This was originally published on shivendramisra.com/blog
Today has been an unusual day.
I woke up at 5 and it has only been 9 AM but for some reason I feel I’ve been awake for 10–12 hours. Every time I see the clock hanging in front of me I realize how time seems to pass very slowly. Minutes ago I thought it’s because today’s morning has been particularly productive and I was able to learn a lot about the topics that interest me and those related to my personal projects, but that is not the case.
I sit here at my couch looking out of the window and staring at trees outside with cars parked everywhere. It’s because today is an off for most people. I’m sitting in my room (as I do on every holiday) but one thing is definitely different today than most off days.
The reason for the difference, is that I left my phone at airplane mode and kept it in a different room so that I can focus on doing what I had scheduled. I’ve done this before a lot of times but it’s not something I do everyday. For some reason, that has given me a lot of mental space to think and thus I finally realize why time seems to pass slowly.
There is no sense of being connected with the world as of now and it just feels so awesome (at least as of now). I still have my laptop with me so did not completely get rid of technology but still, I’m working on something without any outside disturbances.
The events and my thoughts since today morning have forced me to think about solitude as a tool to boost creativity and productivity. The poster of Albert Einstein hanging on my desk certainly fueled my thinking.
In a world which is essentially a “Global Village” everything seems to be so connected. The constant feeling of being connected with every one is exhausting to me and takes away all the mental space to think, reflect and be aware of my surroundings.
Texts, posts, messages, Facebook tags, endless e-mails etc are often a way of inventing things to do, to distract you from your own objective for the day or your life in general. It puts you in a spot where you are just fulfilling other people’s requests and not focusing on your own things.
Solitude is beautiful once you adopt to it.
But wait a minute, saying that in the 21st century is like telling people to send letters rather than texting. The truth is we have such a habit of being connected that when we are alone and by ourselves we start to feel sad and restless and thus all creativity is lost.
When we are working alone we tend to find excuses to check social media again and again, we tend to read just one more article or watch just one more YouTube video. I’m not saying this because I am some productivity expert, I’m guilty of this too. These are just external stimulations firing off dopamine in our brains and not doing anything else.
Above is a talk by Dr. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, talking about quitting social media and if you haven’t, you should definitely watch it. This seems to be in contradiction to one of my posts which talks about not quitting social media but adapting to it. However, if you see this video he talks about how social media leads to people feeling more lonely and can permanently damage their ability to concentrate over sustained periods of time.
So coming back to the point, we can essentially see that as a result of social media, we have in us a constant need to stay ‘connected’ and when deprived of it we cannot do anything but feel lonely and unable to bear solitude for a long period of time. When this happens we go on to believe that our life is boring which then leads us to feel uninspired to get something done.
Solitude facilitates deep and focused work/practice and we know it. Once we stop associating loneliness with being alone we can stop feeling a constant need for connectedness.
Solitude can drive the chances of you being successful in whatever task, by a high percentage
Well the point made in this video is pretty clear. Aloneness and the ability to focus can directly be linked to getting better results.
My favorite Marvel hero is Iron Man. If you have seen the movies which include Iron Man, he is seen to be working in solitude all the time. Whether in Iron Man 2 where he has to find an alternative element for his arc reactor or building the suit itself in Iron Man. Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, Charles Darwin and many more great men have done what they have done because of this secret superpower if I say so.
How can you apply this right now?
Well if you are reading this, chances are you did not only come to read this article. You found it because you opened Facebook or Medium or just surfing the Internet in general.
If you are feeling unfocused, uninspired or demotivated and have important work to finish today here is what I would do if I was in your place
First, I would sit down and turn off my mobile (or put it on Airplane mode) or if I’m anticipating important calls, just find an app to block certain apps on my phone which can potentially distract me. (I use an app called Offtime)
Secondly, I would take out a piece of paper and just right down all the tasks that are going through my mind. After this I decide the most important one (or at max two, depending on the time) to be done today. For example, I decided to write this post and complete a report.
Then I cross everything else and take a 15–20 min nap. I do this sometimes because it reduces restlessness and I wake up more rested so that I can focus better.
Then I wake up and start working on the first task. I only stop once I am done and I avoid leaving the task unless it takes so long that I am completely exhausted and about to faint. You might also want to get some water and fruits, nuts etc if you think getting up to eat something is likely to distract you.
Similarly, if time is left, I work on the next task
If you chose a task which was not impossible to complete, you would have surely completed the task and must be left with some extra time.If that is the case, do some light activity (do not check updates on your phone or messages unless it is unavoidable) like walking, reading, going to the gym etc which does not require intense focus and can act as a recreational activity.
You’ll be really happy after completing your task and then relaxing rather than constantly being distracted and struggling to finish your work.
Having said all this, I would again say that this method may not work at times and you may fall into the temptation to checking into your phone and being distracted but consistently trying to find time for long hours of focus and solitude can improve your life dramatically.
I hope I was able to help someone with this and do let me know what I’ve missed, down in the comments so that I can learn from you!