Believe it or not, one of the many things that I enjoy throughout the day is putting the glowing screens away and spending time in the physical world. This can be done by going outside for a walk around the neighbourhood, which I'll readily admit involves blocking out the world by listening to podcasts while enjoying the sights and smells of the local environment, or enjoying a moment with family. When I'm at the desk there are always a number of work-related distractions vying for attention, so stepping away allows some time to focus. What I've found interesting about my desire for focus is not so much the fact that I'm passing a lot less time online, though this is unexpected, but that distractions in everyday life are generally batted away with more ease than I ever expected. This is something I've wanted to do for years and, after months of work and effort, it seems the goal has been mostly reached.
Perhaps some examples are in order.
This past Monday the family and I went out for a walk in the morning. As one would expect, the boy was happy to be outside with both of his parents and we made our way to the park. A few minutes into the walk, Reiko noticed that the recycling truck hadn't come by and wanted everyone to go back to the house so that we could take out a single stack of magazines. I suggested we do that later if the truck still hadn't come by. As one would expect, this rebuttal was not at all appreciated. My response was simple: "We decided to bring our son to the park. We're here now. Let's do this."
Going back home would have been a distraction. It would have upset the boy, who generally doesn't like leaving the park to begin with. There were fewer than ten magazines to take out, so it wasn't like we were buried in unwanted paper. Being present now, focusing on now, was the better use of time1.
Yesterday Nozomi was in one of her playful moods, so I stepped away from the computer to give her some much-deserved attention. While we were playing there were two chimes from the notebook telling me that some emails had arrived. Given the rather strict filtering rules that govern what appears in the Inbox, any message that makes it through is generally something relatively important or information required for a task that I'm working on. However, just like on Monday, I chose to focus my time and attention on the playful puppy. Just glancing at the computer would have been a distraction. If something were truly important, there would be a phone call. Email can wait, and that's exactly what it did. Being present now, focusing on now, was the better use of time … and I didn't feel bad about it.
There are a half-dozen more examples from just this week alone and they all follow the same pattern: focusing on this because that can wait.
Thirty year old me would be shocked to see this change. Thirty-five year old me would as well. In two weeks I'll be 40 and my opinion on the evolution is simple: it's about time.
Also, as one would expect, this line of reasoning was not appreciated.