One hour with concentration is often far more productive than hours on end without concentration. It seems to me that when I was much younger, I could concentrate better in my study and learn more than I can now. This change for the worse may simply be due to my "internal" factor, that is, as I become older, I can concentrate less and less for physical reasons. Even if this is the case, there must also be other, "external", factors disturbing my concentration now. Since I will start my first sabbatical in October (and a four-month summer vacation before than in about a week), I must detect these factors and find solutions to combat them so that I may be able to get as many things done which I have planned to do during this precious gift of time away from the obligation to teach.
So what external changes could have had a negative effect on my concentration? The only negative factor I can think of is the Internet, including email and the web, especially after the connection to it has become so ubiquitous. When I entered a university at the age of 18 and started living alone, I decided not to have a TV set in my apartment in order not to be disturbed by it. I realize more and more clearly that email and the web do to me what a TV set might have done to me. They do not always allow me to concentrate on one thing for a long time. University and other public libraries used to be "safe havens" until the free wireless connection to the Internet became available. So the only time when I am not connected to the Internet is while I use public transportation. Actually, I consider the intercity bus I use when I commute between my apartment in Jerusalem and my workplace in Ramat Gan my most efficient office as I have no Internet connection then.
My life, both private and professional, depends so much on email and the web, but I have to make a firm decision to use them more sparingly and efficiently. In this respect I probably need two separate approaches to email and the web. The main problem with email is that many of us tend to become addicted to it, checking it very frequently. I am one of them. Some time ago I made what I consider a wise decision - to disable the option of automatically checking email periodically so that I may not be bothered by an alert every time a new message arrives. My next mission is to check (and answer) email only during fixed hours before and after work or during breaks but never during work. But I still do not know how to stop my addiction to email. Possible solutions include not to open my mailer and to disconnect myself from the Internet while I am working.
The web poses a different set of problems, at least for me. I do not check it so addictively, partly because I receive updates of those websites important to me through a feed aggregator extension of my browser. As of now, my main problem is my addiction to Japanese TV dramas that are uploaded to the web and are viewable for free. In each season there are about 30 such dramas. Of course, I do not watch all of them. In each season I choose about five dramas. Unfortunately, watching these dramas has become one of my few entertainments as I stopped going to the movies, concerts and theaters for various reasons. So it may not be easy to stop watching them completely, but I definitely have to find a way to watch them in a less disturbing way such as recording and watching them only on Friday, when I do not work.
The Internet is without doubt a revolution in the history of human communication, but it has its price. I have to find ways to tame it instead of being subjugated by it, having my concentration disturbed and wasting my time. Of course, all this is easier said than done.