It should come as no surprise to anyone that there is an ever-increasing number of distractions in our daily lives.
From Facebook and Instagram to Reddit and YouTube, it is obvious there is no shortage of ways to be unproductive online. As a result, it is not uncommon to get trapped in an infinite loop of scrolling through pictures, posts and videos, without feeling any real sense of satisfaction or purpose.
It’s easy to just exercise the minimum amount of brain activity necessary to keep your boredom at bay. Of course, I'm also guilty of doing this, but recently, I've been thinking more about the root cause of it all.
The problem arises when you don’t know why you are doing something. You know, like when you aimlessly pull out your phone and waste half an hour scrolling through your Facebook News Feed. This is an issue that can only be solved by taking the necessary time to plan and think before you act.
You need to take that first step and determine what is truly the best use of your time, instead of just defaulting to pulling out your smartphone and playing games.
More than any generation before us, we are unique in the sense that we all possess tools of great power at our fingertips, which is both a blessing and a curse. It is only natural that we will be more inclined to be hasty with our actions, “Googling” any idea that drifts into our minds on a whim.
But, in gaining the ability to access information almost instantly, we have neglected the importance of tenacity in many aspects of our lives.
One way this problem manifests itself is through a lack of focus. For example, the average student will attempt to write an essay while having Facebook open, chatting on Skype and receiving the occasional text message on his or her phone.
As a result, the student will spend several hours working inefficiently and will perhaps only produce a few paragraphs at the end of this “study” session.
It is well-known that the human brain is inherently bad at multitasking. In fact, most studies have suggested that a more effective way to approach a task is to completely focus on it for a certain period of time, usually around an hour, and then take a short break before continuing.
For example, when writing an essay, it would be much more productive to check your email and Facebook at specific time intervals, unless there is some sort of emergency. In my final year of college, I even went so far as to disable my Internet connection in order to buckle down when I needed to.
Furthermore, this idea of focusing your attention on one task at a time is not merely a productivity hack, but also an interesting philosophy to incorporate into your life. As such, I've begun being more critical of myself and always strive to think before I act.
I try to associate each activity I undertake with a specific purpose, even if that purpose is something as simple as “to relax and have fun.” This enables me to avoid situations of trying to juggle multiple activities at once and doing a mediocre job at best.
For example, I try to avoid situations of watching a movie on Netflix while simultaneously attempting to read a textbook during the boring parts.
What’s the point? I wouldn't get to fully enjoy the movie because I’d be worried about reading my textbook. But, at the same time, I would get distracted and lose my train of thought during the interesting scenes.
Instead, I simply decide between watching a movie or cracking open my textbook and doing my best to commit to either choice.
Ultimately, the point I aim to make is that we should limit the number of “half-measures” we take in life and we should be accountable for how we spend both free time and working time.
So, next time, whenever you choose to do something, try to dedicate at least an hour of uninterrupted time, and stick to it.
Multitasking is far too glorified in this day and age; you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more productive you’ll be if you live your life in a more linear fashion and develop your ability to focus. Time is only wasted when it is unaccounted for.
The bottom line is that as you get older, you’ll realize life is short and we only have a finite amount of time here. As such, it makes perfect sense to know exactly how you're spending it.