Reading an article on attention over on ArtOfManliness and had a few thoughts.
It speaks about how those pings, beeps, and tweets we get are stimulating our Involuntary Attention, the same attention we need when a snake appears or a truck comes out of nowhere and nearly takes you out while skating …
But I’ve got a couple of mechanisms to cope. Number one is turning off auto updates. If I want to check my e-mail, RSS, Facebook, Instagram, or anything else (except the phone or texts which I just don’t answer) I can click refresh or open the page when I feel like it. I feel like it makes a big difference, although it was a little scary at first.
Also, silence. Not actually silence, can’t manage that one. But I’ve stopped listening to my iPod unless there are noisy children, and I only turn music on at home in my room to block out the volume 11 films my progressively more deaf family watch. I used to not be seen without earphones in. Now even just in having casual conversations while out I’m realising how much human connection and chance for serendipity I’ve blown by being that guy.
Next bit is Voluntary Attention. That’s when you decide not to look at your phone when having a conversation with somebody. You chose to engage, and it’s what you do if you read a book, or put time aside to work.
Given what we’ve just said about involuntary attention, it makes even more sense to minimise your desk clutter and remove junk from your workspace. It’s also why I’m completely opposed to designers suggesting mood and inspiration boards. That and the notion that innovation will never come by copying your inspiration, but that’s a whole other thing.
So when there’s a lot of noise, at those times background music makes sense. Particularly familiar music, as it creates something less distracting. But when the quiet is possible that’s what I aim for.
If you’re into this sort of thing, the next bit on the negative impact and on letting your mind wander is interesting as well. Like when you have a sleepless night and you focus on the negative things. Perhaps it’s not so much the thoughts keeping you awake as that is where your mind goes … ever met a happy insomniac?
It talks about the positive side of mind wandering as well, but as with all of these things, you can be aware of your thoughts and steer them if you chose, particularly to move away from being negative to something more constructive.