Attention & focus

Attention & focus

I just finished Ultralearning by Scott Young and if there is one thing I realized from reading that book, it’s that I completely lack the ability to focus. Over the past few months I have been weaning myself off of social media and other time-sucking apps in order to concentrate more fully on high-focus activities. While I am still not there 100% yet, I have managed to figure out what some of my triggers are and negate them.

Here are some of the things that have given me back more time:

I realized that by commenting and posting it kept me in the cycle of checking these sites more often than I like to. So I basically allow myself to keep up with people by checking social media in the mornings but I rarely comment and even more rarely post. I would say that my social media use has gone down exponentially by just getting me off the hamster wheel of discussions.

When I do comment, I then turn off all notifications. I found myself getting dragged into discussions I didn’t want to be in so I just turned off the notifications. Unless someone tags me by name, I won’t see it.

I have uninstalled all the apps that don’t need to be on my phone. No more defaulting to opening the facebook app (my true weakness) because I don’t have it on my phone anymore. It goes without saying that I also am not logged into the web browser.

I have push notifications completely turned off for all apps. The only notifications I get are for text messages and phone calls. Since I mostly use Signal with friends and for group chats, the only texts/calls I really get are from family.

If I am doing a high-concentration activity like reading, I put my phone out of reach. My instinct is to reach for my phone whenever I feel stuck/anxious/bored so this way I can’t do that on autopilot.

I keep a small moleskin notebook handy for when I want to look something up but have put my phone out of reach. I can write down what I want to look up and then do it later after I am done my session.

I have my phone on sleep mode from 9:30pm until 7am. My Signal group chats don’t notify me but they do show up on my lockscreen. During these night hours they don’t even show up there.

I give myself 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night to check social media. While I may not always hit this mark, I have lowered by usage by leaps and bounds compared to just last year where I was logging about 2 hours a day.

Having ADHD working in social media was a bit of a blessing and a curse: while my brain worked really well at those highly frantic frequencies & I was able to parse a lot of info from a lot of sources, the tradeoff was losing what ability I had to focus long-term. While I think ADHD is definitely a brain issue and that people really do have attention issues, I also think our society of pings, dings, and vibrations are causing attention issues in people who may not have manifested them a mere 15 years ago.

We’re constantly inundated by things vying for our attention whether it is social media & notifications or messaging systems and email at work. These constant hits of dopamine and distraction I think will have real long term affects on our ability to really hone in on issues to solve problems at work and in our personal lives. I think doing our best to turn off as many of these distractions as possible will be good for us long term, as people who are calmer and less anxious and as workers who can affectively solve problems by deep diving into them without distraction.

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