I’m not really suggesting I need more distraction right now, as I currently have the attention span of a hamster, but I may be trying to justify my distractibility. Hang on, I wonder what a hamster’s attention span actually is. I might be doing them a disservice, comparing my attention span to theirs. Does anyone know what a hamster’s attention span actually is? Has someone studied that? Should I look it up? I’m going to look it up …
And that, lovely people, is how I can suddenly find myself, having nipped over to use a village name generator (warning – there’s your first distraction) for a location that will be mentioned once in passing, reading about the geographic distribution of lightning strikes in Greenland during the summer. Or something along those lines.
Which is both fascinating but rarely helpful, and also why I have recently (and belatedly) embraced the Pomodoro technique, which I now adore. I always had a bit of a thing about it, and felt it wasn’t for me, as if it threatened to bring far too much structure to my creativity. Do not stifle the artist, and all that. But my creativity has gone a little feral at the moment and needs some taming, so I have thoroughly embraced Pomodoro.
However, I would be completely lying if I suggested this meant I no longer wandered off down internet rabbit holes. I just keep my wandering to non-writing times a little better. And I have to admit that I don’t do too much news wandering these days. I check in on the news sites each day, but I don’t spend a lot of time there at the moment. There seems to be less and less good news, and it can all get a bit overwhelming. And while I don’t hide from the world, there’s a balance between staying informed and feeling like you’re drowning in it.
So, less news, more distraction seems like a plan. Because not all distraction is bad, which is something I think we tend to forget. We can’t focus on the task in front of us all the time. We’re not machines, and we don’t have an inexhaustible supply of concentration. Especially at the moment, when focus seems harder and harder to come by for all of us. We need to let our minds wander in different directions, to take in things that aren’t necessarily useful or relevant, but are merely interesting. It’s a way to let our minds reset, to let the subconscious do a little tinkering while we take a breather.
Of course, not all rabbit holes are equal. It’s far too easy to find ourselves scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on social media without really seeing any of it, or taking a quiz that tells us what dessert is our soulmate, or just meandering from one link to another without gaining anything from it. And it seems to me that if we’re going to be distracted anyway, it should serve us in some way, be that entertainment, or learning, or even giving us something we can use later, like a plan to try a meal or a workout.
And with that to justify myself, I shall share my current favourites below. There’s a definite emphasis on food and fitness, so I suppose we can call that balance …?
The Guardian – lifestyle & foodie stuff
So The Guardian is my go-to for news, as they generally have good coverage internationally and lots of interesting opinion pieces. But they also do an excellent line in travel, health-type stuff, and some very odd columns which are often pretty entertaining. Their Lifestyle page is a good place to lose some time.
My Meera Sodha cookbooks are a mess of post-its, and I’ve only had about one miss from all of the recipes I’ve tried out of them. She does a regular column called The New Vegan which has some really lovely dishes – never too complicated, either.
Felicity Cloake writes “How to Cook the Perfect …”, which should really be “How To Create the Perfect Foodie Rabbit Hole”. In each column she tests out several recipes for the same dish, then amalgamates them to create her perfect version. Very nicely, she also links to the original dishes, so if you prefer the sound of any of them, you can just pop over and use that recipe instead. I have definitely lost several hours reading about testing things I have no intentions of ever cooking.
BBC – culture, futures & food
The BBC is my secondary news site, as again it has good international coverage. But they also have a lot of other stuff going on, both linked to the news site and as separate sites. Their Culture pages tend to have a lot of interesting articles, and for some fascinating longer reads their Futures page has everything from technology to health. The Travel page is also brilliant – less destination guides, more thoughtful pieces on unusual places.
BBC Good Food is a really good recipe site – but not to be confused with BBC Food, which also has excellent recipe collections. I’ve yet to figure out why there are two or what the difference is between them, but I often use them for ideas, as there are many W.I.-worthy dishes on their pages.
For pure distraction
If you haven’t come across the Cake Wrecks site yet, then I recommend you discover it immediately. It’s a very funny collection of professional cakes that have gone terribly, terribly wrong, and it makes even me feel pretty happy about my shocking cake decorating skills.
The Oatmeal is the home of comics and games by Matthew Inman. They veer from bizarre yet relatable, to thought-provoking and touching, right on to fascinating and informative. They’re often gross, regularly foul-mouthed, and I will happily lose hours on his site. There’s also a free game you can pop on your phone called Kitty Letter, which is the only game I ever play. It’s completely weird and I love it.
Educational but also hilarious
These are only for those who don’t mind copious quantities of bad language. The Oatmeal is mild in comparison.
If, however, you have no problems with some liberal and inventive swearing, James Fell writes the Sweary History newsletter (he has a free tier on Substack). He also has a book out, and on Facebook shares a daily ‘Today in Sweary History’ post. He used to write fitness stuff which was also really interesting – practical and science-based rather than faddy.
Scibabe (Yvette d’Entremont) is the science equivalent of Sweary History. Her Daily Moment of Science posts on Facebook are always hilarious, often terrifying, and regularly gross. I love them, and also subscribe to her on Patreon (she doesn’t have a free tier, but you can read free on Facebook).
Fitness things because movement matters
Movement is as vital to me as chocolate and tea. If I don’t do something almost every day I start getting scratchy, and my head gets even more distractible. And while I have, in the past, been both a personal trainer and a yoga teacher, I prefer someone else telling me what to do, because then I don’t have to think about it. But not in person, because ew, people.
I do subscribe to some sites by the people below, but these links are all to their free stuff on Youtube:
- Ali Kamenova Yoga. I’ve been doing her videos for about ten years now, if not more. She mixes up gentler yoga flows with interval yoga, strength, and lots of lovely fluid movement. She has great ‘Coffee Cup’ sessions which give a quick workout in a short time frame.
- Mill Hoy. Another one whose videos I’ve been doing for a fair while. Great interval training workouts for all levels (as well as having specific videos for different levels he also gives good modifications in all workouts). I can’t stand overly hyper or shouty trainers, and he has a fantastic manner.
- Bodyweight Warrior. I discovered these vids in the first lockdown in the UK. They’re lovely calm workouts, all about strength building and mobility. Look for the At Home playlists for full bodyweight workouts using just chairs and something to pull up on (I used the end of a dining table). There’s also an app with a lot of free workouts on it, and I tend to use that rather than Youtube for these now.
- GMB Fitness. My latest discovery! More bodyweight work, but a bit more emphasis on functional movement rather than just strength. They have some great mobility vids, but not a lot of full-length follow ons on Youtube.
Now over to you, lovely people. Do you allow yourself space for distraction? And what’s distracting you in a good way at the moment? Let me know in the comments!