There’s No Such Thing As Quiet Time


Big noise is the new black.

Jack hammers are rattling in the background.  A loud jarring noise that vibrates my windows and makes it difficult for me to focus on writing a presentation.

Another distraction is a world filled with distractions.

So it was a happy coincidence that as I was reading the New York Times this morning, I came upon Maureen Dowd’s column “Silence is Golden.”

Dowd writes:

“As far back as half-a-century ago, the Swiss philosopher Max Picard warned: “Nothing has changed the nature of man so much as the loss of silence,” once as natural as the sky and air.

As fiendish little gadgets conspire to track our movements and record our activities wherever we go, producing a barrage of pictures of everything we’re doing and saying, our lives will unroll as one long instant replay.

There will be fewer and fewer of what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being,” intense sensations that stand apart from the “cotton wool of daily life.””

Can I get an amen?

How often does anyone silently contemplate anything?  During Thanksgiving break I went for a walk in the woods with my youngest daughter and happened upon two other solo hikers – one listening to music through ear buds and the other checking email.

We do our thinking on the fly – usually while multi-tasking – and as Malcolm Gladwell outlined for us we do our decision-making in a blink of an eye without really thinking at all.  What we’re really doing is reacting in real-time.

Noise is everywhere.  Beeping, buzzing, blinking and vibrating.  Distractions are no longer distractions, but the normal course of how we conduct business.  In the course of writing this blog post, I’ve gone to the work commons for a coffee, checked email at least three times (and written at least four responses), watched the draft of a client video and checked TweetDeck.

Yes, it embarrasses me to know that I can no longer seem to focus on one task at a time  My normal course of business is to do many things rapidly – bing, bang, bing.  I start here, go there, return here, move to something else.  That’s how my brain is now wired (Nicholas Carr explores this topic further in his excellent book “The Shallows”).

I have colleagues that have a difficult time putting down their smart phones – even during one-on-one conversations.  Are we all becoming Internet addicts with impulse control disorders?

What about you?  Do you still value quiet time?  Are you able to get anytime to simply think anymore?  Do you multi-task all the time?  As I recently told a colleague: “If I’m not interrupted every 10 minutes then I interrupt myself.”  Does that describe you as well?

Links:

Maureen Dowd’s column “Silence is Golden”

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink”

Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows”

Less Phone, More Quiet

Our Gigantic Impulse Control Disorder

3 Responses to “There’s No Such Thing As Quiet Time”

  1. I was gonna respond, but something else interrupted me. :P

    Seriously, tho, I couldn’t agree more. About 5 years ago, I worked with a client that made a videoconferencing tool that was like Skype crossed with AIM – and the pitch we used to launch it (a pitch that worked well, I recall) was that it was the ideal tool for the “interruption-driven” worker.

    Not to call myself a profit or anything, but… well, there you go.

  2. If smartphones and other portable technologies are supposed to make everybody so happy and carefree, why are antidepressant prescriptions going through the roof? Many people don’t use their smartphones or IM their friends 24-7 because they want to, but because they compulsively need to. Used correctly, these technologies are incredibly useful and valuable. Used compulsively, they put us into a state of mind that is the antithesis of the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, the idea that to be truly free we must be fully present in the moment. To throw 2,500 years of wisdom into the trash heap of history doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. What on earth are we doing to ourselves? Seriously? FWIW, I blogged about this topic a few weeks ago and here’s the link: http://timallik.com/social-media-is-like-a-gun-in-the-wilderness

  3. Hi Christian:
    I think we’ve finally arrived at that state!

    Hi Tim:
    Good post. Addictions are always bad – be it religion, drugs or the Internet. Another thing we should mention – quiet time is healing.

    Thanks for both your comments!

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