A lot of research has been emerging about how much time we spend scrolling through our social media feed at the expense of doing more productive things like reading books.
Charles Chu wrote about how easy it can be to read 200 books a year.
An average reader reads 200-400 words per minute and an average non-fiction book has 50,000 words, which means that it would take 417 hours in a year to read 200 books. That’s only 17 to 18 days. Sure, you are going to think: “No way, I don’t even have the time to breathe, how can I possibly find the time to read 200 books?” Well, considering that an average US citizen spends 608 hours on social media and 1642 hours on TV every year, we could actually read 1,000 books a year… Makes you think, doesn’t it?
It’s not just about wasting precious time though. Cal Newport talks about ‘deep work’, the ability to work on demanding tasks without getting distracted. Most of us are losing this ability because we are not challenging our brains anymore.
Social media platforms are not only affecting our sense of reality and impacting our mental health, but they are also damaging our capacity to concentrate.
In this day and age, whilst working, many of us take one of those famous “breaks” every 20 minutes to go on social media. This can be much more damaging than you think. Cal Newport, author of the book ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’, explains that whenever you are doing something and then switch to another task, your attention doesn’t follow right away.
A part of it stays on your original task, meaning that when you take one of these breaks, your brain stays focused on your work for some time and your productivity goes to waste. When you finally decide to stop your break and go back to work, some of your attention stays focused on what you saw on your social media feed, which will automatically affect your performance.
The same goes for a simple thing as reading a book. How many times has it happened to you that between one page and the other of the book you are reading, you decide to check your social media?
And once you go back to reading the book, has it ever happened to you that you had to read the same sentence/paragraph twice, three or four times to get back into it? That’s because part of your attention was still on what you were doing before, be it watching wedding proposals, puppy videos, soldiers returning home, stalking a friend’s Facebook page and so on.
If this is how you always do things, you are basically functioning in a constant state of semi-distraction, which inevitably affects how fast and well you do your work. The author of the self-help book explains that there is a way to fight this and to be able to ‘work deeply’. All you have to do is follow four simple rules:
- Work deeply
- Embrace boredom
- Quit social media
- Drain the shallows (cut out distractions and focus on important tasks)
There are ways to help you take each one of those steps, but we most certainly wouldn’t want to spoil you the fun of reading the book. It will perhaps be book number 1 of your 200 books this year!
For info on how to reduce digital distractions and focus your mind see these 6 steps