I am in constant pursuit of self-improvement and optimization. I seek out things that eliminate my need to think about menial tasks that waste time and distract me from the task at hand. Did I forget to close the garage door (mostly, my girlfriend does)? Did I make sure to lock the front door? All of these little tasks add up over time, ultimately bocking the time better spent on getting things done.
It doesn't matter if you are wanting to knock out a home remodel or get more done at work so you can stop working on the weekends, all of this has a place at home or the office. Let's dive in.
Deloitte data states that America checks her phone more than 14 billion times per day. The math on this roughly equates to 52 digital check-ins per citizen. While this might not seem like a lot, compound that single check-in by a minimum of three minutes, and you are looking at a little over 2.5 hours a day spent on your phone.
I don't have to sway your opinion about what you could do with that extra time, but here are a few options:
The goal is, to be honest with yourself here. No one likes to admit that they have a problem. By doing a personal audit, you can truly see where your attention is going. With growing concern for screentime, companies like Apple and Android bring more focus to where your time is focused, digitally. I cannot speak for those Android users out there, but my Apple fam can see an in-depth profile on our phone use.
TODO: Go to Settings > Screentime and screenshot your Screentime, Most used apps, and Pickups today (Androids figure it out yourselves), set a reminder for one month, and compare your metrics to see if you had executed the next few exercises correctly.
This step is going to be tough. I sat in the office last week and purged my phone and computer of apps and programs that I no longer need or that add clutter to my screen. Without realizing, you may have amassed dozens of apps that serve the same purpose and eat up memory or send you unnecessary notifications. For those who like to organize and arrange apps into folders, this can perpetuate the problem as folders create apps that become orphaned and unloved.
TODO: Write a list of all of your apps and find which ones provide the best ROI (time/efficiency/usability). Then delete the ones you no longer need. I promise, if you backslide, the app store will be there to take you back.
TODO 2.0: If you want to take this a step further, remove all social media from your phone. You can access all social media apps through browsers, and no, you should not use Facebook to log into apps.
Once you've concluded The Purge, it's time to strip down one more layer or distraction, the notifications. Depending on the information, notifications can become a detrimental part of your day, especially when it comes to social media.
New York University professor Adam Alter state in Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, that just like alcohol, cigarettes, or drug, social media elicits the same dopamine response. With each notification, a surge of euphoria and happiness takes effect, which creates a constant desire for more gratification from external influencers.
The more time you spend on apps and website, the more predictive your notifications and alerts become. Do you like those shoes? Great, we're going to follow you around until you buy them. Did you enjoy that video? Perfect, because we are going to trap you in a rabbit hole on the same topic. This predictive loop will create subconscious actions that elicit chemical responses which over time make you dependant on your devices. By stripping away the signal for your attention, you will remove the hyper-connectivity between you and companies who are fighting for your time.
My arsenal of alerts include:
TODO: Go to your notification settings in your phone and on your computer and only allow apps that impact your day-to-day to send your push notifications.
You may have noticed that I do not let work-related push notifications to alert me. I do this for compartmentalization. I used to respond within minutes of receiving an email even if I was writing an article or working on a different project. Yes, my client communication was great, but the truth was that my productivity dwindled for the sake of a quick response. I ultimately set an expectation of hyper-communication while simultaneously distracting me from my work.
I am now using the 5 Second Journal to help me plan my day and get more done. The layout is simple, and it allows me to jot down my scheduled meetings, giving me an overview of blocks where I can fit specific tasks and objectives. But, it is more than a daily calendar. Call it an accountability booster. By jotting down daily goals and why they matter serves as a reminder to get s#%t done.
With each task or goal met, your brain releases that super sweet drip of dopamine just like those insta-like mood boosters used to. Only this time, the dopamine release is tied to something that moved the needle forward.
TODO: A) Find a daily planner and start writing your daily objectives down in blocks of time. Practicing this will lead to a new habit and better productivity. B) Set expectations with clients and coworkers for communication.
You need to be realistic with yourself. Just like New Year's resolutions, all habits require dedication and intent. Setting too many goals at once will lead to mental overload and failure of progress. To be successful in these new exercises, you need to form a habit. Maybe it starts with limiting your screentime or purging your devices for useless data. Perhaps you are diving in headfirst. Visualizing your goal is more likely to help you materialize it. It might sound cheeky, but follow me here.
Professor Peter Gollwitzer at NYU stated that the act of sharing goals publicly could make you less likely to do the work to achieve it. The social recognition of others served as a reward creating the false narrative that progress was made toward their goal. Think of it like this.
How many times you said to a friend or family member that you were going to stop drinking, go to the gym, start reading more, yet you tuck away those ambitions and find yourself admiring those who are crushing their objectives.
It's easier to open and app and look at the curated perfection of the jacked and tan than it is to put in the work to achieve the body you want, to get the job you want, to simply be the best version of yourself. Start with one objective and build from there. Along the way, you will find distractions from family, friends, and coworkers asking more of you, but remember it is okay to vocalize no's. Going through life as Jim Carrey in Yes Man will not end well for you. You will find yourself farther from your goals by accommodating the habits of others.
TODO: This is an exercise in self-control. Visualize a goal and keep yourself accountable with daily check-ins for 30 days. Once you've nailed your first 30-day-straight achievement, set another and repeat.
Cover Art by @superniceletters