Warning! Technology Is Sucking Away the Time You Need to Be a Success
How much are the tech tools you use distracting you from doing real work? Find out -- and find out how to stop it.
But, you have to question why other forms of play don't take nearly as much of their enthusiasts' time. Few weekend duffers are logging 22 to 40 hours a week on the golf course. Most casual bridge or poker players get in just four to eight hours a week.
The fact is, these other activities aren't engineered to be addictive; video games are. Gamers are famous for so losing track of time and becoming so immersed that they forget to eat, sleep or go to work -- just the same as a heroin addict camped in a crack house. And it's not just gaming that's got us addicted.
The author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, Dr. Adam Alter put it this way in a New York Times interview, March 7, 2017:
"In the past, we thought of addiction as related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where people are spending three hours a day tethered to their cell phones. ... These gadgets are the perfect delivery devices for addictive media. Games (and social media) were once confined to our home computers. Now, portable devices allow us to engage with them everywhere. Today, we're checking our social media constantly."
Participation in social media has been meticulously engineered to be addictive in every respect. Behavioral scientists, neurologists, psychologists, computer scientists and others have invested all their combined knowledge into creating and promoting a collection of activities we think of as social media, purposed to hijack more and more of your time, to provide incentives and rewards more significant and stimulating to you than all other activities and to ultimately rewire your brain to be incapable of participating in other activities. Imagine how susceptible we are to something deliberately designed for that purpose!
Join the resistance movement
At a private breakfast with David Sax, author of The Revenge of Analog, I asked him what he thought of the digital takeover of people's minds and lives and my book's subjects of time management and productivity. He said what seemed most revealing was that, even as the availability of cheap and free technology had grown explosively, productivity had stayed stubbornly flat. Most studies, he said, showed productivity basically flat-lining for the past decade while the tools, media, instant access and specifics like easy, cheap video conferencing had proliferated like rabbits on Viagra.
One of the reasons for this, in my opinion, is that very little of everything digital is being created with increasing productivity as its true objective, and even less of it is being used for that purpose. The purveyors are really little more than digital drug dealers -- their chief purpose is an utterly addicted population.
But, there is a stubborn, growing resistance movement. "Analog is now a conscious choice," Sax says, "requiring greater costs vs. digital alternatives -- yet an increasing number of people are increasingly electing it." As he describes in his book, everything from paper notebooks to vinyl records are newly popular with young users. For instance, sales of paper appointment books and day planners grew 10 percent from 2015 to 2016 -- topping $342.7 million. I believe the analog choices being made represent an attempt -- conscious and subconscious -- to step away from the fast-whirling and frenetically spinning chessboard Sax described and to slow down and try to think.
A respected writer at The New Yorker magazine, George Packer explains why he refuses to use Twitter: "Twitter is crack for media addicts. It scares me because I don't think I could handle it." To me, the risks and potential damage to my mental capabilities and productivity far outweigh the argued benefits. There is nobody I need to tweet nor anyone I need to be tweeted by, but I do need my abilities to think, focus, concentrate, write in complete sentences and work in an organized manner.
Every entrepreneur must make similar value decisions. What is legitimately important vs. what seems important vs. what do others think is important for me? What do you really need vs. what do you seem to need or want vs. what do others think you should need, want or do? Packer has made a profound value decision for himself. It is a time-management decision, but it is also courageous, controversial and maligned. You won't find any similar decisions you make welcomed or applauded.
In his book The One Thing, Gary Keller, cofounder and chairman of the board of real estate company Keller Williams, echoes a lot of my advice on protecting your productivity. He suggests you "build a bunker" -- a place to work out of the path of distraction. Then, "turn off your phone. Shut down your email. Exit the internet." When Gary wrote about this in 2012, it was radical. Today, it's still outside the mainstream, but top performers are adopting such practices in ever-rising numbers, and scientific research is catching up to these prescient predictions and cautions.
The resistance movement is growing. Why not join in and get back some of that precious time you really can't afford to lose?