Check with Purpose

Jul 21, 2016 | | Say something

Start work, check phone. In meeting, check phone. These checks have only one purpose: Notifications are a small dopamine hit.

My favorite is closing Facebook in one tab and immediately opening it in another.

When checking our phones, Facebook, Reddit, etc, we are looking for an **external** source of dopamine. These short distractions provide fleeting satisfaction. The neurosis of the information age is that we must always be doing *something*. Checking notifications only carries the **appearance** of activity. We are looking for an external impetus to action. Checking a phone is no more active than watching TV. 

Checking a phone is **ersatz activity**.

One cannot always be acting. A few seconds of reflection during a difficult or lengthy task is part of the work activity. Those training on heavy weights take breaks between sets to allow the muscles to relax. Knowledge workers should do the same. In the middle of work, if you are tempted to check a phone, that is because you are tired. Opening up for passive inputs is not rest, as it attempts to substitute fake work (responsiveness) for true work (creation activity). Yes, a busy man has need of amusement, but amusement must have its place. Amusement, by its nature, distracts. 

Simply asking “Why am I checking” as you reach for your device or browser can help break you of the cycle. Are you checking for amusement. You are ok with the distraction? Then check on. Are you not? Then put it away and rest.

July 21, 2016 at 05:28PM
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