Tagged: distractions


Do the things external which fall upon thee distract thee?

Remove everything not needed for the task at hand. Hide objects in boxes, drawers, and closets. Wipe your desktop and free it of ensnaring icons. Close unnecessary programs. Close and hide tabs (F11 in Chrome). Conceal folder links (Control+Shift+B in Chrome). Use minimalist text editors like Q10 or TypeWriter. And so forth.

Eliminate the various voices, sounds, smells, passersby, faces, books, alerts. Stop reading, listening, talking, doing. Starve your senses, empty your mind, and silence the “chatter in the skull“.

Abstract your life. Reduce your possessions. Go paperless and digital. Avoid busyness and limit concurrency, completing open projects, winding down commitments, finishing half-read books.

Take pity on your primate brain, your fickle and finite attention. As a programmer would a program, as a designer would a dashboard, bury the details in subsections, expose only the parts at hand. Abstract—”and cease to be whirled around.


Further reading:

Marcus Aurelius. Meditations

Dave Bruno. The 100 Thing Challenge

Vivek Haldar. 2010-12-30. Minimalism is not a viable intellectual strategy

Andrew Hyde. 2011-05-03. Extreme Minimalism

Tim Kreider. 2012-06-30. The ‘Busy’ Trap. NYT

Shunryu Suzuki. 1970. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Wheatherhill

Amy Unruh and Paul S. Rosenbloom. 1989. Abstraction in Problem Solving and Learning

Alan Watts. 2000. Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation. New World Library



Work on one thing at a time. Eliminate distractions. Avoid interruptions.

Multi-tasking is a myth. You cannot do it.  When you attempt to “multi-task”, you are in fact switching rapidly between tasks. Switch-tasking requires interrupting what you’re currently working on to work on something else [Nass]. Interrupted, your brain takes twenty minutes to reboot [Gallagher, p. 154]. This makes you not only inefficient but confused. Worse, heavy multi-taskers actually get worse at juggling tasks and suffer from memory loss and diminished concentration [Nass].

(Note: It is okay to “walk and chew gum at the same time”, for these activities require different parts of the brain. You get the idea.)


References and further information:

Winifred Gallagher. 2009. Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. Penguin

Herman Miller. 2007. The Siren Song of Multitasking

Clifford Nass. Multi-Tasking is Bad for Your Brain. GigaOm

Joshua S. Rubinstein, David E. Meyer, and Jeffrey E. Evans. 2001. Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching. JEP

Sue Shellenbarger. 2003-02-27. New Studies Show Pitfalls Of Doing Too Much at Once. WSJ