Driven to Distraction
Today's column has probably been years in the making. It's great that the Internet has been such an everlasting font of knowledge and entertainment, but at a certain point you actually need to focus and get one task done--whether it's writing that e-mail you owe to a long-lost friend, finally uploading the best photos from your last vacation or writing this week's column.
And I have a problem doing that. As I noted in a blog post at the start of this year, it is far too easy to buy the big lie of the Internet, that downloading yet another data point into your head will make you that much smarter.
I first heard about the WriteRoom program that I reviewed today maybe a year ago. I thought the idea was crazy--as in, maybe crazy enough to work. After using it to write this week's column, I'm sold: You really do need some way to blot out everything but the words on the screen, and a cleaner layout of toolbars and menus isn't always going to help.
But I don't think software alone can save you from yourself. As I observed in that January blog post, you have to resist the temptation to Alt-Tab over to your e-mail or RSS reader every other minute. You have to be able to realize when you're getting your news fix too often and recognize when you're just spinning your wheels on the Web.
If I can make one practical, timely suggestion about how to do that: Resist the temptation to read comments on political blogs or political news stories. I hate to dump on the minority of people who contribute thoughtful, reasoned feedback, but most of the stuff I see consists of the same 6 arguments du jour, written with minimal attention to logic and grammar. This blather betrays a profound ignorance of the difference between persuading people who disagree with you and entertaining those who agree with you, and reading that kind of nonsense will only make your head hurt.
At very least, spare yourself the comments with multiple!! exclamation points!!! and random WORDS in all CAPS.
What do you do to stay focused when you're trying to get things done on the computer? Talk about that in the comments below--then let's continue the discussion at 2 p.m. in my Web chat.
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