can’t find my pen or remember what I was about to say. Which maybe isn’t such a good thing.
    I don’t think you were born in the wrong generation. I think that you just have a good head on your shoulders. And you know where your strengths lie.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ann, You can drive in my traffic any day. Your article got me thinking about how simple things were when we were growing up. We used a rotary telephone mounted to the wall with a handset connected by a long curly cord. Then came call waiting, caller ID and answering machines. Later we got personal computers with e-mail, fax machines, pagers, and finally cell phones and text messaging. Sometimes I miss the old days, when were free from all those buzzing, bleeping and ring-toning interruptions.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sometimes I miss them too! And I remember those rotary phones….so much easier to live with than the constant pinging and dinging of our cell phones. Plus, no one ever tried to drive down the highway while talking on a rotary phone! Thanks for the comment, and I hope you have a terrific weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I don’t think an inability to multi-task is something limited to you alone, Ann. As has been said in the comments already, there has been a lot published in recent years to suggest that everyone is poor at multi-tasking. Some people have confidence in their ability to do it, but when tested, it turns out that their performance definitely suffers when they try.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Bun, that’s what I like to think. I admire those who can multi-task (as long as they aren’t driving), but I think there are probably lots of us who can’t do, or at least do it well. And I agree that most people probably aren’t nearly as good at is as they think. Focusing on the task at hand is the best way, in my opinion!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann, I think if focus is what you need to get something done, that just speaks to how your brain functions. I think more people could benefit from just focussing on the task at hand!

    Is there anyway you can turn the text notifications off when you are writing? Just a suggestion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a very good suggestion! I don’t know how to do it, but it’s possible that my son would. I’ll ask him next time he is over. Usually, being able to text on my computer is a convenience because it’s so much easier to type on a keyboard than a phone. But when I’m writing, it is a major pain in the rear!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha ha! You are not alone? I cannot have a conversation when the TV is on. I can’t start one thing until I have finished another or I will never get back to the original plan. Notes and reminders are my friend and texting while driving? Not even on my radar! Great post and a great reminder! Btw…..I too have a dog that snores!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sadly, I am so ADD, that I am often multi-tasking. It helped in my old job, and this one too I suppose, but it’s true that sometimes it can be distracting. I try very hard to focus on certain things like when people are speaking to me, but I do often find myself listening to many things at once. Part of it is being a ‘highly sensitive person’ too I think so I take everything in: sounds, smells, feelings, sights. It’s hard to filter sometimes. But I’m working hard on my ‘bubble’ and it’s working. Meditation has helped, but I’m not very good at that either. :/

    Liked by 3 people

    • Never apologize for being who you are! Some of us are hopeless at multi-tasking, while others are good at it. If you are good at it, all the better… It seems that so much of our life today almost requires it. I do understand where being too in tune to outside stimuli can be difficult though, but that’s just the way you are. And it’s perfectly okay!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. An excellent article, Ann, for which many thanks, and I’m with you on all that you say here. On a point of pedantry, then it’s perhaps worth noting that the human brain, in respect to consciousness, is a serial processor and not a parallel processor. That means that multi-tasking in any literal sense is in fact an impossibility. What we mean by it is the oscillation of attention, which itself can only be directed towards one object at any given moment, despite our deepest held beliefs to the contrary.

    When we speed up this oscillation of our attention, we create the illusion of multi-tasking, and also the illusion of our doing and accomplishing more within a shorter timespan; but the energy required to do so has a draining effect on our emotional states and on our capacity to operate at optimal efficiency. It’s really a modern curse, and one largely brought on by the myth peddled by marketeers that technology simplifies life. The evidence so far is completely to the contrary! o_O

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now that makes sense to me! We aren’t paying attention to two things at once, we are simply switching our attention between the two things very quickly, and what’s to recommend that? I also agree that technology hasn’t simplified our lives. It has made them more fast-paced and in some cases, more convenient, but it has also made us feel overwhelmed, distracted and anxious far too often. I am not really a fan….
      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not sure if I’d be a happier person if I was born a different century, but I know I’d be a more prolific one. I’d have so many books written, instead of just two, and I’d read three books a week, instead of one. My kitchen creations would be gourmet-billed, and my body would be stronger for the longer walks I’d take. Oh, believe me, I know just what you mean in this post and love how you’ve written it. I don’t drive and text, and I try to not always have my cell phone nearby. But the addiction to instant gratification and communication is not far away….

    Liked by 2 people

    • I also like to think we’d accomplish so much more if we didn’t have the constant distractions from our devices! And far too often, I find myself reaching for my cell phone just because I’m bored. I may not multi-task, but I’m afraid I am also way too attached to instant communication and gratification.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. “Wake the dog if she’s snoring.” Ann, that’s priceless. You also sound a lot like me. I’m happy to not multi-task, because my memory kicks in–or lack thereof–and then all havoc breaks loose. When I was working (dental hygiene), unless I made notations on sticky notes DURING an exam, all that happened in that hour was lost. LOST. No kidding. I don’t know how people remember all there is to remember and write it up at the end of the day. I think it’s a very good thing I’m retired… Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I totally get it! I write down everything I have to remember. Otherwise, there is very good chance that it will be lost as well. I can remember some things, but which ones I remember and which ones I will forget is anybody’s guess. Thanks for the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

      • And READING that handwriting is more of a challenge now than ever what with all this typing. I should go back to third grade and practice my cursive in order to maintain my skill. Used to have beautiful handwriting. Not so much now…..

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Multi-tasking is overrated, and I agree with the literature that speaks against it. Personally, at work I have a to-do list, and I cross off each item as I get to it, one task at a time. At home, I try to concentrate on one task at a time (though I admit I’m easily distracted and will leave the dishes half washed as I rush off to do laundry, and then make a bed, and then check my phone, which is all very ineffective, but breaks up the monotony). I completely agree with you about the open floor plans. Don’t like them, don’t want one. Why does anyone want their guests enjoying dinner in the dining room to see the mess in the kitchen? Clearly from the comments, this post resonated with a lot of people. Good insight, Ann.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Kim! And I am the same way, even when just cleaning the house: I tend to flit from one chore to the other, and it s not nearly as effective. My mind is just set for one thing at a time, and my schedule rarely allows that. I am even worse when I’m at the shelter, where interruptions are constant. And who in their right mind wants an open floor plan? Seriously???? Thanks for the comment, Kim! Why is it I always relate to you so easily?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Since returning to school full time, I’ve turned the ringer on my phone off. Putting it in my pocket makes it out of sight and out of mind. Im still not perfect but it helps me stay focused on studying rather than more fun but less productive things (like reading good posts on WP).

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a very good idea. Every now and then, I’m somewhere that my cell phone needs to be turned off, and being me, I often forget to turn it back on. (The ringer, that is, not the entire phone.) But I can’t tell you how much more I get accomplished when I’m not being interrupted with the constant notifications from my phone! Thanks for the comment and suggestion!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Self awareness is a liberating value so good for you for knowing what your limits are and working within your self described binderies.

    As I’ve become older (and older and older…) I’ve learned to accept who I am (fortunately I like who I am) and I’m happier for it. One of the best compliments I’ve received was several years ago from my boss, when I still had one of those, who said, “Mike you’re comfortable in your own skin which is what makes you so effective as a manager and leader”. At the time I don’t know if I really was as comfortable as he thought I was but the compliment emboldened me and over time I’ve lived up to his perception.

    In many ways I wish I could turn off the world as you do when writing. Maybe I should but I am actually a real good multitasker and at times doing one thing at a time actually slows me down. Or maybe that’s how I rationalize reading emails as soon as they pop into my in box or texts as soon as my phone chimes, or responding to “he or she” who wants an answer right away (usually one of my kids as I am guessing your “he or she” is.. 🙂 ) .

    This post was about you, not me and I now realize my response was more about me than you. I think that’s because when I read your posts they cause to me to self-reflect which is a good thing. So I thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My husband and I were just talking the other night about how we think that the people who are easiest to work with (and to be friends with) are those who are comfortable in their own skin. They seem to be more accepting of others and you know exactly who you are dealing with. It’s a good thing, and I’m glad you’ve achieved it! I’m getting there: I still have a way to go, but am vastly improved from when I was younger.
      And please don’t apologize for talking about yourself in the comment section! That’s what it’s there for. I like knowing when a post resonates with someone, or even if they disagree as long as they explain why and are civil (which they do, and they are…I’ve been lucky that way.) I’m glad you are able to multi-task, and think we all need to do what works best for us. For years, we used to nag our daughter about studying with the TV on, until she finally pointed out that given her “A” grade point average, it obviously worked well for her. To each his or her own, as they say!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s amazing just how much if our life demands our immediate attention!
    For me, the one who screams the loudest get my attention first. If there’s a deadline with a penalty attached, those are at the top of the list. But crying child is also up there too ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I used to be able to multi-task brilliantly but not so much lately. I have a daily To do list which works well for me. The concentration seems a bit lacking these days unfortunately! And I think you’re right, the advent of technology hasn’t helped.We’re so busy flitting from one thing to another, from one social media platform to another I’m sure nothing really substantial really sinks in. At least for me anyway. 🙂 Great post Ann.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how I feel. We give a little bit of attention to a lot of things, and serious attention to nothing. I, too, have to have a “to do” list, or I lose track of what I am supposed to be taking care of. Technology is a mixed blessing for sure.
      And I think that you have a pretty good reason for not having much concentration these days. It takes a long time to deal with the grief of losing a parent, and you need to just give yourself that time. Wishing you peace and healing…..

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m like you and can’t multi-task. The worst thing for me is having someone in the kitchen when I’m trying to cook (trying, in this case, being the operative word) – I get so distracted that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing! I can talk, or I can cook, I can’t do both!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Distinguishing Distractibility | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  19. Great article. I went back to edit an older post on my blog “Distinguishing Distractibility” and added a link here. I promise you that multi-tasking is an unfortunate myth. The truth is that we “time-slice” – with the potential of deadly consequences when we are behind the wheel. And it’s not simply texting that can cause serious accidents. Science has proven that talking on a cellphone, even with a headset, is as dangerous to rapid response as being over the legal limit for alcohol.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: TIME to think about Group Coaching | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s