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Keith Tse


  • Writer's pictureKeith Tse

Constructive distraction

I remember while at school and university I was taught not to put music on or multitask while I worked but to focus on one thing at a time, namely my homework. It was indeed invaluable advice as eliminating distractions did improve my concentration levels and allowed me to focus all my attention on the task at hand which enhanced the quality and speed of my working progress. However, I have also mentioned before that having certain things working in the background could yield surprising results, not only because it vastly reduces the amount of time in getting things done by principles of simultaneity, but also because having some distractions in one’s working environment may not necessarily be a bad thing. External stimuli can distract me from my important work, but it can also lead me away from my boredom in extended periods of working and labour. Scientists have proven that working too hard and too long can be more destructive than constructive in the long run, especially when one has the tendency of working to the point of exhaustion and cannot take in new information anymore, which is commonly known as ‘saturation’ (otherwise known as ‘burning out’)  At this stage, there is simple no point ploughing any further since one’s system is so laboured that it is on the verge of collapse, but given the interest of time and urgency there are times that it is impossible to even contemplate taking a break and one simple needs to keep going. It is at this point that an appropriate amount of distraction can be constructive, since it unlocks one’s attention from the boring yet important task at hand and diverts it to something fun, which may revitalise one’s concentration and propel one to go further. I usually put something on in the background to keep myself distracted, let it be some music which I used to love as a child, or an acceptance letter from the past, or a wonderfully sweet message from a loved one, any of which could fill me up with a bit of love and nostalgia and make me realise just what it is I am working so hard for. I am hence at a state where I feel that I can work for a little bit longer and get a little bit more done before before taking a full break. It mightn’t be a bad idea to take a break from full-throttle by not actually taking a break but simply a mini-break in the form of background distractions. Working too hard at full speed can be destructive, and by the same token working not too hard at low speed can be constructive. At least this is what my driving instructor used to tell me.

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