Some recent reading has led me to believe that I spend not nearly enough time living in actual moments — I am constantly trying to do five things at once and not getting any actual benefit from any of them. What have I read that has taken me down this path? First, I read a chapter in the most recent book by AJ Jacobs, The Guinea Pig Diaries.

Jacobs talked about being unable to concentrate and finding what he thought would be a good solution to the problem.

I was so distracted – by the internet, by my cell phone, by snacks beckoning from the kitchen – that I was four months behind deadline in writing this book. So I became the Unitasker. I pledged to quit multitasking. I decided to rewire my brain to I will be the most focused person alive. I unplugged my laptop, I meditated, I talked on the phone – just talked, no surfing the internet at the same time – crazy, no? (it helps that I blindfolded myself). I literally tied myself to my desk chair. It did end up changing my life. I’ve come to believe multitasking isn’t just a minor problem, it’s the Eleventh plague.

The second thought comes from an article I read called Do You Record Life or Live it? which is something that got me thinking about the way I behave when I’m on vacation — and sometimes just out and about in the city, or attending some sort of event like a concert.

Instead of observing this monumental occasion and watching it unfold in real time–the culmination of almost two decades of education, hundreds of thousands of well-spent dollars, and infinite wisdom gained–most people were witnessing it through the filter of electronic media. It made me pause. By recording every moment big and small, are we really living? Can we fully experience an event if we’re simultaneously trying to capture it for posterity?

I used to have a pretty bad habit when I’d attend Phish concerts and that was to write down set lists as they played. I would sometimes have the pen and paper ready for the next song when they weren’t even done with the one they were playing. I have noticed since I stopped taking these set lists that I have been more involved with actually listening to the music — and leave the set lists for anyone else who would rather do it. I can look at the exact set list after the show, after all.

This week I attended a wedding and, based on the reading I have been doing, decided to try to both be completely present (without recording anything) and at the same time focus on doing exactly one thing — be at the wedding. Not to be there while looking at web sites, checking e-mail, texting people, or anything — just to be there.

It made the experience so much richer for me. By focusing on being at the wedding and nothing else, I noticed so many details I undoubtedly would have missed had my face been in the phone. By looking at the events of the wedding ceremony as they unfolded rather than looking at them through a camera lens, I could focus on actually seeing what was going on instead of getting the “best shot.” There were people there paid a good amount of money to take pictures — why should I try to best them?

It’s definitely something I recommend — try living in the moment without all the digital distractions. You may just find yourself seeing things you have never seen or have not noticed in years.

12 Comments

  1. You speak many good lessons. We’re quickly becoming a community of getting many things done poorly at once and we are forgetting our “single-minded” roots of pioneering that focused on one thing at a time that helped build out this great nation.

  2. Good idea, my daughter’s wedding is coming up as rather than usually get stuck behind the camera I plan on leaving it at home and enjoying it. Dang, I may even leave the cell phone at home.

  3. Well, being in the wedding party I ended up making sure stuff was set-up and on time so I was busy paying attention. I did do some photos after the ceremony but on the whole I enjoyed the wedding more by not being the official photog.

    1. Thanks for the update, Mik! I’m so glad it all worked out.

      I agree with putting down the camera. It’s no fun being “the official” anything at a wedding when you’re a guest or an important part of the ceremony! Leave the thankless jobs to those who are paid to capture and serve.