I have a self-diagnosed, self-proclaimed disability that doesn’t exist in any clinical textbooks (I think… not that I’m an expert). I call this disability Attention Overload Disorder (AOD). Don’t bother looking it up — it doesn’t exist outside of my head. Although, I think there are a lot of people like me (probably including Jake (@jkuramot)) who have this same disorder.
Those of you who know me well know that I have an obsession to being “in the know.” A lot of people like to be up-to-date with information, but the difference with me is that I’m obsessed with gathering information to the point that the precious time I have to get stuff done suffers. I’ve been aware of my obsession for a while now and have even tried experiments to help, but none have worked well enough for me.
Here’s my real problem… with all of the “noise” available on the web and in “meat” life, I’m constantly in consumption mode. All day long, I’m on Google Reader, Twitter, email, my phone, and the web mining information. Most people who use these apps don’t have an issue with shutting them down to get work done. For me, I have to force myself to do it and it’s a very difficult internal battle. I have an obsession to keeping my Google Reader read count to zero, making sure I’ve read all the tweets in my timeline and lists since I last viewed it, make sure I’ve read all my emails/im, updated all of my android/ios apps, updated my OS and other software, and basically respond to every notification that is vying for my attention.
If you add up the time that I’ve spent doing all of that in a day, you’d be surprised.
The other day, I thought of a solution. It consists of using smart filters and disabling the notifications — a simple solution really. The solution came about when Jake was commenting on my side project onlythelinks.com (I’ll save the details of that for another post) about how it needs a real-time notifier/updater. After a quick thought I realized that I really don’t like real-time apps that much and I hate getting notified that I have new stuff to consume or do.
Think about it… on your computer or mobile phone, you probably have something that notifies you every time you get an email, get new tweets, have new software to update, have IMs to respond to, have text messages, etc. Each notification is like a person poking you trying to divert your attention. Think about your iPhone/iPad (if you have one), don’t you hate it when the App Store icon on the home screen has a red badge notifying you that you have updates to deal with? Updating software is the last thing I want to do when I use an iPhone/iPad.
For all the great things Apple has contributed to the design experience, I have to say that I’m not a fan of the things they’ve done to capture my attention (for you Apple Fundamentalists, bring it on!). As much as I love looking at beautiful interfaces and having great digital experience, more thought needs to go into what parts of the experience should capture attention and which should not. The App Store badge notification is a prime example of where Apple got that wrong, IMO.
As I write this, my attention is getting diverted to something else… crap. I’ll have to finish my thought later. Say something below…