Living in a World of Distractions
We live in an age of endless media sources, all saying, “Hey! Look over here!” Nobel Prize winning Economist Herbert Simon wrote: “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention … among the overabundance of information sources.”
Translating Simon’s point: Our attention span (our views and clicks) has become the basis of competition in business.
Even more than our money, companies and organizations compete for our attention. Spending always follows our attentions. Money management starts with a budget, the basis of financial stewardship. But do any of us write out a budget for our attention?
For me, the closest I get is my calendar app. But that’s only what I am supposed to be looking at— not counting all the times I check my email, reply to a text or read up on the political headlines.
Click Bait Distractions
I love how so many news headlines, even from “reputable sources,” imply that a leader or politician has made an outrageous statement. It’s click bait. The average web page has over 120 links. It’s the outrageous that cuts through the noise, grabs our attention, and gets the coveted “click.”
God’s Word always provides the best advice.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
Proverbs 4:24–26 is also a great word on this subject.
“Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”
How do I manage all the distractions? How do I discern something I shouldn’t pay attention to? Here are some practical tips I’ve used to help clear out some of the distractions.
Relationships: Identify the most important relationships in your life. If they are not winning the majority of your attention, then that is an obvious place to start.
Infotainment: My IT professor in grad school used to say that information serves only one of two purposes: (1) to improve the quality of decisions we make or (2) to entertain. So, if whatever you are looking at is not directly leading you to a decision you want to make, then odds are it’s just for entertainment. If it isn’t good entertainment value, then shut it down!
Environment: We are the sum of our habits. The fastest way to change a habit is by altering our surroundings.
We don’t have a TV on the main floor of our home.
My phone has a cover I must unsnap before I can look at it.
I always close out all my email programs on my computer before starting a writing task or preparing a presentation.
I will write more about habits and environment in a later blog.
Many fishermen start with the brightest, flashiest, noisiest lures in the tackle box. Advertisers, politicians, and even your well-meaning, but opinionated, Facebook friends are doing essentially the same thing. All too many times, we bite. And then we have to shake ourselves free, or get reeled in.
As with so many things, the lessons we teach our children become the most valuable. I’ve lost count how many times my own children have sung, “Be careful little eyes what you see.” We are to honor God with the choices we make with our money and our talents. It is also just as important that we honor God with the people and media we pay attention to. My prayer for each of us is that our eyes, our words and our clicks would all advance the Gospel, and not distract from it.
About the author
Chris Manrodt chairs First Free’s elder board, and is also a small group leader. He and his wife Lisa have three children. Chris leads a data analytics team for a medical device company. He studied Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University, and Management of Technology at the University of Minnesota. When not working or traveling with his family, he is usually hitting the weights or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.