Do I have a short attention span, or…hey, look at that puppy!

Last month I wrote a post about time management, and how I could improve my productivity. I singled out my biggest time wasters and how I would address them, thereby increasing my productivity. I’m happy to report that I have taken my own notes, and getting more done in less time. I am nearly 30 pages into a script I started less that two weeks ago, have taken notes and done revisions on another, and am about to start work on a third script. Problem solved. The end.

However, now that I have addressed my time wasting habits, I’ve noticed a muscle that is extremely out of practice…my attention span. And I’m sure I am not alone. How long does it take for you to be doing nothing to check your phone, or your Facebook, or change the channel on the TV, or stop what you are doing and do something else? How long is the lull in conversation before you go to your phone? My guess is not long. We’ve been bombarded our entire lives with stimulus, and that increases more and more. TV shows have more commercial breaks than they did 10 years ago. Movies are generally shorter, and when they go over two hours it’s an event, and it’s noticed. Even theater has quickened the pace, as 90 minute one acts are becoming more and more common over two act, two plus hour evenings. We need and crave visual stimulus. Now.

Wait where are you going? I’m not finished.

You may have noticed that this post doesn’t contain any pretty pictures, so if you are still reading this, then you don’t suffer from attention disorder as bad as most of us.

So what’s the point? I’ve noticed that I cannot sit still for too long without getting restless or moving around. There are always dishes to do, bills to pay, shiny objects to lo0k at, etc. There is always something to take me away from the monotony of what I am doing, even if that initial monotonous activity has only lasted a few minutes.

When I worked at a law firm, I noticed that lawyers log their time. It’s natural, they get billed by the hour and each precious second they work for someone should be billed; that’s how they make money. They would log it to the 10th of an hour, so every six minutes is a new block. They would rarely clock in only six minutes on any particular case, but you never know when there is one short phone call to be made. There is always a distraction, and I would guess the lawyers, on an average 12 hour day, would log in 8-10 hours of official business.

I took that model with me, logging my time when I work, breaking my day into 15 minute blocks. The good news is that it forces me to stay on task. I can’t stop working and check email if I want to stay on the clock. The scary news is that often, a 15 minute block of time seemed to last a while at times. I rarely go 30 minutes without breaking, and on occasion (once a week or so) I could make it as long as an hour without checking the clock.

So what’s happening to me? Am I not an artist like those in the past who slaved over their works and emerged, 18 hours later, exhausted but victorious in battle? Can I really create something of value only working 15 minutes at a time? Sure, a little each day is better than nothing, but how much better?

So, I’m going to stretch myself. Ignore the phone and other distractions. Work on those muscles and get back into fighting shape. After all, when I get back on a movie set or in rehearsal for a play, it’s going to be high levels of concentrated work, for hours at a time. I’ve done it before. It just takes a little training.

By the way, I was “interrupted” while writing this entry. Three times. I have my work cut out for me.

And congrats to you for finishing this post. You earned that game of Candy Crush.