Recently, I was with some friends and started to tell them about a book I was reading. Before I could even begin to describe the book, one of my friends interrupted me to tell me how jealous he was that I had time to read books. I don’t think he heard a word I said after “I am reading this book…” so focused was he on the fact that I actually have time to read.
The truth is I almost never read books anymore. My attention span has been so thoroughly worn down by the bite-sized snippets I have become used to reading on the Internet and by massive amounts of television watching. The only way I can get through a book (or even a longer article) is by taking frequent short pauses. The book I am currently reading is non-fiction, which is always more challenging for me than fiction, and I have to stop after every chapter to just stare out into space a moment. I try not to let myself do anything other than stare out into space as this tactic greatly decreases the chances of getting distracted and not going back to the book.
Sometimes I feel loss that I have let it get this far. Reading used to bring me such great pleasure. In high school I was known for being a bookworm. As a teenager, I could stay holed up in my room for hours, days even, reading. Nowadays, one hour of uninterrupted reading feels like a Herculean feat.
It is this downward trend that has motivated me to always have a reading goal on my list of goals for the year. Year after year, I have not met these goals.
My friend’s words, however, hit me like a lightning bolt. I do have time to read. I have time to do a lot of things. I just happen to waste my time with foolish extravagance. I make excuses for why coming home after work and zoning out to the television for hours is acceptable. But the constant disappointment I feel towards my level of productivity in my personal life tells me that these excuses aren’t cutting it.
I am trying to do better. My If You Give a Mouse a Cookie thought process makes it difficult sometimes. For example, I was reading a book. I did my end of the chapter pause. I started typing this blog post. As I was typing this blog post about not using my time effectively, I started to think about the fact that I needed to eat, and get dressed, and get moving. I went to get dressed but instead started to clean my bedroom, then realized that I was having a hard time focusing on doing one thing because I needed to eat, I went to the kitchen to eat, but realized my kitchen needs to be cleaned, then my cat distracted me and I decided to give him some cat treats, then I realized that I was actually trying to finish this blog post. Now I am back typing this blog post, but this still is a distraction from the original goal I was trying to accomplish of reading a book. And I still need to eat, get dressed, get some things done around the house, and get some work tasks done. By the way, this is all only happening because I am home from work sick. Every time I stand up I feel dizzy which is the only reason I was reading in the first place. In this case, forced rest is the key to goal accomplishing.
My brain is almost always working like this. For every task I need to accomplish, my brain overwhelms me with a thousand other tasks that should/could be completed before, after, or in conjunction with the current task at hand. Mindless activities like watching television or playing a game on an electronic device are so addictive and appealing to me because they shut off that endless brain cycle. On the other hand, the reason there is an endless list of tasks running around my brain is because instead of checking tasks off my list, I am zoned out for hours at a time on a mindless activity. What can I say? Vicious cycles are my wheelhouse.
In a happy intersect of all of the above; the book I am currently reading is called, Better Than Before, Mastering the Habits of OurEveryday Lives, by Gretchen Rubin. I am slightly more than halfway through the book and have lots to say about it already and am gleaning lots of good tips and suggestions. But I want to wait until I have actually finished reading the book to fully share all my thoughts.
I am going to go finish the book now. After I get dressed. And eat. And maybe do 10 other things.