I’ve been studying for my MCTS Examp 70-448 the last month and a half and have found my ability to block things out and focus for long stretches of time to be lacking. And I don’t think it is the somewhat dry nature of the material. I’m tackling an engaging book on a different topic in my spare time and find the same thing — my attention seems much less disciplined than it used to be.
Like many people, I use Twitter and Facebook and I read blogs on a daily basis using Google Reader. My information intake over the past few years has been heavily skewed towards taking in a lot of varied information in small bites. And my ability to settle down and simply concentrate on a single thing for say 30 or 40 minutes has apparently dropped off significantly.
Since I started studying for this exam though, my ability to concentrate has definitely increased a little. I can do about 20 minutes at a stretch before getting fidgety and needing to take a break. Nothing to brag about, obviously. But a month ago even 20 minutes was a struggle.
At the School of Life blog, Alain de Botton writes:
One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is how we can relearn to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.
I like this quote but I wouldn’t label the retraining of concentration as self-indulgent at all. Isn’t concentration a critical skill that is necessary for getting difficult things done?
I find at this point that my tolerance for jumping around Twitter, Facebook and blogs to take in little bits of info here and there seems to be suffering. Maybe this is because I just haven’t been spending as much time doing it lately. But I wonder if the skill of sustained attention and the skill of multi-tasking are somewhat at odds with each other.
In the end, I don’t know that I’m actually missing much. You can’t act on everything you read. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is hard to act on most of what you read. So aside from entertainment, is it any big loss if I skip Twitter, Facebook and blogs for a few days or a few weeks?