It's easier than ever to be distracted.
Desktop, laptop, tablet, phone: each contains functions to interrupt us and grab our attention. Notifications, pop-ups, little red dots – each is designed to give us a virtual tap on the shoulder and refocus our attention to something that just happened.
It's not a new concept. Machiavelli recognized this fact in the 14th century:
"Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions."
And two pieces earlier this summer reminded me of this: Seth Godin's advice to walk away from the fast twitch, and a Quartz article on productivity being hurt by urgency bias.
You know what you need to accomplish. What's most important. Distractions will only prevent you from focusing on that.
Sure, it feels good to know that others have liked your pictures, commented on your posts, or want to get in touch with you. But they don't have the benefit of seeing your to-do list or understanding your long-term goals.
It's easy to succumb to the seduction that some interruptions bring. But it's essential to discern between the urgent and the important.
Summed up, it's this: what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Image credit: William Richard Gowers (1845-1915) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons