Overstimulation: Part 2
Americans and most individuals in the first world experience the feelings and effects of overstimulation without even knowing it. It has become a normal factor in our lives so much that we even have gone so far as to label diseases such as ADHD as genetic. We don’t see the problem as arising from an external factor because these factors have engulfed us for our entire lives.
Last summer I was given the unique opportunity to experience three months without the constant buzz of stimulation that comes from our phones, our TV’s, and the Internet. It happened when I got a day job in a small town out in Cape Cod. The house I stayed in had no Internet connection and no television. After three months of biking to my job, working all day, and then coming home without interruption or distractions from screens, I was reading multiple books within 24 hours and completing goals that I never would have thought I had the stamina for. The lack of overstimulation from my devices left my brain charged and ready to tackle long term tasks without getting tired or more importantly, bored.
After the summer it became only too clear to me how much people allow overstimulation to control their minds. During my freshman year in college my roommate was watching TV shows every night while I worked on my goals. In all my classes I saw students scanning GIF’s on their computers instead of learning from the professor. (It reminds me of one of those conspiracy theory movies from the 60’s with the guy forced to watch 100 TV screens at once.)
At the gym people feel the need to watch basketball on a screen in front of them as they run on the treadmill. Everyone needs their continuous IV drip of stimulation or else they’ll get the shakes. It’s like a smoker who can’t go more than an hour without lighting a cigarette.
I’ve been asked how I stay so focused on my goals. The main reason I can get so much done is the quality of my work time. When I’m writing, I’m writing. When I’m creating a presentation, I’m creating a presentation.
I’m not writing while checking my phone or tweeting or updating Facebook. I’m not creating a presentation for class while Snapchatting my friends and posting the sunset to Instagram. I write books in a single night and I power through 10 blog posts in a day because I can focus on completing these tasks without interruption. With the nearly unlimited number of distractions available to us today most people just can’t do that.
The other reason I can get so much done is that most people spend so much of their day absorbed in their favorite kind of stimulation. I can tell them that I wrote 18 pages while they were watching Game of Thrones yesterday, but most people can’t imagine going without their precious TV time. These stimulus channels have been a part of their lives for so long they have no idea what it’s like not to have them. The extra time I get from not watching TV is immense. What’s the average American’s consumption per day? Five hours now? That’s a lot of time to get things done in.
Look at where your time goes during the day. If you want to become good at something but all of your time is going towards watching your TV or aimlessly surfing the web then you need to change your habits.
When you’re doing important tasks, turn your cell phone off! If something should take two hours distraction-free it will take six if you’re constantly on social media. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can get big tasks done if you actually give them your full, undivided attention.