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Crackberry. Internet addiction. Email junky. Twit. Our choice of words reveals that we already knew the truth. Still, when I read this article, I had to turn around and check for a hidden camera.  I felt like it had been written about me.

New York Times – This is your brain on computers

Multitasking is addictive, it kills creativity and the ability to focus. Continuously checking the cellphone, email, Facebook and news feeds maintains a steady train of dopamine squirts to the brain.  When we don’t have access to our stimulants, we get cranky.  When we do, we work, play or socialize in a haze of distraction and reduced brain function.  And the effects persist even after logging off.

Clifford Nass, Stanford: “…we’ve got a large and growing group of people who think the slightest hint that something interesting might be going on is like catnip. They can’t ignore it.”

This is me.  I can work for about 30 seconds before the urge hits to check the inbox.  I respond to trivial emails rather than focus on important and urgent work tasks.  I’m on and off social networking sites all day long.  I try to work on two or three or five things at once, because one task is just not exciting enough.  No wonder it takes me hours to finish anything!

“Procrastination” alone doesn’t explain my dysfunctional work habits.  I have to add multitasking (or hypertasking) addiction to the list.

A more dire diagnosis is good news if it’s more accurate.  At least now I can start doing something about it.

Is This You?

While writing this blog post, 9:00am rolled around and I had to pause to listen to the hourly news.  Several times during the 3-minute newscast, I caught myself tabbing through my open windows or loading up new web pages.  It took a conscious effort to just listen to the radio for 3 minutes without splitting my attention with something else!  Oh yeah, I got it bad.

It made me realize that I do a lot of unimportant things in a day, but I don’t feel like I’m wasting time because I’m “working at the same time.”  Except I have to admit, when I’m self-distracting like that I’m working a lot slower and a lot dumber.  I am wasting time.

What am I going to do about this?  Well I don’t imagine it’s going to be easy.  But the idea isn’t to give up email or other entertainments, just to compartmentalize these activities.  One thing at a time.  I think I’ll go back to closing the browsers and email apps while I’m supposed to be working.  I’ll try to focus on one task at a time, for a minimum length of time.  20 minutes?  Maybe I need to start with 3.

This journey to re-discover good work habits is going to be longer than I’d though.  Now at least I’m headed in the right direction.

-Johnny 0.

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