Geeks joke about having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) all the time, and ADD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell says that's not too far off. In his book, CrazyBusy, Hallowell argues that Crackberry culture leads to ADD-like symptoms in people that don't officially have the disorder—a problem he calls Attention Deficit Trait (ADT). While Hallowell's fondness for making up words like "gigaguilt" and "screensucking" can be annoying, the overall message of CrazyBusy is that we all need to slow down and think in order to innovate instead of being constantly on the go in a frenzied (dumb) state of mind.
Here's one of my favorite excerpts from the book, which discusses the overabundance of data and the importance of creative "play." Hallowell writes:
Coleridge's Ancient Mariner found himself becalmed in an ocean of salt water when he uttered his famous lament, "Water, water everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink." The modern equivalent of that salt water is data. We see data everywhere we look, as far as the eye — or optic cable — can see, but most people die before turning it into a liquid they can drink. The scientific method has so cowed the average thinker that she can't act on what she has; she needs more data. So she busily sets out to get it, ignoring in her hurry the nuggets by her side. [...]
What separates the great innovator from the mere data gatherer is the ability to stop gathering data and think about what has been gathered. Alexander Fleming thought long enough about what John Tyndall had observed fifty years before to help others make penicillin out of it. To recombine elements of your experience — the data — into new forms is the act that makes the difference. The surgeon who develops a new procedure, the chemist who synthesizes a new molecule, the football coach who develops a new play — all these people stop to think and play with what they have. [...]
By "play" I don't mean merely what a child does at recess, though that is certainly play. [...]Any activity that lights up your brain, that activates your imagination, is what I mean by play. A person at play can work very hard. [...]
Play lies at the heart of creativity. Play can waste great quantities of time, in that it is not programmable to produce results on cue. Play goes off on tangents, knows no timetable, and can be subversive. But when play goes right, when the planets of mind align, play transforms an old place into a new one.
So go ahead and make sure you get more play in than busywork today.