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What is the Internet doing to my brain and what can I do about it?

I recently saw a book title that caught my attention.

Deep Work: rules for focused success in a distracted world

I downloaded the book and began to read.

Deep Work

Cal Newport. Deep Work: rules for focused success in a distracted world.

I had read an earlier, excellent book by Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. I was looking forward to this book.

Deep Work addresses the tension between the numerous, necessary tasks such as email, reports, questions raised by colleagues, and the quiet deep thinking that is required to address significant challenges.

Deep work furthers the type of advances that produce the greatest results over time but we can’t find time to concentrate.

Newport talks about strategies to make us better at deep work.  He suggests confining the other tasks into finite defined times.  We then have scheduled uninterruptible time to reserve for deep work. We can concentrate on the things that will more efficiently advance our professional and personal lives.

The Shallows

Nicholas Carr. The Shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains 

Early in the book I needed to put aside Deep Work for a while when Newport suggested another book that addressed a challenge that we face.

Nicholas Carr has written a thought-provoking, challenging book. It talks about how the staccato, annoying, inputs we receive most hours are changing us at our core.

Our brains are growing, changing, and responsive organs.  Parts we use grow stronger and parts we ignore decline.  We train our brains and change them as we make life choices.  Carr’s chapter on brain science is exciting but, at times, difficult to read.  The conclusions are invigorating. We can make choices and we can change.  The chapter on the history of books from the first writing through printed books to digital resources is excellent, well-written, very readable, and illuminating.

The key take away from this book is that we can train our brains to focus better but it will take a plan.

The Intellectual Life

A. G. Sertillanges. The Intellectual Life

I returned to continue reading Deep Work.

I was surprised when Newport recommended a book that was very familiar to me.  Surprised because it seemed to be an odd book to recommend to address challenges in the Internet age.  Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges was a French Dominican monk who died in 1948.  He wrote The Intellectual Life in 1921.  It was translated into English in 1946.

I have used Sertillanges’ book as a text for those seminary students who are writing a thesis as they prepare to go on for further studies. It directs them to set aside time to focus on their work and to cut distractions.

I finally finished Deep Work and it has been a stimulating journey.

We need to realize that the digital world that we live in is changing us. I will stop using the 6000 books in my Logos Bible Study System or the 1000 on my kindle account that I read on an Ipad. However, I need to plan times of focused reflection so I can best solve the challenges that I face each day.

2 thoughts on “What is the Internet doing to my brain and what can I do about it?”

  1. Bob, thanks for these helpful points as we live in an increasingly distracting environment. It is easy to loose focus on what is really important as we allow the world’s clutter to fill our time and our brains.

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