Attention Deficit

There aren’t many apps I can say that I’m honestly afraid to download.

TikTok is one of those apps.

I’ve watched my sister and my girlfriend filter through video after silly video until they find something which sends them into a fit of uncontrollable laughter… and looks like a stupid amount of fun.

My concern is that if I open the TikTok floodgate, I won’t be able to close it.

So I’m running an experiment.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to create a TikTok account and download a social media tracker which I will use to monitor my usage over the course of a week.

Next Thursday I’ll check how much time I’ve spent and ask those closest to me if they’ve noticed any changes in my behaviour.

I’ll then decide whether I delete it for good or leave it on my phone.

Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

Hey hey,

A little while ago I mentioned that I was preparing a book pitch and the first 5000 words of a creative non-fiction text. Today that draft was due.

7681 words, way too many hours of reading, and one mad scramble later, I’ve submitted it for my first round of formal feedback. But I felt I’d be remiss not to ask for your feedback too.

This is a link to the first draft. I have my own thoughts about what I like and what I think needs to change, but I don’t want to influence your read.

If you have the time and the inclination, I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have.

You can reach me via any of the usual means, but here is a link to an anonymous feedback form which you can use if you’d prefer.

Much love,

-Luke

The act of putting things off is how we the waste the most time. What’s worse is that we rarely even do so deliberately.

Unconscious procrastination is perhaps even more poisonous than the conscious, conservative kind.

Too many young people find hilarity in the fact that our parents’ generation worked themselves to the bone for fifty years, all for the sake of a handful of holidays spent limping between Balinese pubs and war memorials. While unbeknownst to us, as the un-retired amongst our parents sacrifice their present for a luscious, expected future they aren’t guaranteed, we let our present dwiddle away before our eyes in an even more insidious way.

Glowing screens snatch our attention involuntarily, as if not by choice but by instinct, and the time we have left is often spent curating the next thing we’ll contribute to the very ocean of content we ourselves are drowning in.

At least they know what they’re giving away.

In 2014 a professor at the University of Melbourne published a study in which the computer sessions of 1249 students were analysed over a total of 3372 sessions.

Facebook was present in 44% of all sessions and accounted for the second most common task, totalling 9.2% of all task instances. Only being beaten by university work itself.

What’s interesting is that about 99% of the sessions involved instances of media multitasking.

For the purpose of the experiment they defined focussed behaviour as instances of 20 or more minutes with two or less different activities.

They discovered that students tended to multitask regardless of whether or not they used Facebook.

What was stunning is that when they compare the focussed behaviour between Facebook users and non-Facebook. Around a third of the non-Facebook users spent most of their time in focussed behaviour, compared to only one in nine Facebook users.

Further, Facebook was responsible for initiating multitasking behaviour at the cost of student’s focus.

While these results shouldn’t surprise anyone, they are a reminder that if Facebook is your vice of choice, maybe there are times where you want to restrict your access.

If you’re studying, maybe consider installing a website blocker to stop Facebook initiating distraction.

Your phone is probably the most distracting thing you own.

You can pick it up and access any one of a hundred apps at almost any time.

But this convenience comes at a cost.

Have you ever checked a message on your phone, then decided to check your email as well, jot down something in your shopping list app, Google the closest pizza place and then open up deliveroo? Me too.

When we engage in the consumption of media across channels and switch frequently, it’s called media multitasking.

Unfortunately, media multitasking taxes our ability to learn implicitly.

Which means that while you’re switching through channels, you’re not actually learning (or growing) a whole lot.

Because most of our learning happens naturally and subconsciously.

So be mindful. Next time you pick up your phone, try to do only the thing you first intended to do.

Then put it away.

Our attention is driven by how we feel.

Every decision we make to do one thing and not another is motivated by the feelings we’re likely to experience as a result of doing or not doing the thing.

Attention deficit disorders are emotional regulation disorders.

When we’re not satisfied with how we’re spending our time, there are always emotional reasons we make those choices.

Sometimes it’s the avoidance of discomfort, disgust or fear.

Other times it’s simply that short term dopamine is more accessible than more sustainable sources.

What we do and how we feel are inextricably linked at all stages of decision making.

Treating them separately makes no sense at all.

Here’s a few things I’m pretty convinced are true;

  1. There is a constant war being fought for the attention of our digital selves which is having dramatic adverse effects on people’s happiness, especially amongst digital natives who have never known a world without digital media;

  2. Activities practiced regularly which reward participants for consistent time investment over many years are essential to a meaningful life;

  3. The instant dopaminergic gratifications available through social media and the 24-hour news cycle are training us against investing time into activities which generate meaning over time;

  4. Therefore, it is necessary to reframe the benefits of investing time and energy into skills and activities which create meaning and value over time for those who don’t understand this intuitively.

Deadlines are awesome.

They force you to focus on accomplishing a clear goal within a specific time, and usually do a good job of motivating you to get across the line.

But some of us (me) enjoy capitalising on this pressure so much that we get reliant on it.

This becomes a problem when longer term tasks show up – because they’re not the kinds of things you can smash out in an all-nighter.

Some things require slow, gradual, meaningful work.

When we can’t rely on sweet deadline pressure to get that work done, we need to employ other means.

For me, it’s games.

I’ll create a finite set of rules which govern the rate, pace and quality of the work I’ve got to do, break it into parts and sprinkle rewards along the way to encourage victory.

This blog is a prime example of that kind of game.

I’ve posted here every day for 6 months as of today (minus one day where my scheduling was out and I scheduled a post for three days in the future – thanks to who noticed).

That would never have been possible if I hadn’t set out goals, expectations and rewards for myself along the way which turned half a year’s worth of writing into daily, bite sized chunks.

Take care of your goals. Treat them well. And when you’re not progressing in their direction, find out why – then design something special and have some fun.

How many actionable thoughts did you have today?

How many did you resist?

Of those you resisted, did your resistance stem from logic or fear?

Your nature is to act.

Resist the resistance.

Do the thing.

Go.

The blessing of a diagnosis clarity. It’s validation, it’s a community of others dealing with similar circumstances.

A diagnosis says, ‘You experience this particular thing, it’s real, and other people also experience it.’

And the more you discuss your diagnosis, the more you seek the experiences of others who share your experience and begin to understand your diagnosis more deeply, a character starts to form from its description.

The great thing about this is that it can help you strategise around the disorder.

The problem is that it gives you someone else to blame when things go wrong.

I slip into this thinking with ADHD all the time.

‘My ADHD doesn’t let me focus when I want to.’

‘I’m sorry I didn’t do that thing I was supposed to, my ADHD means I get distracted sometimes.’

‘I forgot what time we were meant to meet – ADHD.’

These are comfortable thoughts, but they’re bullshit.

I can force myself to focus whenever I need to. I just need to isolate potential distractions more-so than most.

If I forgot to do something, or what time I was meant to be somewhere, it’s because I didn’t write it down like I should have, or I didn’t prioritise it high enough. ADHD certainly doesn’t make these things easier to do, but it’s me who lets people down.

I am in no way seperate from my ADHD.

Personifying it, giving it character, and imagining what its motivations are can all be helpful ways to frame the diagnosis and help explain it to other people.

Its usefulness ends at the point where I start believing that its character exists outside of my own.

I’m no doctor or psychologist, but I’d be willing to bet that the same goes for a whole lot more than ADHD.