Normally I prefer to share an idea with you that’s tried, tested, and true. However, this week, I’m sharing with you at the beginning of a journey. Actually, that’s not accurate. This is not the beginning of a journey. It feels more like the beginning of a shift I’ve wanted to experience for some time now.
It’s a shift out of distraction and toward greater meaning.
For some time now, I’ve struggled with my relationship to my phone. I’m addicted to it, and this makes me unhappy. The addiction shows up as mindless checking of messages all throughout the day, plus random meaningless scrolling through instagram, even if that’s not why I initially reached for my phone. Can you relate?
I’ve read several books on eliminating distraction and developing good habits. For the most part, my life is filled with good habits. Yet this constant reaching for the phone is an ever present bad habit I want to kick, and it’s not something I’ve been able to conquer.
Enter Deep Work, by Cal Newport.
Before reading this book, I thought I was a pro at working deeply. Turns out, that’s not at all true! Even when I turn off Slack notifications and commit to a couple hours of focused work, my hand is reaching for my phone all too often. If I choose to engage in text messaging or instagram scrolling, I’m definitely not in deep work mode. Yet this was happening so unconsciously, I hadn’t fully registered it as a problem.
It disappoints me that I created a reality where my brain needs such constant stimulation that I can’t handle being fully present in a task for more than 10 or 15 minutes. These little habits that we lean on to procrastinate are actually coping mechanisms for avoiding pain (I got that tidbit from a different book on distraction – Indistractable, by Nir Ayal). I don’t consciously think that the task at hand is painful, yet I’m still trying to avoid it.
Now that I’m reading Deep Work, I’m so much more aware of these habits, and by far, the phone is the worst offender. And within the phone, instagram scrolling is particularly insidious. I will respond to a text message, then immediately open instagram for absolutely no reason at all. Such a waste of time and attention!
Unfortunately, as human nature goes, simply wanting to change a behavior is often not enough. Most of the time we need a strategy, and I just may have found one that works for me.
I’m implementing what the book calls the chain method, which simply involves putting a line or an X through consecutive days in your calendar where you accomplish your objective. Those of us that enjoy personal challenges with the visual reward of the X respond well to such strategies. It’s like getting gold stars next to your name.
I’m using a color coding system and what I’m committing to is having instagram-free workdays. When I complete the workday, if I feel like it, I can be on IG for a max of 15 mins. When I make it through the workday without caving to an IG scroll, I put a blue line through the calendar block.
The other colors are for activities that I greatly enjoy and want to make more time for: pink for painting and green for blogging. I don’t do those things everyday, but I want those colors to show up in my calendar each week.
The results so far in these early days are quite profound. I feel so much more satisfied at the end of a workday where I’ve remained focused on work, and given myself breaks that don’t involve my phone in anyway. I started a new painting, which I haven’t done in many months. And of course, I’m sitting here tonight writing this blog post.
I don’t know if this is going to stick, but so far, I feel positive and hopeful. I want my life to be filled with activities that are meaningful and bring me joy. IG scrolling does not, unless it’s limited to a very specific time block. Scattered throughout the day, all it does is drain my attention and distract from life. Obviously IG is not the only thing to do on a phone, but for me it’s the thing that keeps me tethered to it. So making a plan to interrupt my IG habit will no doubt have great repercussions on curbing my phone addiction.
I’m sharing this with you now because A) I believe telling you in the beginning will help keep me on track, and B) it might serve to inspire a shift for those of you that are struggling with something similar.
In my last post I talked about the importance of understanding your priorities. How present are your priorities in your life? How present are you within your priorities?
Can you relate to my story? If so, share with me in the comments below, and let me know what action steps you feel inspired to take.