The Attention Economy is Stealing Your Life
Installed Yosemite on the laptop. Days later I needed to scan some documents. The scanner wasn’t visible. Search for the Canon driver for Yosemite. 15–30 minutes.
The very next day, needed to print something. Printer visible but not working. Go to Samsung site and find the software. 10–15 minutes because the realization that it was the OS arrived quicker.
Gadgets and toys
Fired up the Chromecast. It had trouble connecting to wifi (see below). More resetting, rebooting and waiting.
Woke up to no wifi. Router had reset, which also reset all the connection to devices in the house which needed to be logged in. This random occurrence happens once in a while.
The TV remote started sticking. One click to raise volume and it sailed up to maximum. Had to remove batteries and download apps for the set top box. Fortunately, they exist. Ordered a new remote. One to two hours.
Then it was my LG G Watch and Android Wear. Yesterday, it was the router, or the wifi, or the OS, or the phone, or the tablet.
Even though this watch is a toy I would never have bought, it still managed to steal an hour from me this morning. One little “disconnected” icon became resets and restarts, searching the Internet for people with a similar problem, going through the Google Help suggestions, and finally posting the question on the Help Forum. Then after about an hour, finally thinking of rebooting the phone, which did the trick.
Next day, my super scale, delivered from Amazon a few days ago, just suddenly didn’t work. I had to try a new battery and whatever else I could think of. Although Amazon makes it very easy to return stuff you don’t want, whether it doesn’t work, or for any other reason, it still takes time to find a box, print the labels, go to the post office. My other scale needs a battery that I can’t find at the supermarket. Another hour of messing around getting that fixed.
The other day, I wanted to do a backup. I have a great program that clones the 1 TB drive to a mountable external one, just in case the unthinkable happens. After over an hour, the backup stopped advancing at about 350k files examined. I started it again, it stopped at the same place. After a final try, I found answers on the net. The solution that actually worked, was to erase the new drive first. Great, although it’s not a “smart” backup anymore. Again, hours lost, since I didn’t want to work on the machine I was backing up.
A thousand tiny cuts
The most egregious waste of time comes in much smaller slices. I was listening to an interview with Daniel J. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind on the Inquiring Minds podcast (interview begins at 25 minutes):
Dr. Levitin points out that the numerous tiny interruptions we get all day continuously deplete the neurons’ energy source, leaving the brain fatigued more quickly than it would be without them. He points, for example, to email. You get the notification or see you have new mail when you do check, having cleverly turned off notifications. I did that along time ago, along with Twitter notifications. Even before doing anything about it, you make a decision as to whether to deal with it now or later. Imagine the number of these tiny decisions when you mix in social media, phone calls, text messages, humans around you, noises in your home, building, neighborhood, city… Driving, although mechanical, requires the attention to hundreds of details. Many of these require life or death level decisions. Decisions, decisions, all day, every day.
Remember the “You’ve got mail!” voice and or sound? That was about 20 years ago. The diversions have been multiplied by at least a thousand today! There are two bits of good luck I have to fight this slow but inevitable march towards ADD. At least once a day, I have the luxury of taking an hour walk in a fairly peaceful, flat and paved riverside walk, uninterrupted by traffic lights or curbs. The other is to play a musical instrument. Getting lost in a guitar or piano reverie is priceless for your peace of mind. I also avoid constant use of my phone in boring situations like waiting rooms or supermarket queues, preferring to read or observe people around me.
It’s common now to call out and decry “link bait”. Even if you don’t click, you’ve likely read at least one “You’ll never believe…” or “The top 5 reasons…” on every page where they appear. Not clicking was a decision!