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Distracted Much? Don't Worry, It's A Good Thing

We do our best to skip distractions in the pursuit of productivity here at Lifehacker, and though we’re happy to pursue distractions in our downtime, New York Magazine reminds us that distraction’s really not all that bad.

Photo by Roger Smith.

Adopting the Internet as the hub of our work, play, and commerce has been the intellectual equivalent of adopting corn syrup as the centre of our national diet, and we’ve all become mentally obese.

Opinions like the above got New York Magazine’s Sam Anderson thinking. The result is a worthwhile 7-page read on our multi-tasking, web-centric, distracted lives. All of which, Anderson says, is a good thing.

Anderson dismisses pundits who, like the above quote, think that YouTube, BlackBerrys and their equivalents have dumbed us down. He argues that there’s no point to such musings because our lives are dependent on connectivity, suggesting that we should instead look for ways to successfully adapt, especially given that each interruption costs us around 25 minutes of productivity time.

To that end, Anderson goes on to list some focus-oriented solutions ranging from meditation to neuroenhancing drugs to what he calls “one of the most exciting-and confounding-solutions to the problem of attention” and something we here at Lifehacker know a thing or two about: lifehacking.

Anderson also says pundits who demonise our information-saturated lives fail to grasp another crucial point:

Focus is a paradox—it has distraction built into it. The two are symbiotic; they’re the systole and diastole of consciousness. Attention comes from the Latin “to stretch out” or “reach toward,” distraction from “to pull apart.” We need both.

Do you agree with Anderson? Is distraction the yin that brings harmony to your focused yang? Share your thoughts in the comments.

In defence of Distraction [New York Magazine]