Dubai Diaries: To improve your focus, notice how you lose it
Whether at home or at work, we have managed to make a virtue out of doing 10 things at the same time.
Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, I would come up with a thought that I would document in my journal. It was always about a book or a film or a moment in life that begged introspection. The reason I always felt it was important to write out what I was thinking was because when you are comfortably detached from that moment, going back to that sentence could give you a perspective on yourself that would be ordinarily missing in the rough and tumble of the daily life. I also felt what I wrote would reveal my inner world to me. Sometimes, these thoughts would even lend themselves to a couple of thousand words when I’d sit and write out for hours in a room. Today, it’s a different story.
When I entered the field of journalism, it excited me to know that I could write (… and even get paid for it). Today, however, I struggle to concentrate. For one, our worlds have changed. Every time I open a blank page of Microsoft Word, hoping to fill it up with meaningful words, a notification pops up. It could be a sale in ASOS or a simple SOS message from a friend. Sometimes, a request for a meeting, at other times, a reminder for a bill to be paid. The writer goes for a hibernation when I deep dive in these pursuits. It’s easy to call someone like me a procrastinator but I can make a convincing case for why I am not one. Every time, I do commit to writing something, I almost manage to accomplish the task. It’s just that the journey to finishing the prose is not as enjoyable because there are a 1000 distractions staring at you, wanting you to turn your gaze at them.
A few months ago, I had an interesting debate with a friend who insisted she does dishes while listening to podcasts. I argued that I could never do that simply because a well-made, views-based podcast needs your complete attention, and you simply cannot absorb it completely if you are as invested in scraping off the dirt from the dishes. She argued that doing dishes did not really need any mindfulness, so she was pretty okay doing both the tasks. I couldn’t tell if she was in denial or was bestowed with an extraordinary ability. In the end, what we did agree upon, ironically, was that digitalisation had impacted our attention spans severely. We can also assign some blame to the glorification of multitasking in modern age. Whether at home or at work, we have managed to make a virtue out of doing 10 things at the same time. We are expected to do, and be, many things at the same time. The real casualty then is your mind, that’s denied the privilege of digging deeper into something, to truly deconstruct it and make sense of it. As long as we romanticise that idea, along with all the digital tools that enable it, we will continue to be jack of all trades, master in none.