March 17, 2014

ONE THING AT A TIME



Above: a moment of unfocused calm from our weekend in Wilmington, just over a year ago. 

Like a lot people (I think / I hope), I've become too easily distracted by my phone. Recently I've found myself checking it without any intention - just swiping it unlocked and checking Instagram or Twitter or my email before I even know what's happening. But the kicker is, that I'm usually also flipping through a magazine or cookbook while this happens – and sometimes with the TV on in the background as well! It's too much.  

So I've adopted a mantra of sorts, to snap me out of these diffused moments and focus me on the task or engagement at hand:

One thing at a time. 

So when I'm checking my phone while reading while watching TV, I can pause and figure out what one thing I actually want to be doing right now. What do I actually want to absorb? (It's usually that magazine or cookbook.) Or sometimes - what is the best use of my time right now? (It's usually not flipping through my phone - especially if there's a new episode of Parks and Rec on and I'm transitioning from work day to downtime.) 

So when I'm out having a hard-earned happy-hour drink with Micah, and yet again reach absent-mindedly for my phone, I can pause and remind myself why I'm there in the first place: to connect with my man, to ask him about his day, to dream about our future together. Not to see what everyone else is doing at that exact moment. I've started actually out-loud excusing myself whenever I need to use my phone around him (whether that's to text back a friend or take a photo), to remind myself of the boundaries I'd like to put in place.

So when I'm working on designing a logo or writing a Brand & Business Vision Guide, instead of keeping multiple tabs open so I can know the instant I get a personal email (or be distracted by articles to read and interior design photos to ogle over), I can pause and get rid of all the online white noise that's standing between me and a really stunning project. Now I keep my email and to-do list tabs open, and that's it. (Sometimes if I really need to buckle down, I'll close all the tabs for a designated period of time.) It's a constant battle with my monkey brain to keep from inadvertently inviting overstimulation, but designating chunks of time (if I work on this design until XXam, I can browse Apartment Therapy for XX minutes before switching gears to this other project) has helped. 

One thing at a time. 

On a smaller level, it keeps me focused and is hopefully resetting my phone-checking habits. It's a reminder that the greatest journeys start with that first one step(/thing). But on a larger level, it reminds me of the kind of person I want to be: a friend or partner who is fully engaged in our conversation, a working creative who is fully focused on her writing and design projects, a person who is fully respectful of how her own time and energy are best spent throughout the day. It's a form of self-care, too; I'm at my best when I feel centered and present, which never happens when I'm unfocused and diffused.

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A while back, I wrote a post about how I regulate mindless phone-poking at night, which is a great companion to this one. I've sadly fallen out of this practice – I used to rely on Micah's alarm clock, but now I wake up before him, which has put my phone back on my nightstand. But after writing this post, I've decided to put my phone out of arm's reach in the bedroom, so I can still use the alarm function without being tempted to check it. 

One thing at a time.

11 comments:

  1. Great post, really well said! I have been struggling with this too, especially during work hours. When I find myself flipping back and forth between blogs to read, Twitter and Instagram, I have to consciously stop myself and ask "why am I dis-engaging from my work at hand?" Then I usually discover it is because I feel nervous about the project or unsure how to proceed and I can then work with that understanding and move forward. It's hard! But I like your idea of just not acknowledging the distractions until you give your self-permission. Very empowering.

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  2. Thank you!, and I'm glad it resonated (ie, I'm glad I'm not the only one). I've found the same thing with procrastinating at work - there's always a root cause that just needs some light shone on it.

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  3. I broke my phone awhile back, and now certain social media apps don't work anymore because the silly thing is shorting out. I took it as a sign from the universe, and decided that since it still makes phone calls I'm not going to replace it. It's been a nice little break!

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    1. Isn't it funny - sometimes I even forget that my phone is for calling people! Ridiculous. I'm glad yours technically still *works* and that it's given you a little break from the overstimulation!

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  4. Thanks for this reminder! I just recently made a new rule for myself: no phone in the bedroom! I realized that I used to be such a morning person, bouncing out of bed as soon as my alarm went off, but the last couple of years, the opposite was true. I thought and thought about why, and realized the only thing that had changed was that I now use my phone as an alarm. Off to IKEA I went to buy an alarm clock. I'm getting back on track now, but the phone occasionally creeps in. I definitely don't want it to be the last thing I check at night and the first thing in the morning though.

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    1. Good for you! I have also noticed a dramatic decrease in my morning-person-ness. The phone alarm clock out of arms-reach thing worked pretty well this morning... we'll see how it goes. I'm willing to buy an alarm clock, but I hate how you can see the glowing neon number all night... and how none of them seem well-designed, ha!

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    2. I'm with you on the glowing light and not well-designed! The one I got only glows when you turn it, and it's just a simple square. Not the prettiest but it was the best I could find for what I was looking for. http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/80277004/

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  5. apartment therapy is like a drug!
    Also - craigslist.

    and then of couse twitter and instagram, the usual suspects.

    I have to start consciously stopping myself from being distracted... take a page out of my yoga class... book. inhale 'let' exhale 'go'.

    sometimes I want to leave my phone behind... but then i realize i need my maps app when I'm going somewhere new or i need some information in an email... I guess it's about self control and balance.

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    1. Ha, yes! For me it's also about being aware (of my behavior) and being intentional (about my choices).

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  6. This is so good! I love that you're asking yourself which thing you want to be doing at that moment. Perfect. Thank you!

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