Lifestyle 03 September 2017
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.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist