My War on Cellphones and Pizza Dough.

Psychologists say we waste about 5 hours a day on our phones and laptops. They also say we stare at pizza dough too much.

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Courtesy of Dreamstime

There’s no good way to waste your time.” Helen Mirren

We’re all preoccupied these days. It comes with being linked digitally. Blame it on the internet, blame it on smart phones, blame it on anything you like. Just remember, you’re spending at least five hours a day being connected.

For instance, reading this article is probably stopping you from doing other things. Maybe you don’t want a life, or maybe you think this is your life, but it’s actually my life. I write blogs I hope are informative. You, on the other hand, are looking to be entertained.

Don’t get me wrong, I need the readership, but I’m also a realist. I know you’re only here until you get distracted by something else. Yes, you’re going to get distracted. Your phone will ring, a text will pop up, maybe someone’s going to knock on your door. Any number of things could happen — including me.

Interruptions may seem harmless, but they’re distracting you from being truly engaged. By that, I mean using your brain.

As harmless as this may appear, scientists are definitely concerned about us watching pizza dough.

Based on what occupies us now, including selfies and making pizza, we’re blobs already, or we would be if we didn’t have articles like this one. Even this could be wasting your time, so you’d better either put it down, or read on and find out what’s making us cerebral yogurt.

First of all, we need to recognize the difference between being engaged and being distracted. Engaged suggests we’ve got important things on our minds; distracted means we’ll drop whatever we’re doing to look at anything — including pizza dough.

As harmless as this may appear, scientists are definitely concerned about us watching pizza dough.

They’ve done meticulous research showing that interruptions, distractions, constant noise and, yes, watching pizza dough, all reduce our ability to think.

Multi-tasking, in particular, is one of the worst culprits. It’s what’s known as “task switching,” and this seriously impedes our cognitive thought processes. Put into layman’s terms, it’s making us dopes.

According to Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, we’re losing up to 40% of our productivity through “task switching” which is playing havoc on our pre-frontal cortexes.

We remember the Chubby Chicken deal at A&W, but forget to take our patient off warfarin.

It seems our prefrontal cortexes were never designed for the type of cerebral hopscotching we engage in today. As we continue to add more tasks, this part of our brain doesn’t have time to process. It’s called “brain freeze.”

Without processing, all the cortex can do is move on to the next piece of information. At the end of the day, if you can’t remember what you did earlier, it isn’t oncoming dementia. Your brain just thinks you’re doing a lot of forgettable things. If you can’t remember anything, that’s dementia.

At the same time, what your brain does remember may be confusingly selective. This is called “maladjusted preoccupation.” We remember the Chubby Chicken deal at A&W, but forget to take our patient off warfarin.

Here’s an even simpler explanation (since I’m sure you’re already thinking about pizza dough). When someone says: “Sorry I didn’t call you, I was preoccupied,” this is called “deflective preoccupation” meaning they prioritized and decided they’d rather snip off an old cuticle than talk to you.

And let’s face it, maybe you wouldn’t have heard the call anyway since you were preoccupied snipping your own old cuticle.

Yet, over the course of the average day, most messages, despite their intriguing subject lines are, frankly, junk.

Most preoccupations are subconscious, meaning they’re done without thinking. Answering the phone, checking a text — these are all done by rote.

Our minds tell us there’s something important waiting, so we react, we pick up the phone, we read a text. Yet, over the course of the average day, most messages, despite their intriguing subject lines, are junk.

If we heap all the emails, phone messages, texts — and CNN — we realize these distractions are just excuses. I say “excuses” because most preoccupation is “cerebral avoidance.” A woman, sitting on the bus, checking her texts, is avoiding her surroundings. This is often mistaken for being stuck up or deaf.

Look, most dogs look like Spiro Agnew. Nixon only made him vice president so he’d appeal to dog owners.

We’re all guilty of this, of course, but if our prefrontal cortexes are going to stand any chance at all, I’ve outlined seven easy steps anyone can do to keep their brains sharp and uncluttered:

It’s Still Just a Dog: First of all, stop going to Facebook every time someone sends you a notification. The last one said: “There’s a dog that looks like Spiro Agnew.” I’ve got news for you. Most dogs look like Spiro Agnew. Nixon only made him vice president so he’d appeal to dog owners.

You Can’t Chew Gum at The Same Time: Doing three or four things at once may seem cool but, in your prefrontal cortex, everything’s flying all over the place. Stop thinking you’re a juggler. You’re more like Lucy Ricardo.

Sorry I Didn’t Call You, I Was Thinking: This may seem like a flimsy excuse, but it really rattles people who don’t think. Since this represents most of the American population, they’ll sit there dumbfounded. This will allow you to move to any topic (possibly why retrievers look more like Bob Newhart).

Grow Up: If you find distractions impossible to ignore, this can be fixed by picking up a book or having a conversation that doesn’t include “like” or “awesome.” Once your attention span passes the two minute mark, you can develop new life skills known as maturity.

Grow a Pair: I mean grow a pair of ears (not the other thing). Learn to listen constructively. Separate “noise” from what is commonly referred to as “useful information.” Once you’re able to distinguish between the two, you’ll also realize that most terriers look more like Bob Newhart than Spiro Agnew.

Do One Thing Well: Rather than trying to do everything at once, separate your daily activities into groups. Divide these groups into what’s important, what’s critical and what’s nonsense. If you suddenly have a ton of time on your hands, your life is nonsense.

The Three Ball Limit: There’s no shame in admitting you can’t do six things at once. I can handle typing, but add phone calls, texts, or a dog that looks like Bob Newhart, and my productivity sinks to the level of a hamster. Doing fewer things is far more productive and rewarding.

Hopefully these suggestions will help, unless you’ve moved on to another post already. This is quite likely. Most people won’t read beyond 200 words. They’re doing ten other things, like seeing if all terriers look like Bob Newhart. Sorry I brought that up, by the way.

You want to get back to it, though, right?

Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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