Be a serial monogamist... with your work

July 17, 2022

Ali Rohde


Serial monogamy is becoming less and less common -- in our personal lives, and in our work lives, too.

We are so accustomed to multi-tasking. At the very least, most of us do whatever work we're doing with Slack open in the background, keeping us alert and ready to respond to the next ping.

It's dangerous. Whenever I feel myself struggling with being distracted, I think of all the others out there -- especially younger kids who grew up surrounded by technology -- who haven't had the privilege to learn all the strategies I have, whether that's learning about the importance of deep work, or finding tools like the Pomodoro timer or, or having the luxury of getting to talk through these issues with my partners and executive coach.

Speaking of my coach -- when discussing this subject, she reminded that this addiction and distraction problem is exactly why folks like historian Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, does not even own a smartphone:

I’m trying to conserve my time and attention. It can be such a distraction.

Even the most strong-willed, focused among us struggle to not be distracted when they're not protected from their Slack, email, or phone.

Says psychologist Philip Zimbardo:

Coming from New York, I know that if you go by a delicatessen, and you put a sweet cucumber in the vinegar barrel, the cucumber might say, "No, I want to retain my sweetness." But it's hopeless. The barrel will turn the sweet cucumber into a pickle. You can't be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel.

Knowledge workers today work so hard, but also work so distracted. Our environments have changed, and we can't just assume our self control will be up to the task. We need to be intentional and be deliberate and figure out how we want to work, and then find ways to adhere to those goals.

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