When Distraction is Good

Distraction and procrastination come in a variety of flavors.  I’ve noticed that when I’m “distracted,” and I walk over and stare out the window, it’s a very different experience than when I feed the distraction by cramming in a few emails or make a phone call.

How often do you let your mind wander?  Are you able to give up the list in your head when you’re cooking or in the shower or taking a walk?  It’s no accident that new ideas pop into our heads when we least expect it.  In our enthusiasm to be productive, we forget to give our mind/body moments to be “receptive” — that is, open to daydreaming, open to letting our minds wander.

I call these different approaches receptive and deceptive distraction.  A longer post can be found here or here.

Published by Linda Stone

I coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, and screen apnea. I write about attention and our relationship to technology.

One thought on “When Distraction is Good

  1. Ha! Your post reminded me of a piece Jamias Cascio, a prominent futurist I follow, wrote for Fast Company, “Should Creative Workers Use Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs?”. But while I was hunting for that article, the first results I found pointed to an article he wrote for The Atlantic entitled, “Get Smarter”? in which he mentions your work! I’m starting to realize how interconnected the ideas and thinkers I follow are. This is the second time in a week where an article from person X reminded me of something I’d read by person Y only to discover person Y quoted person X in her article. I guess it’s not really that weird, but I’m sure getting a kick out of it :).

    Anyways, here’s the part of Jamais’ Fast Company article that is most relevant to your post (Oh, and btw, I’m personally not a fan of cognitive enhancement drugs):

    “But ‘letting your mind wander’ is very often an important part of the creative process. The ‘aha!’ experience comes from the brain making connections between superficially unrelated subjects, and identifying a deeper link. How do enhancements that focus our attention affect this process? Is it possible that cognitive drugs enhance one aspect of knowledge work–productivity–while diminishing another–creativity?”

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