Having set up Hello you with a very deliberate ‘distributed’ business model, we knew there would be lots of learnings and stumbling blocks along the way. What I didn’t expect however, is the extent to which the effects would go way beyond changing just my ‘working self’. They’d fundamentally change me as a person. Pretty deep huh…
This post actually started out to explore the merits of ‘natural language forms’ on websites (that WILL be coming soon – promise)…
…but distractions are everywhere.
Being distracted from writing the original post was perhaps almost inevitable given the very digital world I’ve come to inhabit.
It’s partially the result of the tools and methods we use to communicate in a distributed team. But also because I work in a digital industry and think about delivering digital experiences on behalf of our clients all day long ( I love you all btw.) But it also happens to the best of us.
The incessant beeps, alerts, new messages arriving from multiple channels, online ads… the list goes on. They all compete for our attention and create a dopamine induced state of excitement where you’re just craving more of the same.
Ok, I can admit it. I’m possibly addicted to being permanently connected – and needed.
AND THE WORST THING?
The biggest side-effect is the reduced ability to stay ‘on topic’, to maintain focus. Jobs-forbid I turn off my plethora of electronic devices (mostly Apple ones) and actually sit down and make time for proper reflection. Ok, it’s partially a symptom of being a new business owner who has a ‘to do’ list as long as 17 monkey arms. Gotta keep going, next, next, next. Ticking tasks off a list provides quick, easy wins compared to deciding to just sit down and spend some quality time thinking and reflecting.
But like any addict, you know deep down what you should be really doing and not doing. But, we’ve been reprogrammed. New behaviours have now been ingrained and become automatic.
So back to this blog post – or at least the original one.
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED
- Starting to write about the role of copywriting on digital devices.
- Thinking how web processes (like filling in a form) could be made more effective by making them more conversational.
- Being distracted by new ideas and strands of thinking every time I went to a new web page to do research on it.
- Asking myself why am I finding it hard to concentrate and stay on topic?
- Instinctively maximising my text editor window to block out other distractions.
- It ended up so stupidly large and the text looked ridiculously small in the left edge of the otherwise blank window.
- Thinking, I wonder if there’s an app which has a ‘focus mode’ to remove the editing interface elements to minimise distraction?
- Searching the web for one (yet another distraction – I know)
- Hurrah, they exist ( IA writer, hemingwayapp & others – links at the end)
So it was like being distracted by thinking about how not to be distracted, only to be distracted again by looking for a solution to not being distracted and then being distracted once more by wanting to tell others about the experience in order to help them minimise their own distractions. All very meta.
But getting this far was a great learning experience.
Questioning yourself, your actions and habits (not just those of others) is fundamental to being a good designer.
The trouble is, it’s not too difficult to imagine a situation where we’ve all become so obsessed with ‘getting our digital highs’, we completely lose the skill to concentrate on just one thing for long enough to even pose and explore these types of questions.
We all need to stick our heads out of the clouds once in a while and ask ourselves, what the hell’s going on out there?
So if any of this feels familiar to you, make sure to keep challenging how you go about things. Search for a place, a method, an environment, or just a computer viewport which minimises distractions. Then look forward to spending some quality time alone with your mind again.
I’m reminded of a great Ernest Hemingway quote:
The first draft of anything is shit
Everything improves with time, reflection and some clarity of thought. So here’s some writing tools that may help you document your own thoughts and ideas when you get back to your computer.
Let me know how it goes. I promise not to ‘direct message’ you just as you’re onto something good. All the best.