To continue our theme from last post, we all struggle with resisting the attraction of distraction. From the time we wake to the time we sleep we are continually bombarded with attempts to arrest our attention and capture our concentration. But the good news is that we need not succumb to these pressures. It is entirely within our power to structure our lives so that the intrusions are minimized and our insights are maximized.
In his compelling book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, author and professor Cal Newport outlines three useful strategies in his chapter called “Quit Social Media”:
Apply the Law of the Vital Few to Your Internet Habits
As Newport explains, the Law of the Vital Few, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle, suggests that 80 percent of a particular effect is due to just 20 percent of the potential causes. Therefore, he recommends what he calls “The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection”: Identify the core factors that determine success and happiness in your professional and personal life. And adopt tools, including internet-based ones, only if the positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh the negative impacts. In other words, adopt the “less is more” approach.
Quit Social Media
“These services aren’t necessarily, as advertised, the lifeblood of our modern connected world. They’re just products, developed by private companies, funded lavishly, marketed carefully, and designed ultimately to capture then sell your personal information and attention to advertisers,” writes Newport. “They can be fun, but in the scheme of your life and what you want to accomplish, they’re a lightweight whimsy, one unimportant distraction among many threatening to derail you from something deeper.”
Linda and I use LinkedIn for professional networking but have frozen our Twitter accounts and never bothered to join other services to begin with. Let me state for the record that if you feel the pros outweigh the cons of a service then by all means help yourself. Just remember that if a service is free, such as Google’s Gmail, then YOU are the product and your personal information is scanned and available for sale to advertisers.
Don’t Use the Internet to Entertain Yourself
The internet either can be one of the greatest innovations ever or the biggest time-suck of all time, depending on how we use it. And Newport points out that internet sabbaticals are not the same as sabbaths. In other words, regularly scheduled breaks from online life trump periodically quitting it in a desperate attempt to recalibrate our senses.
We got broadband internet installed the day we moved to the lighthouse, but we typically try to stay off the computer for at least one day each weekend, if not both days. And as I mentioned in this space earlier, we cut the cable cord upon our move so our television viewing is limited to FREE Roku and Apple TV. We are considering a basic Netflix account but may not go for it.
With these thoughts in mind, I recently decluttered much of the detritus on my devices by deleting marginal applications and am in the process of deactivating several online accounts in order to simplify our lives even more. It is with such simple yet powerful actions that we can exert better control over our virtual and, by extension, our real lives. And with our free time, we are enabled to enjoy the true riches of life, such as the sunset pictured above.