Beyond the screen: arming yourself against distractions and doing work that actually matters.

We are 15 days into the new year. And so is my “My new life, new me” plan. It’s more of a tryout than a resolution, motivated around getting my creative side projects done by eliminating distractions. To achieve this, I put together 6 rules:

1. No mindless TV watching. 
This means not watching TV unintentionally and not keeping the TV on the on background.

2. No Social media checking. 
 The only thing I can check is Facebook messages.

3. Only check my personal email once a day. 
 Cause, I honestly do not get any emails that have to be answered within the hour.

4. No mindless searching of the web. 
 This includes browsing through online shopping sites, Pinteresting etc.

5. Unsubscribing from emails. 
You know, those emails you always delete without even opening it.

6. Not use my phone as an alarm clock.

The idea was born after listening to this talk with Simon Sinek about millennials and their need for instant gratification. And even though I despise the obsession with trying to figure us millennials out like we are some kind of alien creature who just arrived on planet earth, Sinek brings up important ideas about how our digital habits have bigger impact on our lives than just a way of keeping in touch, or the way we stay in the know.

Sinek makes the claim that the constant checking and posting are actually keeping us from forming deep and meaningful relationships, and keeping us from developing our big idea.

This is a prevalent phenomena in most peoples lives, millennials or not. We want rewards, and we want them now. Even if it’s nothing more than a like, or a short text message, our devices serves as short term solutions for deeper problems.

Our devices become our medicine

As the idea was born, and my goals were set, I came across this Good life project podcast with guest speaker Jocelyn Glei reconfirming the idea about how constant distractions are limiting our ideas. In the 12 Minute talk, Glei explains how creatives are more vulnerable to distractions and how today

“It’s incredibly easy to stay busy, but it’s incredibly hard to stay focused”.

The endless notifications and checking of various social medias and emails, keeps us busy but it’s also keeping us from starting and finishing work that actually matters.

And even if my 6 rules are fairly simple and not completly strict, my stumble upon came at a perfect time where the original motivation had started to fade, and the boredom of everyday life was starting cloud my long term goals set a few weeks earlier.

Glei points out that knowing the reason behind a certain behavior is key to being able to make a change. No one will admit to having an addiction to their phone/computer/TV/iPad, but if you do something 10–20–30 times a day, you have to, at some point, ask yourself if this behavior is moving you forward or holding you back.

By avoiding meaningless distractions, and moving away from chasing the next 5-second reward, the time we didn’t think we had will emerge, and we are left doing work and thinking thoughts that will actually change us beyond the screen.