Addicted to Distraction


I am worried about the choices we are making.  I am worried we are wasting the precious time we have here.  And as smartphones continue to spread far and wide, I am worried we are using the powerful devices in the wrong way.

The real productivity increases during the industrial revolution didn’t come at the time electricity was invented.  The real gains came after they were able to really harness the true benefits of electricity – the ability to arrange the machines in a way that allowed the workers to work more efficiently.

Fast forward 150 years with the introduction of the smart phone.  We are encountering the same problem as electricity when first introduced.  The power of the smart phone is not that we have a device in our pocket that can give us a little dopamine hit of anytime we want it.  The smart phone gives us the ability to communicate globally with ease, solve any problem we want at the tip of our fingers, and learn at any moment we choose.

The smart phone has given us the ability to be immensely more productive, and yet, I don’t think we have really tapped the true potential.  Too many of us are addicted to distraction.  Why learn a new subject or new language when we can log on facebook and surf through some photos?  Why read a book or a newspaper when I can play hours of candy crush until I reach level 154?  What happens after you have played candy crush for an hour or surfed social media for a few hours?  Do you come away with any sense of fulfillment?

We are allowing these short term decisions and distractions to adversely affect our lives.  What would we do in place of this time?  What is the purpose of all the busy?

Until I had twin girls 2 years ago, I rarely allowed these internal dialogues to bubble to the surface.  I was addicted to distraction.  I didn’t want to be forced to think about the future.  I didn’t want to plan out my life.  I just wanted to live the life I was in now.  And yet, there is so much we sacrifice when we take this approach.  And for what?

Now that I am forced to take a longer term view, the flaw is glaring.  We are sacrificing our long term success and happiness over the next distraction and next dopamine hit.  And it comes at such a cost – we are sacrificing the long term by staying so in the moment.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we can see it too.  We know it, and we want to do better, but we don’t know where to start.

Start small – create a safe space from electronics.  You don’t need to give your cell phone away.  On the contrary, start by just setting out a few hours without electronics.  Take an afternoon one Saturday and turn your phone off, and spend the whole day engaged with your kids.  Go for a walk around the neighborhood with your spouse or friend.

When we force ourselves to take a step back, we allow the fog and cloud of the everyday busy to dissipate.  And what is left are the things that truly matter in life.




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