Remaining On Task

02 Jun 2012

Alex Micek:

The thing I love about books has nothing to do with nostalgia, but the fact that, when I have a book, I can’t do anything with it other than read.

Computers are a fantastic tool and capable of doing any number of helpful tasks, but there is a usefulness to the more simple machines that forces one to focus. This likely explains my fondness for pen and paper or my tendency to read a book instead of an eReader. It probably explains why I find my iPad gets more use than my computer, despite the latter being more powerful and having a larger display: multitasking is not an option.1

Single function tools do not eliminate distractions, but the way that my mind wanders while reading a physical book is a completely different experience than when I can easily access my twitter feed or Hacker News. Reading Red Planet has me considering the nature of space travel, colonization, and the question of humanity’s place in the universe — which is considerably closer to the task that I am on than what @NotTildaSwinton has to say — and this sort of diversion is actually a part of the experience of the novel.

This is particularly important when I am trying to write, as the sentence or thought that I an actively engaged in crafting does not need to be the only part of the work that I am considering. So, while I may be diverted from the particulars, I still remain on task.

This might be true: the more complex a system is, the more complex one’s experience with that system is; especially when compared to simple systems.


  1. Rapid switching between single tasks is not the same.