Review: The Distraction Trap by Frances Booth

The Distraction Trap is a helpful practical guide to the problem of digital distraction.

“How to Focus in a Digital World”

I happened across The Distraction Trap in my local library and the title caught my attention: it promises answers to the main problem I am trying to tackle with this blog: how to focus when we are constantly dealing with digital distractions.

I really appreciated the cover. Three letters from the word “distraction” are shown in focus through a lens while the rest of the word is slightly out of focus. The three focused letters spell “act”. I interpreted this in two ways. Distraction means we are passively responding instead of taking intentional action: distraction stops us from acting. We also have to act in order to confront our distraction problem. And here is a book that promises to help us do that.

It is very much a practical book. It is reasonably short at 204 pages. Each chapter ends with a quick recap to help re-visit at after the first read. There are exercises, and questionnaires, with space to fill in your answers (if you’re not using the library copy!)

Even the way the book is written is practical: there is little original here, with most of the tips or exercises taken from other books, studies, and blogs such as Zen Habits. But it’s a good compilation, fully referenced up in case you want to explore in more detail.

Early chapters explain the problem of distraction, which is probably fairly clear to anyone who’s ever been annoyed by people checking their phones at dinner, but it’s worth going into some depth to see the full extent of the problem. I particularly enjoyed the identification of “journeying time” as valuable thinking time – when we could “gaze out of the window and just think” – but these days is too easy to fill with digital distractions.

The book then moves onto the more practical and personal, with a chapter aiming to assess your level of digital distraction. This includes an Internet addiction test, which although slightly dated was interesting to take. I scored 47 (scored from 20 to 100). This score indicated the following: “You are experiencing frequent problems because of the Internet. You should consider their full impact on your life”. I was some way off being a complete addict (scores above 80). I tried this test on some family members. My parents both scored significantly lower (barely any signs of Internet addiction) but my sister had a similar score to me. It seems Millennials have a problem!

The Distraction Trap suggests you’ll see large amounts of progress as you read each chapter. In reality, progress takes time, so unless you are reading over a number of months you’ll probably need to re-read at least once to make that progress. In this respect a checklist would have helped as the practical steps to try are not spread evenly throughout the book, but some contain more than others.

Overall this is a good practical guide, particularly for those who have just become aware that they have a digital distraction problem.

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