FOCUS 2016

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our BrainsTwo books I’ve read since my blog post referring to an article “Addicted to Distraction” have helped cement my resolve to sharpen my focus and reduce the stress that comes with living distracted:

  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains by Nicholas Carr and
  • The Distraction Trap by Frances Booth.

Recommended reading both. One for the “why”, the other for the “how”.

The Internet trains our brains to react to what we see there. My first week back at work after the holidays, I did 3 things differently at the start of each day, to help retrain my brain to act instead of react.

  1. Instead of reaching for my phone or iPad, I reached for a book.
  2. After reading for an hour or so, instead of reaching for my phone or iPad to check weather or email, I unrolled my yoga mat.
  3. After half an hour on my yoga mat, instead of reaching for my phone or iPad, I went and had breakfast, during which I did my usual crossword puzzle or Sudoku.

By then I couldn’t resist checking to see what emails had come in, before getting down to writing, but because I hadn’t started out the day in a reactive state, it was easy to just look at it, then turn off wifi on my computer to eliminate e-interruptions, and spend the morning focused on my novel-in-progress.

I still have a long way to go in addressing my addiction. The distractions of the Internet still have me in their grip. I know one week of new routines is only a beginning. But already I feel I’m reaping benefits with my efforts, and I have plans for taking charge of more of my time next week.

Did you notice anything different about this blog post compared with my last post of 2015? No hyper-links. I’ve decided they aren’t called “hyper” for no reason. Apparently even just seeing links in an article is enough to distract us from our reading, and interfere with our processing of it, even if we don’t click through. And if you do… Well, you know what happens.

How are you dealing with e-distraction in your life? Any tips to help keep me on track to being a more focused person in the coming weeks and months?

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Janet Barclay on September 30, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I've been trying to plan my day so that email isn't the main focus. I do check it first thing, but anything that doesn't require my immediate attention waits until after lunch, or longer. At least that's the plan. Some days I do get caught up in email, and one week I was so good about ignoring it that I found myself with 30 messages in my inbox that needed attention – not a lot for some people, but it is for me!

    • Kathy Stinson on September 30, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      I can relate to this well, Janet. You imagine when you see the backlog “Oh maybe this wasn't such a good plan.” But my bet is that dealing with 30 messages together in one block of time is more efficient that doing it as they come in. In the morning you're doing THIS, and THEN you're doing email. Kind of like a time management defrag. Remember when we used to do that to our hard drives?

      • Janet Barclay on October 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

        It would have been okay if I'd only left them for the afternoon, but I'd left them for several days, and the more messages there are in my inbox, the greater the risk of overlooking something that may not have been wasn't high in importance when it came in, but did require attention.

        • Kathy Stinson on October 1, 2016 at 7:17 pm

          Ah, yes! I can see where it might not pay to get TOO good at ignoring emails till later. 🙂 But I imagine you do pretty well at finding the right balance, most of the time, between ignoring them and letting them eat too much into your best “project” time. You seem to do okay with my emails anyway!

  2. Pam Mirehouse on September 30, 2016 at 11:37 am

    One of our most valuable resources these days is our attention. Where focus goes energy flows…thank you for these recommendations. I will check them out!

    • Kathy Stinson on September 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Pam, I like that idea of attention as a resource. And “where focus goes energy flows” is so true. Thanks for the reminder. This many months after writing this post, I needed it!

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