Continuous streaming = attention deficiency

Readers, I have to power down. As I type, I have a throbbing nag around my sinus area caused from constantly receiving updates and trying to make my mind function at the speed of the ‘Net. I started this blog complaining about having an attention deficiency, but what I realized is I’m just too connected.

Here’s what I had going about two minutes ago: Gmail updates for four e-mail addresses, Twitter updates for two accounts, work e-mail, work instant messenger and the cell phone (text messages and calls). If it’s not Gmail, it’s Twitter. If it’s not Twitter, it’s the work e-mail and if none of those things go off, it’s the cell phone. I couldn’t get a freaking break.

It all started with a simple Firefox add-on for Gmail. I love getting messages. It makes me feel important, especially for my coveted main e-mail address. The ones for bills and health can wait, but not my main social one. Oh no… check immediately. Then my fascination with Twitter kicked in. Another add-on from Firefox and I had a streaming window of random updates about events, people, thoughts and a plethora of other things. Add to that the already ever popping work e-mail and every five seconds something on my computer notified me of something happening right now. At first I thought it was my inability to concentrate. I pride myself on keeping things in order, remembering appointments and deadlines, running errands and taking care of everything in a timely fashion. It was a simple little thing, running late, that made me start doubting my organizational skills. Why was I late? Responding to a message. I dismissed the notion though and set up more e-mail accounts for the Gmail alert and went for it. Gradually, I added facebook notifications, Twitter updates and instant notification of work messages. Unlike some other people, I really couldn’t let the alerts be alerts. I needed to check. I’d try to make myself remember what I was doing and see what thing needed my attention. Fast forward three months and you have me, sitting here, with alert overload and very little to show for it.

But what am I going to do about it?

  1. For starters, I’m turning all the alerts off. I’ve already disabled the work notifications. Really… if it’s that urgent, call me. I signed out of Twitter and Gmail alerts and I think from now on, I’m going to leave the cell phone on silent for at least half of the work day. I figure anything happening with the kids will go to their dads first and they both know how to reach me at work. As far as personal e-mail, I figure it’s just easier to save some e-mail for the weekend. I get sidetracked by the tabs at the top of the page and next thing I know it’s two hours later and I’ve done nothing but look at celebrity pictures, recipes, contests and instructions for a new jewelry designs.
  2. I’m going back to paper. I’m going on the hunt this week for a planner. A nice planner, something I’ll really use and keep everything in one place. The scattered way I’m keeping up with my life now is running me ragged. I have appointments in my phone, on my calendar, coming to my e-mail, on bits of paper crammed in my wallet. Something has to change. Seeing everything in writing helps me remember. And lists. Sigh. I will beg the lists to forgive me for abandoning them for newfangled gadgetry. I’ll woo them with promises of nice pens and pencils to glide gracefully across their loving pages.
  3. The cell phone is sent to silent during work hours. Text messages get distracting and who really ever just sends one? No more of that. If you care about me, you’ll understand and not think that I’m just brushing you off.
  4. I’m going to start something and finish it whenever possible. There are some things that will need to be handled ASAP, but that doesn’t happen very often in my life. So… going forward, if I start a task, I’m going to finish it. You won’t believe how good I’ve been just writing this post. It usually takes an hour, but this time I cut it down to 30 minutes. Progress already.
  5. Going to start allocating my free time. I used to do so many things before I got addicted to technology. I drew. I read. I exercised. I didn’t think about eating. I went out more. My life was well-rounded. Now, it’s dictated by games and live feed on facebook and Twitter tiny urls about events happening in the world. No more. Instead of mindlessly clicking links and playing games, I’ll go ahead and be proactive about what I want to do in my scheduled free time and do it.

If you’re one of the people affected by these changes, don’t take it personal. I have to get back to basics. Rehab may make me irritable or completely out of the loop though, so bear with me. I feel the effects now as I struggle to finish this post without checking my brightly lit phone. Off I go to finish the project I started this morning at 11 (and no, it’s not an unfinished text message).

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