The Distracted Person's Dilemma

I find myself to be easily distracted.  I am at once reading intently, focused on the words before me, and again minutes later, wondering what I have just read as some phrase or sentence three paragraphs ago led me to a thought process not wholly related to the material in front of me.  This very post grew out of one such moment.  After completing my deterrent though and approximating how much of my reading material I hadn’t fully processed as a result, I was faced with the distracted person’s dilemma, should I go back and re-read what I’ve half-absorbed or should I plunge ahead with the hope that I’ve retained enough to sustain my understanding?  Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always the same.  Or, as s public policy professor taught me years ago, the answer is always the same – it depends (Thanks Prof. Sermier).  I have to ask myself, is the reading interesting enough or important enough to warrant a return to the partially digested paragraphs?  My stubbornness in needing to have examined the fullness of a text’s offerings wins about 98% of the time.  Nevertheless, on rare occasions, for me it comes down to mood.

By the way, I do pause occasionally when reading to absorb the information (especially for dense material) but frequent pauses would disrupt the flow of the text. [Aside: I toyed with the idea of beginning the previous sentence with the text-friendly "Btw" rather than the traditional, fully expressed version that I ultimately chose.  I haven't decided whether the grammarian in me wouldn't allow it, although it does allow contractions, or whether it was a style decision.  I suppose that's fodder for another post.]

How do those of you afflicted with the distracted person's dilemma handle half-absorbed readings?  Does distraction disturb other areas of your life? Share your stories and tips in the comment section.

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