Disconnect To Reconnect: How I Found My Personal Quiet This Summer

One reason I love summer is that it's quieter than other seasons.

“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 overrated

I 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-friendly

Speaking 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.

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