Presence Month: Part 2

A month ago, I wrote Presence Month — a call to action to live more deliberately. I’d recommend reading that, to make sense of this. This follow-up post is another prettied up journal entry that I wasn’t sure would see the light. What follows are my ups and downs this month and some tips for those on the same path.

There are two competing narratives for how this month has gone:

1. It was a wash.

It all kind of fell apart halfway through the month. I broke a good meditation streak, then just… stopped. Despite knowing it was a priority, it was easy to come up with something else that needed doing more immediately. I did continue to give more of myself to my wife when she came home from work, but eventually I’d have my face buried in a screen until I realized it was time for bed. At work, Pomodoros were used sporadically at best and my attention continues to be stretched in several directions as a project reaches its deadline.

2. It was the perfect place to start.

What was I expecting? A perfectly present month? A lot of really great things came out of the extra attention to my attention:

  1. I’ve meditated more days this month than any other this year. In particular, guided meditations focused on gratitude have produced the biggest spike in my happiness. “Be happier, now” is one ongoing goal I can check off with a smile this month.
  2. My use of screens has been more deliberate. As usual, I had a lot of screen time, but a hearty chunk of it was focused work on a side project that I’m passionate about. I’m proud of that work and seeing the project progress brings me joy, but finding a healthy balance of screen time is still a struggle.
  3. Writing continues to get me unstuck. Some mornings, in addition to or in lieu of guided meditations, I’ll just dump every thought I can capture into a notebook. I’ve learned from Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself that this is a form of meditation in itself. I write down whatever’s on the mind, and keep writing until I have a game plan for how to handle it.

Some Takeaways

  1. Play the long game. I had unrealistic expectations for my first month. Despite a lot of really positive outcomes, part of me wanted to declare the experiment a failure. The reality however, is that living a less distracted, more mindful life is an ambitious, life-long lifestyle goal. You don’t change your lifestyle overnight.
  2. Revisit goals. In my case, rereading the Presence Month post after I felt like I’d fallen off got me back on track. Periodically revisit what you’re working towards — and furthermore, write it down in the first place.
  3. Know yourself. If I don’t meditate or exercise in the morning, it’s not happening that day.
  4. Screens are not the enemy. This is a conflicted issue for me: I want to spend fewer hours with them, but (as someone who enjoys programming and writing) many of my personal goals are achieved on them. I haven’t found the right balance yet, but I’m sure gonna try.

Presence Experiments

I’ve learned that living more deliberately looks like different things to different people. I met David Kircos, another like-minded presence-seeker after publishing the last post. We brainstormed up a few ideas — try whatever sounds interesting and see what floats your boat.

  1. Track Friends’ Goals. Get out of your own head for a while and ask what a friend is working towards. Write it down, then check in once in a while, offering help where you’re able.
  2. Three Things. Each night, write down the top three to-do items you want to cross off tomorrow. The first I’ve seen of this idea is on Marc Andreessen’s blog.
  3. The Phone Game. This is a “classic.” If out to eat with friends, put all phones in the center of the table. The first to pick up their phone buys the meal or next round of drinks.
  4. Off Hour. Pick a time — say 9PM — where all screens get turned off for the night.
  5. Dead Zones. No screens at the dining room table or in the bedroom.
  6. Pomodoro Timer. Spend 25+ focused minutes at a time (and remember to take breaks). I enjoy Be Focused Pro for Mac — free version here.
  7. A Writing Routine. Again, writing forces you to slow down and think linearly. Journaling can help you sort through what’s on your mind. Blogging can help you learn about a new topic and get recognized for your expertise. You might also try writing as meditation.
  8. Be Inclusive. If you’re meeting a friend, let them in on the game. Invite them to join you in seeing how long you can go without pulling out the phone.

Any other ideas come to mind?

PS — Happy holidays! 🎄🕎🎉