Reducing distraction by making strenuous work tasks fun


Did you know that Nir Eyal, the author of this piece, is speaking at TNW2020 This year? Check out their session on “Non-Dissolving: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life” Here.

From comic books and radio shows to TV shows and Atari games, the world has always been full of things that distract us. Today, most of us blame our phones, or more specifically, social media, Words with Friends, or Netflix as the reason why we can’t get anything done.

But these are not the real culprits. Instead, we have distraction Our desire to escape is usually driven by discomfort, including boredom, fear, and anxiety. When you plunge into The Office instead of doing your taxes, watching Michael, Pam, and Dwight is your (understandable) way of avoiding an activity you deem a daunting task. Secret concentration At times like these, it’s not about abstaining from the office – you’ll just find another distraction – but rather changing your view of the task itself.

Ian Bogust studies pleasure for a living. Professor of interactive computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, Bogust wrote 10 books, including odd titles likeHow to talk about video games, Chihuahua GeekAnd recently, Play anything. In the final book, Bogost makes several bold claims that challenge how we think about fun and play. He writes, “Fun turns out to be fun even if it doesn’t involve much (or any) fun.”

Huh? Shouldn’t you be feeling fun? Not necessarily, says Bogust. By letting go of our notions about what pleasure should feel, we are opening ourselves to see our daily activities in a new way. He believes playing can be part of any challenging task, and although play doesn’t necessarily have to be fun, it can free us from discomfort – which, let’s not forget, is the primary paying attention.

Given what we know about our propensity to distraction when we’re uncomfortable, reimagining difficult work as pleasure can prove to be incredibly empowering. Imagine how strong you would feel if you were able to turn the hard and focused work you need to do into something like play.

Is this possible? Bogust thinks it is, but maybe not in the way you think.

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