If You Don’t Intentionally Channel Your Attention, Someone Else Will

If You Don’t Intentionally Channel Your Attention, Someone Else Will

“You’re not the user, you’re the product. Hang up, log off, and tune in to a different way to be in the world."    — Seth Godin

There was a knock at the door, when I opened it, there was my eight-year-old son’s mate, ready for his playdate with an iPhone, iPad, and another small gaming device under his arm. The narrative in my head went something like WTF? It was this moment that made me the pain in the arse Mum, who went on to text the Mothers of all my son’s mates to advise that playdates at our place did not require a bag of tech. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the perfect parent with no tech in the house, we just have a rule around bringing intentionality to how we use it, and I can tell you, a playdate only includes tech at the end if there has been loads of human to human play prior.

I’ve been practicing elements of digital minimalism for a while and imposing it on my son because self-regulation for kids is tough when so much of the tech they use, is designed for addiction. iPads are not a given, they are a reward and only used on weekends for no more than an hour a day. We avoid tech at any meal and actually prefer to eat over good conversation. I purchased an alarm clock and have left my phone downstairs each night, placing it on aeroplane mode from 9pm and the list goes on….

Digital Minimalism I’ve discovered is a lot like yoga, it’s a practice. Sometimes you nail it, and some days the distraction takes your mind elsewhere. I’m always looking for ways to improve my practice and equally help others do the same which is why we created the very popular Busy = Bullshit One Month Challenge. When Cal Newport released his latest book Digital Minimalism, I was clicking the pre-order button and subsequently standing at the mailbox waiting in anticipation…and I was not disappointed. Four days later, I’d finished the book and devised my plan to further reduce the noise in my life in order to create the space for more of what matters.

For one month I was going to drastically reduce my use of tech and see what happened. You are the habits you have, so I started with that as a basis to shift my behaviour more towards the sort of person I wanted to be. I put hard limits around my use of email, LinkedIn, and my phone. Removed all distracting apps from my phone including mail, purchased a little notebook to capture thoughts and actions that came up during my train rides, so that I could action them later, scheduled in time for walks daily without tech, and designed space for more creativity. I then developed a behaviour tracker to hold myself to account.  If you’d like to download a copy of the plan I created to help you with your digital minimalism practice, click here.

So what’s happened three weeks in?

  • I have a heightened sense of awareness around how distracted I am, and how much further opportunity there is to reduce the noise. Given awareness is the first step to change, this is powerful.
  • I have more space for quality time with my son without tech in the way.
  • I feel calmer than I have felt in a long time, and I actually have the space to undertake the deep-focused, high-impact work I’m passionate about.
  • My conversations are so much more present because I remove tech from them.
  • It’s uncomfortable when I’m working on something that requires focused thinking, but I accept it because I know that growth occurs in pain.
  • Not using my phone when I walk down the street or sit on public transport, has freed me up to observe and I’m blown away by how consumed we are as a society by our tech, and how this is impacting our skill and desire to humanly connect.
  • I realise I have a lot more work to do in this space if I want to truly realise my potential.

What’s been most helpful?

For those of you seeking to reduce the noise and create more space for what matters, here is a short list of the changes I’ve found most effective since I started this journey.

  • Take all social media and mail apps off your phone, then schedule set times in the day when you will check these and only allow yourself to check from a desktop/laptop.
  • Stop using messenger services for conversations, and instead only use them to confirm plans. If you want to communicate pick up the phone.
  • Stop using the phone when you are walking or in transit, look up and just observe. Your brain will appreciate the space to connect the dots, and over time this will help quieten the noise.
  • Turn your phone on to Do Not Disturb for 1-2 hour time blocks during the day and focus on one priority task with no tech distractions.
  • CTRL ALT DELETE they day. Set a time by which you will clearly delineate between the workday and time for you and your family. We do this by heading to the park with the dog for a game of soccer each night.

I have a long way to go and there are days where my balance is out of whack, but small changes over time have big impacts and persistence is key.

If you have a great habit or practice you’ve implemented to help you reduce distraction, feel free to email me and share.

If you’d like to learn more about how to bring the Busy = Bullshit Challenge into your workplace please contact us here.




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