“Finally, I have a moment to think.” You know the feeling, right? But why is it that it's often hard to make this feeling become a reality?
This was a question I posed to myself over the last few months while I tried to find my personal quiet.
Running my agency, Situation, is a fulfilling and rewarding job, but running any business certainly comes with its bag of stresses. The bigger we get as an agency, the more I catch myself needing time for internal reflection as my responsibilities continue to grow.
Now, as the summer is behind us, I know that it's time to think bigger picture. It's time to see the forest through the trees.
Over the summer, I spent 30 consecutive days committed to making room for my quiet by disconnecting. To start, I read Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism for our agency book club. The book centers on the role of technology in our daily lives. It was a great read and created a framework for me to organize my time.
I also participated in a Cave Day in downtown NYC. The core function of that event was to “disconnect” from distraction. The format was great for getting specific tasks done in a short amount of time.
And finally, I made it a point to travel by myself for a day. Travel has always been a way for me to get quiet, but I knew there was room to make it an effective quiet.
Along my journey toward disconnecting, I learned six key lessons that will stay with me long after the summer ends.
It's never the first swipe that gets you
Utility apps (i.e., MTA and Starbucks) were a gateway drug to mobile entertainment or (put more directly) mindless engagement. It was never the first “swipe” of my phone that pulled me into a black hole. It was the second, third, and fourth swipe that always got me.
Unless there is a compelling reason to use my phone for productivity, I've decided not to use it anymore. A free cup of coffee after ten cups is not compelling enough to me anymore.Access happiness by limiting access to your phone
If my phone is near me, I look at it. It's that simple. Now, I put my phone in another room or a bag (that's not my pocket). If my phone isn't easily accessible, my usage goes down. Significantly. What else happens? My mood goes up (significantly).
Notifications are overratedI have turned off ALL notifications on my phone (except text messages, which I primarily use for family). Just taking away notifications has seriously cut down my usage. In truth, I've missed nothing I care about. Now, I nest all my apps to make it harder to seek notifications in times of boredom or distraction.
Make a to-do list that is distraction-friendlySpeaking of distraction, I decided to take a day trip by myself to Chicago to find some quiet. During the trip, I quickly learned that distractions were not always limited to my phone. During the driving time, flying time, and waiting in the airport time -- there was a lot of room to get distracted. The entire trip was full of conversation with strangers, announcements, showing documents to TSA, long walks, etc.
In that time, I had to reassess my to-do list to combat the numerous diversions. I used to think about my to-do list in a pretty straightforward way: things to do now and things that can wait.
What I have decided to do now is to think of things in a way that is friendlier to life's inevitable distractions: easy things and hard things.
If I have an hour-plus window, I do the hard things. In any windows under an hour, I stick to the easy stuff. Setting these expectations made me feel less disappointed when I lost time to unavoidable distractions.
Multitasking is impossible
I have read gobs of research on research over the years and know it is ineffective. Still, I ended up ignoring the science and thought I could beat the system. Not anymore. Sorry, Spotify and Apple Podcasts, you had to go.
I realized I had noise in my ear as a companion piece to my daily life for far too long. The moment I reduced my earbud-time, my productivity skyrocketed. I still listen, but now with more intention.
Finding quiet is a choice
Somewhere along my journey, I lost touch with being alone with my thoughts. And somewhere along the way, I lost touch with the simplicity of working in the greatest city in the world. In reality, a beautiful stroll through NYC does not require earbuds.
The benefits of making time to take in the sounds of the city, taking a walk for the sake of walking, and taking time to sit with my thoughts is something I lost touch with. I am happy I found it again.
Don't get me wrong -- I love technology. I founded a digital agency, after all. And technology has a profoundly positive impact on my life, but like everything, moderation is key.
Over the summer, my gut instinct alerted me to the fact that technology had taken on too big a role in my life. I needed to disconnect for my well-being.
So by taking the time to find my personal quiet, it opened up my eyes to simple changes I can make that have already had a very profound impact on my own happiness as not only a business owner but also as a human being.