Clearing the mind of clutter and noise can improve your health and productivity

How to Clear Your Mind and Be Productive

Lately I’ve been finding myself distracted, overwhelmed. As a result, I see I’m not being as productive as I could be; notably in the frequency of my writing and reading. I found myself writing this post as I’m trying to clear my mind of all the competing noise.

Noisy life, noisy mind

As we all know life can get really busy. Sometimes, I feel as if my mind is working overtime. This causes me to spend a lot of mental energy trying to get things done. Rushing around to be in places on time, just running from one important obligation to another. Going through the motions of life while trying to keep my head above water.

Then my mind gets tired, I lose motivation, nothing gets done. Obligations and tasks pile up to become overwhelming, and the cycle of distraction and being overwhelmed continues.

To avoid burning out, I needed to take action. The first place I started to look was my work area. I work from home and spend a lot of time in one room. Seeing the clutter spread from my desk to the book shelf, and now the floor gave me a sense of anxiety.

I starting organizing my work area to get rid of  clutter I don’t use or need. This is my basecamp, a place I can use as a starting point to work outward.

While I was decluttering my work area, I started a bullet journal to keep track of my to-do activities. It’s been helping me track what I’m having difficulty completing and I can track completed activities. This helps me keep track of my progress.

When I see progress, this helps decrease that overwhelmed feeling and helps me keep motivated to keep going; helping me to be more productive.

When I talk about being productive, I’m not talking about the sum of all the things I do. For me, it’s about all the important things that need to be done and done well. One thing I don’t like is doing the same job twice when it could have been done once correctly the first time.

Refresh the mind – physical retreats

I’ve always enjoyed being in the outdoors and going for a walk outside is a great way to clear the mind, reset thoughts, and be closer to nature.

There are different types of retreats I want to explore in hopes of resetting and refreshing the my mind.

Outdoors

going outdoors to clear the mind

There’s something out being outside that changes how I think. Changing my environment by going outside can be, for me, mentally and physically refreshing.

I’m confined to, for hours on end, a small work area and maybe it’s the contrast of my small work area to that of the vast sky that draws me outdoors.

As I continue developing my personal vision, I’m going to incorporate the outdoors as part of my lifestyle. I can do this by making one of my goals: to take more time to spend outside. Making seasonal outdoor activities a part of my routine. Even if I have to start with something simple as taking a short walk around my neighborhood.

Indoors

Trying to find an indoor getaway is more difficult for me. Sometimes the weather offers no other options but the indoors. For this, I would like to choose a room I normally don’t spend a lot of time in and use that area for reading or reflecting on personal vision and goals.

For me, an important part of finding an indoor location is silence; a place where peace and quiet are the rule, not the exception. This has to be a place where I’m not surrounded by clutter, visual or technological noise (smartphones, computers, tv).

Maybe because I grew up with a partial connection to technology but I find technological noise as a form of mental noise.

Find what fits you

When it comes to finding a particular area, experimenting with different locations can be helpful to find what fits you best. Maybe try a location you wouldn’t normally try. Also, try the different locations at different times if possible because they can feel like different environments.

I think finding peaceful environments is the the hardest of these approaches.

Declutter the mind

…thy thoughts have created a creature in thee

– Melville (Moby Dick)

Noise and clutter

As I sit here writing this post, I can hear all the to-do lists going around inside my head. I can hear all the work and family obligations that need my attention.

This is the price of modern life. We all have obligations competing for our attention every day. It can feel become overwhelming at times, as if there’s never enough time.

I feel as if my mind is noisy with the obligations of today and mistakes from yesterday.

How do we deal with all this mental noise?

This is something I’ve been working on for a while. It’s a process of learning about what works and what doesn’t. I don’t think I’ll get to a point where all the mental clutter disappears.

I would like to get to a point where it’s not so overwhelming. To learn how to manage stress of feeling like things are getting out of control. To not let my past failures haunt the present and write my future.

In my experiments to clear my mind, I’m going to try to take more time to appreciate moments. To take time and enjoy silence or to hear the sounds of my environment.

Sometimes I sit with an open window to hear the rain fall on the grass, hear the animals searching for food, or the hum of tires as cars go down the road. Though with an increasing amount of traffic and vehicle noise I’m starting to think that silence seems like a rare commodity in these times.

Tracking progress

Using a bullet journal to track progress can help reduce mental clutter

I mentioned above that I’ve started using a bullet journal in a 100 page composition book. I’m a visual person. I like to see what items are competing for my attention and I also like to see the “X” next to all the completed items.

Part of my morning routine is to create a list of important things that need to be done that day.

In the evening I review all the tasks for that day and mark ones that were completed and identify ones to migrate to tomorrow. If I let the tasks build over time and they snowball into a long task list each day then the stress increases and nothing happens. This is where discipline becomes important.

There’s a great satisfaction when you can see a task and mark it complete. For me, seeing progress helps keep me motivated and productive.

Overall, this is an important activities that’s helped me manage mental clutter and reduce noise.

If you want to start with sometime simple, make a note of things you want to finish today and cross them off your list as you finish. There’s a great sense of accomplishment in seeing tasks completed.

Mental clutter and health

Mental clutter and noise can increase stress, that we know is linked to negative health effects.

Every new year, the health clubs become packed for the first few weeks as people try to increase physical health and appearance. While working on physical health, this is an opportunity to focus on clearing the mind of unnecessary stress.

Mental clutter and life

I’ve been working on what some are calling “internet fasting” by breaking my use of smartphones and technology.

One of the reasons why I try to disconnect from technology (and sometimes people) is because I feel like all this constant communication and constant updates dull our experiences when we interact with each other.

When we have the ability to text each other all day and we see constant status updates from social media, what do we really have left over to say to each other when we meet in person? I already know about your day so there’s nothing new.

There’s a sense that this constant updating and data bombardment, for me, starts to become noise. The constant feeds from social media, the hundreds of channels on TV, the constant repetition of the same songs on the radio; these all feed into dulling the experience of communicating.

I find that taking time to clear my mind and be in silence helps create a richer experience with people. If we take ourselves out of the constant communication loop, we can have meaningful discussions rather than the superficial status update or brief text.

Final thoughts

Clearing the mind to manage mental clutter and reduce noise takes a multifaceted approach: reduce clutter, integrating organization methods, and finding relaxing environments. Give these approaches the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or your mind is full of distraction. Doing this take patience, so take your time with this to achieve maximum benefit.

If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend starting with tracking activities. It’s easy and you see feedback in a day or two and you’ll see how productive you can be when you tracking important activities. This should help motivate you to move on decluttering your life and finding relaxing environments.

Row of doors facing the viewer

How to Redefine Better – Thoughts on Perspective

Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.
― Ernest HemingwayThe Old Man and the Sea

Better is Perspective

I think an important aspect of knowing what “better” means comes down to a matter of perspective.  When I was younger (compared to when I was older? – never mind), I thought it was the more expensive or bigger or faster object, regardless of what I really needed.

I purchased a Mustang and thought it was better because it was new, it was fast, it was better than my previous car, until winter came.  Then I learned that better was situational and a Mustang would be worthless (and dangerous) in the snow.

As I grow older, my perspective on this changes.  Today, I think “better” is what’s most cost-effective for the quality.  It doesn’t have to be the best of the best but it as to be right for the purpose intended.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
― Maya Angelou

Better is Individual

“Better” is an individual preference for our needs.  We don’t all have the same requirements for lives or for our goals.  Yet, developing our own vision and goals will tell us what is “better”.

A personal example would be my choice to get into Pharmacy School.  My heart really wasn’t into Pharmacy but it could have provided the credentials that could get me into better employment opportunities.

After the first semester I knew it wasn’t right for me.  I wasn’t doing well in 1 class and my motivation was only not to fail. For me, Pharmacy School wasn’t “better”.

Perspective is can change over time
Better is a matter of perspective

Final Thoughts

This is a point I’ve repeated in this post and others, we’ll know what’s better when we know where we want to go in life.  It doesn’t have to be some big and elaborate plan to be the next big thing. The little things add up.

Having a personal vision, something specific to you is what matters.  After that, things will slowly fall into place.  This is what’s going to take you where you want to go because we can make goals around this vision.

If we want to look for “better”, we need to look inward first.

 

Motivation

How to Get Motivated in the Face of Failure

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Lag in Motivation

It’s hard to keep motivated in the face of failure.  On some days I wake up ready to go and other days I don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I have self-doubt and that creates a lag on my motivation.

Easy Motivation Strategies

In my many, many, many decades of life, I’ve used different strategies to get myself back into action.  Now, these strategies aren’t difficult but they require persistence and dedication.  Here’s a list of strategies that might be helpful.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
― Arthur C. Clarke

Get Started

I’m going to borrow the Nike slogan but it’s true, you just have to do it.  Getting started is most of the battle, once you get started you can use your momentum to keep going.  I start with being consistent, having a daily routine and adding to the routine in small increments.

After a while, it gets easier to do things, like going to the gym, because I make it a routine and started with an easy workout.  The motivation is carried by the habit.

Start Small

Procrastination, my old friend. Such a comfortable friend. Until the deadline comes and there’s no more time.  I’ve been guilty of procrastination, it happened in Pharmacy School as well.

One way to battle procrastination is to start small.  Breaking things down to smaller parts is a good way of learning and project management.  It also helps when tracking progress.

If small steps doesn’t work, I make the steps smaller.  I might have over estimated the sizes and need to readjust. The important thing for me is that I keep moving forward, even if it’s slow, patience is important.

Put Down the Smartphone

Distraction is a motivation killer.  Nothing passes the time like looking into the warm glow of a smartphone. Breaking smartphone use can help increase motivation by removing an unproductive distraction.  Turning off notifications and putting the smartphone on silent is a good way to reduce this distraction.

Smartphones aren’t the only distraction. When you have easily accessible distractions all around you then it becomes hard to focus. One thing I would do is close the office door, of if not in an office find a conference room to sit and concentrate.

Get Feedback

There are two ways I get feedback: keep a log or personal feedback.  Keeping a log or journal to track your progress is a great way to keep motivation.  I use workout apps to track my progress and it keeps me going because I see how i’m doing over time.

Using a journal helps me track my progress with goals in support of my vision. This isn’t an every day journal though it can be.  It can be used two or three times a week to track my progress and it’s nice to look back and see progress.

I also keep personal accountability through the people in my life.  I say what I want to do and I’m kept on track. It helps keep you honest with yourself when someone reminds you of things you want to do.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Removing the Negative

I try to be positive but one thing I try to do is keep positive people around me.  Negative people are an emotional drain.  Some people are negative and always look at the dark or apathetic side of things. It’s hard to be motivated when dealing with negativity so I stay away from it.

Keeping Positive

Now that I try to get negative influences away, I have to let in the positive influences.  I’m not into motivational books but I do like TED talk podcasts that talk about overcoming adversity or people creating new challenges for themselves.  This always creates a positive feeling for me and increases my motivation.

I also try to find something positive in a negative situation. What can I learn from the event? What opportunities are there from this event?

When I failed out of Pharmacy School, I was really hard on myself.  It was bad. One thing I’ve learned from that is that you have to be kind to yourself when you fail.

It’s easy to fall into the cycle of beating yourself when you fail. How does this help? It doesn’t. It only takes up useful time and energy and kills motivation.  I have to use failure as a fuel for my motivation.

Remember the Why

In the Get Feedback section above I mentioned keeping a journal.  This is a great location to keep notes on why I’m doing things and why I have these goals. It’s a great reminder to myself to look back when I’m feeling unmotivated and don’t have the energy to keep going.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something but this can help as a reminder.  Another way to to keep sticky notes, have them at your desk or on a monitor as a daily reminder.

Have Gratitude

In the holiday season we are reminded to be grateful for what we have.  Coming out of the holiday season shouldn’t be different.  When I’m feeling unmotivated or start to think negatively, I think about the things I’m grateful for. This helps put things into a postive perspective and keeps motivation from declining.

Monotony is a Motivation Killer

In the Get Started section above, I talk about getting into a routine.  This doesn’t mean living on autopilot.  Mixing things up by adding or taking away from a routine can help maintain motivation.  For example, if a daily routine involves something like making sandwiches or shaving in the morning, add music or a podcast.

Little changes like this makes a difference when you add tasks to your routine.  Listening to podcasts related to goals is even a better way to keep motivation.

Clean Your Work Space / Living Area

Working in squalor is a motivation killer.  Having to walk into a cluttered work area or cluttered living area is one way to kill motivation. It take only a few minutes a day to keep an area uncluttered and it’s worth it.  Plus it decreases the chances of distraction.  Start small, clean the desk area or a small room and keep it clean. Then work outward from there.

Pick Your Head Up

Taking a short break once in a while isn’t a bad thing. It’ll keep your mind fresh and your work productive. This means you’ll have motivation to keep going.

I take a 2 minute “meditation” break. When my mind gets tired or I feel overloaded, looking outside for 2 minutes lets me take the opportunity to rest my mind.  All I do is look at nature or the sky and let my mind relax. This helps me refresh my motivation to keep going.

Life is a marathon not a sprint.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways of keeping motivated, you have to find the right combination of methods.  Also, the combinations may be different for different goals.  Give yourself some credit for the goals accomplished, have a realistic time frame for doing things, and track your progress and you’re on the right path for keeping motivated.

Surrounded by clutter

Thoughts on Possessions: How to Deal with Clutter

Clutter: What do I Really Need?

Looking at the New Year just a few days away, I think to myself: what possessions do I really need? How can I reduce the clutter? What should I do with things I don’t use?

The new year is a great time to create motivation for change.

One of the things I want to change in 2018 is to remove distractions.

With that in mind I though to myself: if I removed one material possession, each week, would I notice a difference? Maybe.

There are many ways to decrease the amount of things I don’t need. I can sell them online, donate them to local charities, or if they are in bad shape, throw them out.

While I think a path to limiting distractions is to decrease clutter, it could be hard to figure out what remove.  It will take time evaluating things I don’t use or need.

In the long-term, these can be obstacles; acting as distractions while taking time away from goals.  I always recommend starting small, picking one room and seeing what you don’t need or don’t want.

Final Thought

The more we free ourselves from distractions, the more time we’Il have for the important things. The more action we take, the more we want to take action.

Patience to manage life's hurdles

How to Have More Patience in the Face of Failure

Patience in the Age of Instant Gratification

Since failing out of Pharmacy School I’ve had to have patience in the recovery process. For me, patience is a combination of persistence and discipline. With these two attributes, I’m hoping I can execute my vision.

In an age of instant gratification for a lot of meaningless actions, I find it hard to have patience. So one of my goals is to work on having more patience.

The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.
― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Aspects that can Effect Patience 

Have Patience with Yourself

I am my own worst critic and I often get frustrated when things are going as fast as I want. But I’m working on this and I think it’s a key aspect to achieving personal goals. I can plan events, have timelines, and milestones but things go sideways along the way. It happens. Things can fall apart and I could fail, and I did.

Sometimes the fear of failing can prevent me from starting something, or confusion during the action (am I going in the right direction with a goal), can cause frustration and test my patience.

This is when my patience will be tested, will I keep going or will I give up? This doesn’t apply to tasks that have measurable outcomes, I have to be realistic and evaluate my skill set against the task. If the task isn’t working then I have to do an honest evaluation of that task to see if it was right, then readjust the task.

Doing an honest evaluation of the task and your skill set is important. If I’m not a runner and I want to run a 6-minute mile in 30 days, it’s not going to happen.   But If I give myself realistic milestones then I can work on reducing my time slowly and see if the training that got me from 9 minute miles to 7 minutes applies if I want a 6-minute mile.

Patience Builds on Itself

There is no silver bullet or life-hack to build patience, it builds on itself. Imagine patience as a snowball rolling down a hill. The more you keep the snowball moving, the bigger it gets. This is the same for patience, start with a little patience and keep it going and eventually you’ll have more than when you started.

This would be contrary to today’s instant gratification lifestyle but you’ll see greater results if you have the persistence and discipline to keep at whatever you’re doing.

Competing with Society

As I work on being more patient, society around me may be working in the opposite direction. Instant gratification is, almost by default, a normal way of life. Looking at smartphone usage, we are designing a lifestyle of instant gratification. It’s going to be a challenge to not let social pressures influence personal perspectives.

Reduce Stress

I’m hoping one outcome of this experiment in patience will be that I can remain focused in my tasks and not be stressed. In times when I’m not receiving instant feedback or instant results, I want to be relaxed and collected.

Missing Success

Going back to the competition with society, constantly looking for life-hacks and shortcuts in life make it easy to find mistakes and failure. I think of this as a Google search, how many times do you go beyond the first page? The second page? Not often I bet, I’ve been working on going through a few pages before I stop and refine the search parameters.

I can imagine working on something only a few times and giving up, but what if that next try worked? If I gave up, I would never know. Plus, when is the right time to give up? I might have a timeframe in my mind that is completely unrealistic to the goal.

This is why patience (and honest self-evaluation) is necessary today. A key to doing well in life, in my opinion, is the ability to be persistent and disciplined to keep going when others stop.  I had this mentality going into Pharmacy School so I should carry that mentality when leaving.

Looking Outward

I think it’s important to look outside myself to see if my perspectives and goals are realistic or if they are consistent with each other. Patience comes into play when researching and reading other perspectives and doing an honest self-evaluation. This cannot be an instant process, it takes a lot of introspection and time but it’s important to achieve what I want.

The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day.
― Samuel Beckett, Proust

Final Thoughts

With patience, mistakes and failures, won’t feel as devastating as they would with the instant gratification mindset.  Patience can provide an emotional and physical relief from the stress of needing everything now.

Priorities

A Brief Thought on Priorities

Think not so much of what you lack as what you have: but of the things that you have, select the best, and then reflect how eagerly you would have sought them if you did not have them.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

A Mental Stretch from the Daily Grind

Sometimes it’s good to take a moment out of our busy lives to see how things are going. To do a mental stretch to see what’s happening.  During this time, we should be taking time to look at our daily lives and see what we are spending time on: cleaning email inbox, daily mindless actions, “autopilot” through the day (I’m guilty of this sometimes), spending time on social media, or watching television (I’m looking at you Netflix). 

Those who choose to have no real purpose in life are ever rootless and dissatisfied

– Seneca, Shortness of Life

Evaluating your Actions and Setting Priorities

When listing at our actions and what time we’re devoting to them, we we end up looking at are the things we are prioritizing. 

We often think of priorities as the really important things we need to do.  When looking at our daily lives, they tend to really be the actions we devote most of our time and attention. 

So instead, I challenge you to take a look your actions on a weekly basis (using an electronic calendar helps).  See how much time you give them. 

Do you consider the actions with the most time as your priorities? If so, then you’re on the right track.  If you don’t, then what you’re looking at your real priorities.  This would be the time we look to see how we can shift our actions around.  This is so we can give the most time to the most important things.

Final Thought

Your priorities should be the things you need to do each day, the little steps you’ve designed in helping you achieve your vision. 

Managing Actions

How to Manage Actions and Gain Time

For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose something he does not already possess

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Managing Self

Now that I’m attempting to limit my smartphone usage. The next thing I want to focus on is time management.  During my year in Pharmacy school, I realized my time management skills were not adapted to that environment.  I could have done things differently.  This has me thinking about how I manage time and what I want to do about it.

There’s a lot of advice on time management, yet I find myself looking at time management not from a time perspective but an actions perspective. (See ted talk shifting time)

Every Action has a Starting Point

There seems to be as many productivity strategies as there are stars in the sky. They offer advice based on personal experience and studies researching concentration.

There’s an irony from all this information, taking the time to sift through all this information is probably the least effective use of your time. Do you need to search the internet for hours? No. What you’ll find are hundreds of ways other people organize their lives only to find out it’s not for you. I made this mistake.  Now I’m back at the beginning trying to figure out what’s the best time management strategy.

The problem is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time. Thus the time we are given is not brief, but we make it so.

– Seneca, Shortness of Life

So where do I start?  I inventory my actions.  To figure out how to manage my actions I’ll need to inventory all the time-consuming things I do. I need to know appropriately how I’m spending my minutes and hours of the day.

I don’t want to spend more time organizing my actions than I am trying to complete them. It’s a trap someone can easily fall into.

Perception is a remarkable experience, I always feel as if I need to get more done or that I don’t have enough time for everything.  I can track my time and realize I’m spending 1 hour on twitter and 1 hour looking online with no purpose but only out of boredom. Only after looking at these numbers I can see an obvious path.

Managing What’s Important

My goal is to track my actions, assign them a level of importance (1,2, or 3 with 1 being most important). I’m hoping to see if managing my actions is a better alternative than looking at time.

I’m hoping to make better use of my time although I can see a point of difficulty when actions become very scheduled. Sometimes this can’t be avoided when there are meetings and appointments but I think this method can work around it as long as I have flexibility with other action goals.

This should also give me a realistic expectation on how much time i need for redundant actions. Maybe I’m giving myself too much or too little time.

This will also include downtime. If I want to watch a movie or read a book, I should be able to manage these actions by planning how long the movie should be or how many pages I want to read.

I’ll use my google calendar to track actions. I like to color code things so I can see what actions are taking most of my time. This isn’t going to be highly scheduled where my google calendar is going to be completely blocked but it will let me see how I use time. I’ll be using my smartphone for some calendar entries so I’ll have to track my usage and balance it out.

Time as a Necessary Resource, Like Food

One advice I heard about and was a line of thinking I found interesting was treating time the same way you treat food.

There’s food that’s good for you, this can be my necessary actions. Then there’s junk food, this can be Netflix or surfing the internet.

When I wanted to work out and lose weight, I found apps to help me monitor my food intake and workouts. This worked. I lost the weight and was healthier.

Self-Monitoring

This is consistent with a review of self-monitoring during weight loss showing people who tracked food intake lost more weight than those who didn’t. So why should treating actions and time be any different?  It shouldn’t be. I’ll be aware and accountable for what I need to do thereby giving me the time to do it.

Keeping track of my actions and their durations will let me see if I’m over inflating or underestimating time needed for a task.

Logging my time allows can allow me to track my progress whether its adjusting time scales for actions or finding what actions are really not helping (I’m looking at you Netflix). This can help me focus on creating a custom productivity method that’s based on real life instead of how I think things should be.

But each year, short lived, is unlike the last and rarely resolves in the style it arrives

– Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

There’s one thing I try not to do and that’s multitasking important projects. It’s been shown that multitasking can have negative effects on productivity.  Multitasking creates a high cycle of activities between different actions.  This doesn’t allow us to focus and create a meaningful impact on the action. Avoiding multitasking important actions will allow me to better track and organize my actions to evaluate my time.

So I’ll see what happens and readjust my plan as I get feedback from this personal experiment.

Breaking Smartphone Use

Smartphones Changed how we see the World

Smartphones significantly changed the way we look and acquire information.  They also present new challenges in how we use them.

Devices that are small enough to fit in your pocket or wrapped around your arm, now allow near instant communicate with people around the world (social media, etc), take and share photos, and access collected knowledge and thoughts of key opinion leaders from around the world is in real time.

With all the positive aspects smartphones possess there’s are negative outcomes. The smartphone’s power can be so consuming that all you want to do is stare into its little screen awaiting the little “high” of receiving a “like” or favorable comment.

No single worthwhile goal can be successfully pursued by a man who is occupied with many tasks because the mind, when its focused is split, absorbs little in depth

Seneca, Shortness of Life

Productivity and Smartphone Use

I’ve been noticing an increase in unproductive smartphone usage.  Typically I would scroll through news or social media to see what fresh craziness is going on, upon viewing my phone stats, my assumption was correct; I was using the smartphone unproductively. I response, I’ve decided to start an internet fasting routine.  My hope is that this will help me take a healthy approach in smartphone usage.

I’ve put together an action plan to better control my smartphone usage before it becomes habit forming. Luckily, I haven’t gotten to the point where my smartphone is the first and last thing I see during my day.

Thoughts on why I want to Start Limiting Smartphone Usage

The Negative Effects of Chronic Smartphone Use

Battling boredom: for me, checking news feeds or social media was a way for me to pass the time while I was waiting for something to happen. Anecdotally, I’ve seen the same action from others while waiting for an appointment and while waiting for meals at home or dinning out.

I get it, people get bored, I get bored, it happens. What does this really mean? I think it’s a shift in attention. It changes our focus from the here and now to some distant, nebulous object that can be a source of instant gratification.

Loss of Empathy and Connection with Others

Social media has both expanded our reach and limited our interactions. Interactions have become more numerous but shallower in depth versus face to face interactions.

We call these mini computers smartphones but think about how many times you’ve used it as a phone. I’ll use it as a phone once in a while but most of my communications are through text message or email. Texting is convenient if you want to send short messages or instructions but when using it for discussions we lose our ability to read the other person. We don’t hear the inflections, tone; we don’t see facial expressions. It’s to the point where people use emojis as a way to show intent.

With the increase usage of smartphones we are also seeing an increase in loneliness.

Smartphones and Sleep Effects

How many of us have fallen asleep while holding a smartphone? I know I have. Newer smartphones have changed their lighting effects in response to implications blue lights effect on sleep quality. I set my phone for night mode between sunset and sunrise in hopes of improving sleep quality.

Losing Focus at Work

I’ve changed my work email habits to check my email on 2 hr intervals. This allows me to focus specific tasks and get into a productive work flow. Using my email interval usage as an example, I plan on using my smartphone in the same way.

I heard this podcast about deep work, Cal Newport makes the case for digital devices, marketed as ways of increasing productivity, actually divide our attention which then leads to decreases in productivity and decreased quality in results.  This is main reason why I changed my work email habits and I hope to see the same results for smartphone usage.  Surveys shows the negative effects of habitual technology use and work quality.

Picking my Head up Once in a While

One of my goals for internet fasting and decreasing my smartphone usage is to be more involved with what’s around me. I always think it’s a sad sight when I see people out at dinner and everyone’s on their phones or people have their phones on the table. My opinion, if you have a specific reason such as waiting on message regarding an active family emergency or issue then there’s no reason to have your phone out. The message that sends is: I’ll listen to you until something happens on my screen.

Breaking the Bonds of Smartphones

Just like most habits that aren’t chemical based, it should be easy to break this habit using discipline.

Smartphones have data tracking so you can see what you’re using and how often. My first goal is to take a screenshot of my current usage and compare it to usage 30 days from now. I can reset those stats and see usage 30 days from then.  I’m might also track the number of times per day I check my phone when not responding to messages.

People Expect Immediate Responses

If you’re smartphone is never more than arms length away, then we share the same concern with turning off notifications: responding right away.  What did we do before smartphones or phones that could text? We left our messages and waited. I think we’ve been conditioned to react as if all communications were equally urgent and needed immediate attention.  Most aren’t and they get in the way of achieving your daily goals by distraction and loss of focus.

Final Thoughts

I hope this experiment will help me focus on the goals I’ve set for myself (daily or short-term) so I can be more productive in personal and professional pursuits.

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