To be able to work without disruption or think through a problem deeply, we should really be putting our phones away more often.
American author Jocelyn K. Glei has studied how creative people can concentrate on their work in this age of distraction. “It’s very easy to be busy, but these days, it’s very difficult to stay focused,” she says. “You really can’t produce anything of value if you aren’t able to concentrate all your attention on your work.” In her book Unsubscribe, she offers tips on how to cope with the distractions of email and social media, and teaches you how to adopt healthier habits while you work. “Distraction is the enemy of creativity, and email is one of the main culprits,” she says. “The average person checks their email eleven times per hour, and spends 28 percent of their total working week on email.
To make matters even worse, the quantity of messages is defining for your focus, mood and to-do list. We spend far too much time and energy on it, and no longer pay attention to the challenging and creative work that we could also be doing.” Glei makes a point of only checking her email and social media twice a day—once in the late morning and once late in the afternoon. “I try to write for two to three hours first,” she says. “I schedule my tweets in advance so that I appear to be active on social media without having to constantly be online.
I do have days where I check websites more than I would like to. Once you start ‘web snacking’, it’s hard to stop again, so I try to be conscious of this habit.” She has also noticed that other people in her circle of family and friends are starting to get tired of being online constantly. A good friend of Glei’s recently told her that she is taking a six-month break from social media because constantly reading what other people have to say was making it difficult for her to focus on her own work. ‘It is hard work translating creative ideas into a book, illustration or presentation,” Glei says. “The essence is that you can’t produce meaningful output if you can’t turn off the input from others for a while.”
- You can read an article about being offline in our special ‘19 Days of Mindfulness‘.
Text Jeannette Jonker Illustration Jennifer Orkin Lewis