Seattle has experienced some significant weather events in the past few days: a snowstorm that turned into an ice storm that is rapidly warming up and threatening to flood any clogged storm drain, gutter, or alleyway. Schools have been closed for three days, as has my office. While working from home is not new to me, I have found myself facing some new challenges with this slight schedule alteration.

Namely: I find it very difficult to sit in a quiet room by myself.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has recently written about this, and I tend to agree:

Most of us have trouble sitting alone, quietly, doing nothing. We have the need to do something, to check our inboxes and social media, to be productive. Sitting still can be difficult if you haven’t cultivated the habit.

I had the opportunity to do just this over the past few, snowy days. No TV, no Pandora, no iPad or iPhone. It was hard.

I’ve tried several things to help keep my brain from distraction:

  • turning off notification sounds on my devices (particularly troublesome when they’re all in one room – a single email triggers three or four nearly-but-not-quite-simultaneous chimes);
  • working on only one thing at a time;
  • the Pomodoro technique (but instead of 25/5, I do 8 minutes of hard, targeted work, followed by 2 minutes of doing whatever I want. I like this web-based timer to help me keep track.)

And still, it’s hard.

I do begin to wonder if the constant compulsion to check my devices, responding to any sound, refreshing my timelines, and writing back to any email as soon as I can has begun to change me in some fundamental way. Will I ever be able to scale back and recover some of my attention span? Should I go cold turkey and turn everything off? Will there be a long, drawn-out, and difficult detoxing period like other addictions?

I don’t know.

Perhaps merely being consciously aware of these changes will help.

Perhaps not.