Search and Distract

All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone
- Blaise Pascal

There's a process that is always running in the back of my brain. It's probably an artifact of the internet. But I'm not ruling out the possibility that it's a part of the human experience.

Whenever there is a hint of boredom, my brain makes it the primary process. It's pretty simple. I call it Search and Distract:

  1. Search for a distraction
  2. Give a reward for the distraction
  3. Become bored of the distraction
  4. Goto 1

The problem isn't the desire to be entertained. Engaging entertainment can be incredibly rewarding and inspiring.

The problem is that even the distraction isn't enough to hold my attention. Instead, hours disappear without anything happening. If you tap me on the shoulder and pull me out of this stupor I'd have no answer to "what have you been doing?"

I've found there are a couple of ways to break this loop.

  1. Exercise
  2. Doing nothing

Exercise is great for a lot of things (including staying alive). But it also does wonders for mental clarity. For whatever reason, going for a run can quiet the desire for a distraction more than the distraction itself.

Doing nothing is the more interesting concept. You could call it meditation, but I call it taking a shower. By doing nothing, you can take advantage of your brain's inability to be bored. Just sit and wait for the loop to churn up something that might actually be productive.

Anything new on Instagram?

Anything new on Hacker News?

Youtube must have something interesting to suggest

Anything new on Twitter?

...

...

...

I have an idea about <project I should be working on>

Doing nothing is fine. But I've found that if doing nothing is the only alternative to productive work, the work gets done.