In this article I’ll share a few ways to use e-mails and social media to improve your focus, helping you to live in the moment instead of allowing technology to control your behavior and dominate your thoughts.
These suggestions can be adapted to fit your personal preferences and needs. Don’t feel like you have to do everything to the ’t’, adjust where you see fit.
Note: In this article I use the word ‘work’ to refer not only to what you do for a living, but also to working on yourself and your dreams. Goal setting, budgeting, exercising – these are all forms of work as well.
Let’s get started.
1) Turn off notifications
Most apps have an option to turn notifications on and off. I suggest you turn them all off and silence your texts.
Sitting down to work is half the battle for the awakening leader, the other half is staying focused. When your phone buzzes or chimes it’s a distraction – you don’t even have to look at it to make your mind wander.
To prevent this from happening, shut those notifications off and check your phone only at appropriate times. These simple changes give you much more control over your thoughts, allowing you to focus on what you’re doing instead of letting the world decide for you.
2) Reward yourself with social media checks
I hate to admit it, but saving social media checks until after my work is complete pulls me through some tough tasks.
Conversations and comments about news stories and nights out are fine, but they’re not priority.
Instead of allowing urges to check our social media or e-mail distract us, turn them into reminders that you have work to do.
It happens to me often, I’ll have a minute of downtime and pull out my phone. I’ll swipe left a couple times before I catch myself – what am I doing? I’ve got plenty of things to finish today, now is not the time to be checking twitter. By using this habit as a reminder, I can adjust my focus and turn my attention to something more important.
In essence, wait until after dinner to have dessert. Complete those tasks that are good for your development before putting your attention on things that are fun but unimportant.
3) Time and place
There’s a time and place for everything – especially your e-mails.
I’ve found checking e-mail accounts to be just as distracting as social media at times – this is certainly true if I don’t have time to respond to them. To change this, I’ve (mostly) trained myself to check my e-mail only when I’m done with my work and at a computer. Doing so forces me to focus my attention on more important matters while preventing me from attempting to respond to e-mails using inadequate tools (like my phone).
Now there are exceptions. On occasion, I’ll check my gmail if I’m working on a project and need some information from an email I was sent. In this case, I do my best to keep from looking at any other emails than the one I need. I find it, check it and promptly close the window.
This e-mail checking change is important because every time you receive an e-mail (or notification as discussed earlier), you have something new to think about. That new something may prove to be a huge distraction. In order to keep your mind fairly clear and focused, try to remove this habit from your life.
4) One thing at a time
I often find myself sitting down to eat and pulling out my phone to Facebook or go over my schedule. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but if you think about it, it really highlights that need for constant input most of us experience. And frankly, I’d rather not.
In order to actually enjoy what I’m doing when I’m doing it, I’ve made it a practice to put my phone down. When the urge strikes, I pause and notice how it feels. I set my phone down and put my full attention on what I’m doing. I notice the sounds, the sights, the temperature. I feel by body, feel for any tension, I seek to relax areas that hold it.
Instead of letting the urge for input control you, use it as a reminder to come back to the present moment and enjoy what you’re doing deeply.
Consistent behavior creates habits. By practicing disciplines (or neglecting to practice them) we rewire our brains, making certain behaviors easier to practice and others more difficult. In time, these new habits will find their way into various parts of our life. We’ll see more opprtunies for focus, control, and presence.
In order to ensure you operate at you highest level, take control of your habits and change your environment in ways that you.
In order to put this information to the test, choose one of these changes to implement today. Write it down somewhere – a post it note, your journal, your calendar – somewhere you’ll glance pretty often. Make a commitment to stick to that change for the next 3 days and see how it affects your life.
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