There is too much noise in the world. Too many news stories, sales, random email lists we can’t remember subscribing to, and apps demand our attention constantly. And I’m just talking about grabs that come from engaging with your computer, be it desktop or laptop.
As recently as 6 years ago, people were doing research to discover just how your cell phone can distract you. The answer is: just by being in the room (2014, 2017, 2018). The mere presence of the device, even if it is out of sight, draws part of your mental attention creating Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
I’m betting you can feel that itch along your palm as you unconsciously reach for your own phone right now, if you aren’t already holding it as you read this.
Attention is something I have very little to spare right now, and I haven’t quite figured out why. I’m fairly certain it’s due to some fucked up internal coping mechanism that tells me as long as I’m busy I’m controlling my environment, and if I’m controlling my environment I can’t get hurt. My anxiety is a tad transparent these days.
But because I’m working hours ridiculous enough that I’m rolling into the last two weeks I will work this year with almost four full days of uncompensated overtime, dealing with personal administrative crap when I’m not working hasn’t been a high priority.
The shift to e-bills at the beginning of the pandemic fed my anxiety something fierce. My blue collar roots take pride in always being able to pay something and to do it on time. The prospect of missing a bill led me to activate the Updates tab in Gmail.
Huge mistake. Massive.
It went okay for the first couple of weeks as Gmail learned based on what ever algorithym the bro who programmed it determined. And then shit went off the rails.
Bill notifications started going to promotions. Stuff from my mother started going to updates. Nothing was where I expected it to be. I told myself for months it was manageable. It manifestly wasn’t.
About a month ago I killed the Updates tab by moving everything into my inbox. Now everything that’s 90% relevant is in one place.
Today I’m declaring digital bankruptcy. I’ve done a cursory pass through the 1,500+ emails in my inbox to try to find things I might actually need. And now that I have, everything is going into archives on the theory that if I handle things as they come in I can reduce the amount of noise.
Let’s hope this works.