Are your gadgets—cell phone, BlackBerry, laptop—taking over your life? Maggie Jackson, journalist and author of Distracted, talks with Jean about the high price we pay for the devices in our lives.
People are feeling uneasy with our culture of distraction, Maggie says, but this culture of hurry and overload actually has been building for centuries. "Our world and the way we process time and space—the way we feel the planet is our global village—all started back with the first high-tech revolutions: the cinema, the railroad and the jet," she says. "We're now reaching a tipping point."
We're beginning to realize the costs of this distracted way of life, Maggie says. "We are constantly interrupted, and we're constantly working in snippets," she says. "We are prioritizing the snippets, the little to-do things on our agenda, but we're not wrestling with the deeper problems."
And we'll always be inundated by information, Maggie says, but we can learn how to control it. "We can use technology much more wisely than we are," she says. "We need to start speaking a language of attention." According to Maggie, there are three kinds of attention:
Focus: the spotlight of the mind and the key to relating to others and concentrating
Awareness: offers alertness, wakefulness and sensitivity to what's going on around you
Executive: allows you to plan, make decisions and create order
Unless you strengthen your power of attention, Maggie says you're going to end up with no control over your life. She offers these tips to manage your life and give attention to the things and people that are the most important:
Don't accept that the culture of distraction is the way it has to be. "Understand all of the costs of multitasking and splitting your focus," Maggie says.
Create "white space." Maggie says to set aside a time or a place for uninterrupted, unwired thought. Take time to stay still, collect yourself and plan your day.
Be wary of interruptions. "We think an interruption is a bump in the road," Maggie says. "But actually because of our cognitive limitations (especially the limitations of our short-term working memory), we get lost."