Monday, April 08, 2013

How to Make Bookmarks Work for You

I have a problem: I'm a multi-tasker.

Back when I was in my twenties, this was a great thing to be.  You, presumably, got a lot more done by being adaptable and able to switch frequently from reading, to emailing, to letter writing (yes, we still did that in my twenties), and so on.

Now, in my thirties, they tell me that being a multi-tasker doesn't work.  But, of course, I'd already learned that.

Multi-tasking doesn't work for me for no other reason than it has significantly shortened my attention span.  As a kid, I could spend an entire day reading.  As a post-secondary student with a part-time job, I learned to snatch bits of text book readings during my fifteen minute breaks.  Later, as a professional, I often had to break up a block of researching or drafting documents with interviews, phone calls and correspondence.  My day-long attention span was suddenly down to minutes-long or even seconds.

Even that solitary activity I enjoy best of all (get your mind out of the gutter!)--writing--no longer engages my attention for long hours at a time.  I can write for maybe fifteen or thirty minutes at a time before my mind starts wandering.  Usually, when this happens, I jump on the internet to do some "research" and I end up clicking through a dozen or more links until I'm playing an online game or reading about some celebrity I've never even heard of.  (I guess that should be "celebrity".)  An hour later, when I finally come back to my writing, it's usually time to do something else, like make dinner.

Recently, though, I've come up with a way of blending my shortened attention span with my overflowing email inbox.  When I have a fifteen minute time slot on hand (sometimes, I'll admit, during boring conference calls), I'll skim through my inbox, concentrating on the emails I get about writing.  I mean to read these eventually, it's just that I never get around to it.  So, instead of letting these emails languish in my inbox, I sort out the articles that look interesting, file them away in my Bookmarks folder under Writing and I come back to them as soon as my interest in actual writing starts to wane.

Now, when I take a break from writing, I read interesting writing articles that inevitably get me back into my own work-in-progress.  Since the articles are short, I can usually finish one in a few minutes, delete the bookmark, and get back into my work without getting up from my desk.  If it's a long article, I just leave it in my bookmarks until the next time my attention wanders.  Now I no longer feel guilty about not reading those emails I subscribe to and I spend less time procrastinating from my actual writing.  Try it out.  I'll bet it works for you.

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