As many of you know, I’ve had an ongoing issue with the creative life and how it interacts with social media. For example, here’s a link to my first experiment in withdrawing from Facebook for 99 days. And here’s the link to the result of that 99 day withdrawal.
It turns out that I’m not alone in this, and there is a surprising amount of information emerging about the effects of not only social media, but also email, apps, and a variety of other attention – grabbing online activities.
In the book, “Deep Work”, the author Cal Newport writes about all the ways a person is distracted from work by the temptations of “just let me check my email” or “what are they saying on social media?” It turns out that productivity drops after these brief interludes of attention switching behavior. And while you may think, and I include myself in this, that it’s only for a second or two it turns out that it’s not the activity or the length of the activity or the activity itself that has the impact.
It’s the act of switching attention that has a negative impact on the work you’re doing.
The key to ongoing creativity then appears to be a concentration of time and energy on the task at hand rather than a bouncing in and out of that task.
And yes, while we all understand that’s probably true, the siren song of social media and email lures us into the false belief that we can switch our attention spans and not pay a price for that.
I am as guilty of this as any of you are. Up until I heard the NPR Hidden Brain Podcast and browsed the book, I believed that it was just a few seconds to pop in and out and I freely admit my addiction to email. I am less addicted to social media than email, but I still managed to drop in once or twice a day. And the truth be told, this is normally during what I would consider my work or writing hours rather than the time after I shut the computer down and leave the office.
So what’s this mean?
I think it means two things:
- the first is that I have to set a schedule for when I check email and social media.
- the second is that I have to learn how to stick to that schedule and forget the “it will only take a second” mentality.
- and finally, I have to get this habit and some new work techniques ingrained so deeply into my work day I regain my focus on writing and creating new work.
I hope you appreciate that this is all brand-new, and I have no idea how this will work in practice. I suspect cutting back on social media will be easier than cutting back on my email addiction.
I’ll have get back to you about this for me.
But do you folks find yourselves popping in an out of social media or email and does it reduce the amount of real work you get done?