It is flu season again, that lovely time of year when we all scramble to the doctor for vaccinations and engage in hyper-conscious hand washing, carrying hand sanitizer in every car, purse and gym bag.
So far, I’ve managed to avoid the nasty head cold that has recently begun to make its compulsory rounds among friends and colleagues. But to tell you the truth, I think I am suffering from a different type of malady these days. It’s an ailment many of us multitaskers suffer. To coin a phrase, I call it “techtigue.”
Techtigue is that familiar ache in the back of the brain that eventually makes its way throughout the body causing its sufferer to question his or her sanity, immediately followed by an urge to flop on the couch with a fluffy blanket and mindlessly watch “Leave It to Beaver” or “Mayberry RFD” reruns for a few hours of relief.
For me, techtigue comes on slowly with the first indicator in the form of a faint voice in my head, similar to that of the monotone, digitally generated GPS droning “Warning, warning….approaching technology overload, please choose another route.”
This is typically preceeded by bouts of staring at the computer screen wondering where I was before answering that last text message, or wishing I’d written down that pithy thought or column idea before responding immediately to an email that has just popped up inviting me to a yet another fundraiser, wine tasting or political forum.
For people like me, techtigue can really hinder our ability to reach our highest creative heights and, frankly, to hit our deadlines.
Typically, I ignore the symptoms of techtigue and just barrel through each day moving dexterously through a barrage of emails, texts, tweets, IMs, Facebook posts, cell calls and oh, yes, the ring of that old fashion thing in the corner fast collecting dust, my land line – all at warp speed. The only exception is my snail mail, which tends to get a weekly going through when I can sit and take a load off. Frankly it’s becoming one of my favorite, slower moving moments in my week. I no longer think to myself as I kick off my heels and slip on my Uggs: “Calgon take me away,” but “snail mail take me away!”
This doesn’t seem quite right, so I chalk it up to yet another symptom of techtigue.
But some days, like today when I consciously carve out some time to write – this on a perfect hunker-down rainy day complete with lightning and thunder – I am able to hit that sweet spot of concentration, and I have to make a determined effort to log off my email, turn off the cell phone, put the land line on DND in order to simply sit, think and engage my inner imagination.
And this, dear readers, is like sinking in to a warm, candle-lit bubble bath. Ahhhhhhhh.
Yet I’ve found turning off these distractions can be really difficult, and that’s when the really creepy aspect of techtigue sets in. Instead of the little voice in my head starting with the monotone “warning” bit, it begins a slow drip, drip, drip series of wicked virtual post-it-note-style thoughts in the form of “What am I missing? What’s going this very minute? Who’s trying to reach me? What will happen if I don’t answer someone back in 5 seconds flat? Am I forgetting something!?”
Ughhh! Enough already!
Here’s a dirty little secret that I am discovering as I take the time to ponder the toll invasive social networking and other technology is having on my life. I’ve found that nine times out of 10, when I create an environment, even for an hour or two each day, in which I can deeply focus on my task at hand, be it writing, strategizing a business issue, paying bills, talking on the phone to my parents, penning a note to an old friend (yes, via snail mail!), I am able to emerge back in to the technology fast lane with better concentration and ability, and I’m less distracted overall. Similar to getting to the gym for a workout, it’s just doing it – in this case, tuning things out – that makes the results so very rewarding.
Perhaps there is a Nike-inspired tag line just waiting to be born here that addresses the cure for techtigue syndrome. Something like: “Turn it off! Just do it.”
Over the weekend, I happened to read an interesting article about the importance of escaping all the digital chaos, especially for us inventive types who need to sit quietly and focus on meeting our deadlines…. I mean being creative.
The article pointed out that recent studies have demonstrated how chronic multitaskers who are unable or unwilling to focus on one thing at a time, even when required to, are adversely affected creatively. It has become such an issue that Intel recently commissioned a study to examine “to what extent corporate policies create environments in which emails and other distractions make it hard to concentrate and be creative.”
After reading the article, I decided to initiate my own personal corporate policy related to the technology in my life. I realize that if unmanaged, techtigue can become chronic and take control. So, while I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be all that easy (like cutting cake from my diet), I’ve made a vow to determine what is most useful in my life regarding technology, cut out the superfluous and regularly stop and think about not thinking about so much at one time.
So far, I am happy to report I am feeling much better!
Newport Beach resident Lynn Selich is a weekly columnist for the Newport Beach Independent, associate publisher of Newport Beach magazine and society editor for both publications. Lynn can be reached at [email protected]. But please note that if she is taking a techtigue time out, she may not instantly reply.