Stop and think about all the things you have to do today. If it’s anything like me, its probably quite the list. I have lots of things I want to do. I also have a lot of things I need to get done. My wants and needs of the things to get done is never ending, nor would I want it to be. There are so many wonderful things I have yet to try or yet to accomplish in my life and I want to do them all. So my list is long and my day is finite. How do we accomplish them all?
One way we try to tackle this conundrum is to try to do more than one thing at a time. We call it multitasking and we think we are good at it. Modern technology enables us to do more than one thing at once and even makes it easy for us to try. We can now check our work email on our phone while we shop. We can listen to podcasts while we are out on a run. We can text our friends while we drive. And here in lies the problem.
We are not good at multitasking. We are robbing ourselves of completing tasks to stop and start 4 other things at the same time. We are ignoring the people sitting right in front of us at dinner while we reply to an email or worse check some social network to see what others are doing elsewhere. We are sacrificing real connections with others for fake digital ones. But its not our fault. Our brains can’t tell the difference. Our modern society throws a million digital distractions at us daily not to mention the analog ones that are injected into our daily lives. Billboards, commercials, radio, TV, podcasts, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, iPad, iPod, iPhone, etc. We have a million and one ways to have inputs come at us and evolutionally speaking we aren’t ready for it.
I heard a great quote on a podcast I was listening to while driving yesterday, which I’ll try to not screw up here.
If the entire human evolution was a book that was about 200 pages. The last few centuries would be a couple of paragraphs and our current modern era that we live in would be the last sentence.
Our brains aren’t yet capable of filtering or understanding all these inputs to know what is real and what is not. We now have access to immense amounts of information from billions of people from all around the world and we must take control of those inputs.
Now not all the things I mentioned above are bad things. These are simply tools to be used how we wish to use them. They can be used for good if we allow them to be, but we must control them and not allow them to control us.
So from today we claim control and as always we start simple. Your truly simple action of this week is turn off your phone when you are out with friends or family. That’s it. When you are hanging out with friends, turn off your phone. The messages can wait. When you are spending time with your family, the phone is off and away. The tweets will still be there later. Do not put it on silent so it just buzzes and vibrates beckoning you to respond to each new interruption as it comes in. If turning it off is too scary for you, first you need to pause and think about why it is that scary for you, and second try the do not disturb function on the iPhone or equivalent app on your Android phone as a baby step. I turn off the vibrate function on my phone so from the outside switch I can easily turn this on and off to focus on the task at hand or those people around me.
All of these outside forces are fighting for your attention and our brain thinks they are all real. We must not let them win. We are the masters of our thoughts and our attention is ours and ours alone to give out to those we deem worthy. Do not give up your power to outside forces. Do no concede your time and attention to things that don’t matter. Focus your attention to your dreams and work that YOU want to do. Spend your time with friends and loved ones and let the messages, texts, emails and such wait for you.
Try this for a day or two this week and you notice a couple of things. First this may be scary or hard for you. This is a key indicator that you truly need to cut down and focus your inputs in your life. Second, you’ll start to notice a peace and relaxation come over you as you spend time with the people in your life while not glued to your digital distractions. Once you do this a few times you will want to do this more. You will start to reclaim control over your life and focus on your intentions as to what you want to get done. Your time will become yours and your attention focused on your goals and dreams.
Truly Simple Actions The goal of the TSA project is to improve your life and help make this world a better place, one simple action at a time. Take time this week to do this one simple thing. Previous TSA’s: