Happy Monday, friends!
I’m writing this late on Sunday night with a slight sunburn and a full heart after coming home from spending a weekend camping at the lake with friends.
I took the weekend to do a full internet and technology blackout and I have to tell you it felt SO GOOD.
Why I decided to unplug
In a word, distraction. Maybe it’s just my personality type, but I find it hard to focus on one thing when there is too much going on around me. For example, I can hardly think if there are multiple noise sources going at once.
While I love the capabilities and conveniences of my smart phone, I’ve noticed that it’s very easy for me to get distracted by it. It’s so easy for me to be doing something on phone and pretend that I’m also paying attention to what’s going on around me.
But when I do that, I’m often lying to myself.
I’m trying to actively stop myself from letting ‘distracted’ be my natural state.
Camping is the ultimate chance for slow living and relaxation and that’s what I wanted to focus on.
Limiting my distractions and devoting my attention to deeply connecting with the people and world physically around me is something I’m coming to value more and more.
I told myself not to grab my phone out of the car until the end of the weekend. After that, my distractions and worries dropped dramatically.
With the ease of communication, it’s so easy to think that everything is urgent and has to be taken care of NOW. But when you don’t let that be an option, it’s easy to see how little is really that urgent.
It didn’t matter whether someone from work had responded to my email because I couldn’t check it anyway. It didn’t matter how many page views my blog was getting. My friends and family who texted me would still love me when I returned home to reality and answered their messages a little late.
Unplugging allowed me to be fully present and give my daughter my full attention. I was able to enjoy every time she picked a flower, or marveled at the texture of sand between her fingers, and splashed in the water.
While she napped, my biggest worry was whether to lounge in the shade and read or eat more watermelon. I didn’t waste that time with distractions, but instead, used it to relax, and think, and connect with the people in front of me.
What is the value of your attention?
I’ve written before about attentional bias. Where you devote your attention, you spend your time and your money, and ultimately you give your life.
Technology and the internet are not inherently bad or evil. Indeed, both are powerful tools that I believe can improve our lives greatly.
But they both have the ability to grab our attention in ways that can steal value from our lives.
No matter how wealthy or poor you are, we all have only 24 hours in a day. You will likely spend some of that working and some of that sleeping. So, the few hours that are left in-between are precious.
Those remaining in-between hours must go to self-care, your family, errands, chores, shopping…
If you are constantly distracted during that free-time are you truly taking control of your life? Or are you giving away your life to scrolling and click-holes?
I’m fully aware of the irony of advocating a technology/internet detox when the internet is how you are reading this. You and I both taking time to be on the internet is the only way this blog exists at all!
However, in our smart phone connected world, the hardest thing to achieve is balance.
Being in control of your attention ensures that you are making choices about your time and your money that align most strongly with your values and the way you want to live your life.
How to reclaim your attention
1. Focus on meaningful relationships.
You may have hundreds/thousands of social media friends, but with how many of those people do you have truly meaningful relationships? Many of those people may have had an impact on your life and they are not unimportant, but we have to prioritize.
Reading everyone’s posts and status updates can distract us from the relationships that are truly important in our lives. Make the meaningful ones your priority.
2. Limit your notifications and feeds.
The sole purpose of a pop-up notification is to grab your attention and distract you from whatever else you are doing. Turn them off. You can just as easily open the app when you are intentionally ready and get the same information.
Un-subscribe from email subscriptions that you don’t value; even just deleting them is a waste of your time. Pick the information sources that are most essential and bring the most value to your life. Eliminate the rest.
3. Mandate some media-free time daily.
This is time when you are not watching TV, or on your phone, or listening to the music or a podcast, or reading the news. Give yourself time to de-compress from that and just be. Let yourself be bored. Let yourself think.
Get rid of the clutter to simplify your life. When you are not surrounded by piles of stuff, you have less to distract you.
5. Identify the things you value most for your attention.
These should be your priorities. Is it time with your family, time for self-development (i.e. making music or exercising), time to finish that project? Many times these are things that are sacrificed by mindless distractions. But, if we identify them, we can find ways to focus on them instead of everything else.
6. Be conscious of your distractions.
Once you’ve identified your values and your priorities, you can be aware of when those are receiving competition for your attention. Make a note of whatever the source of your distraction was, find a way to handle it, and return to the things that you truly value.