Let’s set the stage. Every morning, the alarm goes off. You hit snooze, roll out of bed, and if you’re like most humans, you check your phone first. Before you say good morning, have coffee, stretch, or take two seconds to come into the day, you are absorbing info. And all that information starts our day—every day—on a very split trajectory.
How Did We Get Here?
Our world moves fast, and if we aren’t willing to keep up, then too bad. But, that doesn’t mean our brains were ever meant to constantly work at warped speed, multitasking even the most banal actions (hello, driving and talking on the phone). Every single day, we are bombarded with news, social media updates, texts, phone calls, meetings, endless web browsing, work emails, chores, errands, etc. The problem isn’t with us, necessarily, it’s with the information.
Information is available wherever we look, and while it’s good to be informed, too much of anything can lead to overwhelm. When we tune in to everything around us, it forces us to constantly be in a state of “absorbing” and sorting instead of focusing—and completing—one task at a time.
How can you ever figure out what you want out of life, your relationship, or even your job if you can’t figure out what you want for breakfast? There are just too many choices.
The New Normal
When we constantly seek info, we waste time. If we work 9 to 5, we will fill those hours—but not necessarily with work. It’s important to assess what our time wasters are, because we all have them. Do you obsessively: web browse; check texts; check emails; talk to co-workers while working on a project; call people when alone; interrupt tasks to just “check one thing”; have endless errands; own more than one social media account; subscribe to podcasts, blogs, or magazines; constantly say “I’m busy”?
If so, chances are you are distracted, especially when it comes to completing tasks start to finish, distraction-free. Are we staying productive, or just active? Does it really take 8 hours to get your work done? What would happen if we only checked our email twice a day? If we ditched our phones at night? If we took a break from the news?
What would happen is that you would realize you have all the time in the world, and most of the things you fill your days with have nothing to do with productivity or happiness. The richest people in the world do the absolute least amount of work, because they have outsourced their lives in a way where businesses can run without them. How do you get there? You have to be consistent.
Anyone can do a social media detox for kicks. Ta-da! I didn’t check Facebook for an entire day, and I feel so much better! Until tomorrow. Clock how many times you hop onto any social media account, your phone, Chrome, etc., and then calculate how much time you spend on work, family, running errands, chores, laughing, and doing absolutely nothing. You might get a very clear picture at how skewed your priorities actually are.
Stay in Your Lane
Learning to cleanse ourselves of too much information can make us happier, allow us more time for healthy activities (cooking, taking a walk with family, stretching, listening to music, thinking) and will produce less feelings of doom, gloom, overwhelm, jealousy, and despair. It’s hard to keep your eye on the prize, when everyone else’s is shiny and dangling inches from your face.
If you want more productivity and more time in your day, then you have to change. Period. You have to do less and absorb less to do more. Being busy is no longer an excuse, because busyness is actually a form of laziness. (Yes, you read that right.) When you’re “constantly busy,” you’re filling the time you have—probably with things you don’t want to do. You can outsource the errands, stop the obsessive mind wandering, texting, email checking, etc., and rearrange your life to put the important tasks first. Every single day.
6 Tips for a Low Info Diet
1. Check your email just twice per day. Here’s the kicker: Email was never set up to be a “chat” system. All of the back and forth and open-ended emails waste time. Stop checking your email first thing in the morning. Nothing is that critical. If you do one thing, do this. Check your email at 10 and 4 or 12 and 5. Try it for one week and see how much more free time you have. When you sit down and answer emails in a cluster, you can knock it out in half an hour versus spread out over the entire day.
2. No news. It’s important to be informed, but there’s a fine line between informed and obsessed. If you want to know what’s happening, ask someone who is informed to get a daily or weekly recap. If it doesn’t affect you on a personal level, leave the mental headspace for something else.
3. Mind your texts. Once you get your email under control, you’ll realize the most distracting culprit in today’s tech savvy world is texting. We are so conditioned to respond, respond, respond, no matter what we’re doing. Designate just a few times per day to respond to texts and put the phone away at night. Talk to your family—you know, the one that’s under your roof. Remember them?
4. Get to the finish line. How many times do you sit down at your desk, only to check email, which then has you logging onto Facebook, which takes you to a photo, which makes you think of IG, which takes you to YouTube or any other various site. We’ve gotten into a very familiar pattern of letting our minds wander—even when we have deadlines or tasks ahead of us. Use disabling software if you have to, but do not check emails, texts, or do anything other than what you sat down to do. You will be astounded at how quickly you can complete tasks when they are uninterrupted.
5. Stop taking unnecessary phone calls and meetings. Raise your hand if you’ve worked in a corporation that lives by the motto: death by meetings. Meetings rarely ever do anything to get actual work done. Phone meetings, in-person meetings, virtual meetings... They are the ultimate distraction. If you’re the boss, set less meetings. If you’re an employee, attend less meetings. (Really.) Productivity soars only when you have the opportunity to sit down and work.
6. Set no more than two tasks to complete every single day. Look at your to-do list. What actually has to get done today, and what on your list will make you happy, get you further to your goals, and help you grow either professionally or personally? If you write down the same to-do tasks, it’s time to create a new list. Every day, you have one chance to do anything—truly. If you want different results, you have to do different things. Lead every day through that lens.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.