Finding yourself consistently distracted by your Smartphone? In this 1 hour workshop, join Robert Plotkin, founder of Technology For Mindfulness and get the tools you need to gain back control in 2019. Click here for tickets
People can engage with technology in a wide variety of ways while exercising. Some people put their devices away entirely so that they are not distracted by them, so that they can be fully in touch with their body, or both. Others find that they can only stay focused on exercise while listening to music or watching a video, television, etc. Some people like to talk on the phone with a friend while working out. Continue reading How Technology Can Help You Exercise More Mindfully
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are designed not only to enable but encourage people to provide feedback about content posted by others. This might take the form of a like, a simple thumbs up or down, text, or something more sophisticated like a text or video response.
If you’ve ever posted content online, then you know just how enticing it can be to check how many people have liked what you’ve posted.
Although electronic calendars, software, and the internet were supposed to make it easier than ever to schedule meetings, the actual result of these technologies has been that people arrive late, reschedule meetings, or miss them altogether more frequently these days.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I think we are more disorganized, late, and stressed out about our calendar than ever before:
Today, I’m going to focus on just one of the many ways that you can address this problem in your life: Consciously and explicitly insert downtime into your calendar between your scheduled appointments.
The first reason to schedule downtime may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised by how many people don’t take it into consideration. People rarely put any travel time between appointments, and if you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure.
This is worth it even if you have back-to-back appointments in the same building, as it still takes time to travel from one meeting to the other. You need to gather up your things, get to the next room, and then settle in there before you are truly ready to begin your next meeting.
The simplest way to put downtime into your calendar is to leave empty space in between your meetings. If you’re new to this habit, I would suggest specifically putting the travel time into your calendar as an appointment. Most operating systems now have a travel time feature you could use to that end.
Taking downtime into consideration can prove beneficial in a number of ways:
If you’ve really put some thought into budgeting your time and considering unexpected delays, you’ll be more punctual and less likely to worry about the state of your appointments. Your anxiety will be reduced and you may have actual downtime in between meetings.
These are all mindfulness and stress reduction side effects. Scheduling downtime will also help you get better over time at estimating how much you can get done in a day. Many of us tend to schedule too many meetings to the point where there’s not enough time to be in them. This can create assumptions that lead to rescheduling and cutting meetings short, which then induces stress.
It’s important to be realistic about what we can accomplish with the time we have in a day and to schedule accordingly. Ultimately, downtime will help increase your productivity and reduce your stress.
The so-called “desktop metaphor” has been around on personal computers for about 40 years and is still the dominant way of visually organizing information. It was originally designed to emulate a physical desktop on which you put folders, files, and other types of documents and devices.
Regardless of how you feel about computer desktops, they can become cluttered just like a physical desktop, which can be distracting, stress-inducing, and hinder your productivity.
If your desktop is filled from top to bottom with icons, are you aware of whether just glancing at that desktop hundreds of times throughout the day causes any feelings of stress? Perhaps you catch an icon for a document you’re working on out of the corner of your eye. It may cause a thought or worry about how you’re going to complete that document. The thought may be fleeting and you may only be semi-aware of it. However, consider the cumulative impact of having so many experiences like this throughout your day just because of how many times you are looking at that desktop.
Here are a few tips you can follow to remove the clutter from your desktop.
If you like having all of those icons on your desktop because you feel that they are easy to find, I have one simple suggestion that will let you access everything just as easily without cluttering your visual space and creating any anxiety. Just create a single folder on your desktop called “Desktop” and move all of the icons from your desktop into that folder. Now your desktop is clear, but you can still access everything that was in it by opening that folder.
You lose virtually no productivity by taking this step while potentially making a very significant gain in how relaxed, calm, and de-stressed you feel when looking at your desktop.
To make sure you keep enjoying the benefits of this practice over time, you must close the folder after opening it so that its contents are no longer visible. Otherwise, you will be seeing the clutter just as regularly as you would if it were scattered around the desktop.
As an additional step, you can create a small number of subfolders within your new desktop folder. Keep it very simple — you might just have a folder for apps and separate folders for different types of documents (word processing, spreadsheets, photos, etc.). If you make too many folders, you will start making it hard to find documents and reduce the benefits that this simple method provides.
Now, you merely need to keep your desktop from becoming cluttered again over time. The most common ways in which this happens occur when installing new apps or creating new folders on your computer. Move those icons and documents into your desktop folder.
Even if you’re someone who loves having a full desktop, try out this approach and see how different you feel when booting up your computer in the morning and seeing a completely tidy space. You could even use a desktop background image that you love in order to stay motivated to keep it from being blocked by countless icons.
Once you make the small investment of time and energy required to start using this method, it takes very little effort to maintain it over time. You can get a huge payback in feeling calm while maintaining very high productivity.
On this blog, we often provide tips for how to make more mindful, productive, and efficient use of technology. It’s easier to describe what to do than to actually create and engage in the habit of doing it. Suggesting that you don’t use your smartphone immediately upon waking up in the morning or within an hour of going to bed doesn’t make creating and following that habit easy to do.
Today, I’ll offer three pointers that will improve your chances of forming a new and enduring technology habit.
Many of us try to create a new habit by just engaging in it directly. For example, if you want to practice not using your smartphone for an hour after you wake up, you might try going cold turkey right away. I’ve found that this approach often results in failure, as it doesn’t help change my behavior or reinforce the intended behavior.
When I try to create a new habit for myself, I often do it in a very austere kind of way. This can work if I pose some structure around it, but it can be quite boring. Other than the reward of feeling like I’ve accomplished my goal, it doesn’t really create any other positive associations in my mind. As a result, I’ve found that trying to create a new habit in this way sometimes either fails or leads to habits that don’t stick.
Use technology to set a reminder to do or not do something.
Associate a positive feeling with this new habit. Focus and draw your attention to that positive feeling.
You may worry that these tricks are crutches. If you ask friends to remind you of something, you may feel like you’ll rely on them and may stop engaging in the habit altogether if they stop reminding you. On the flip side, sometimes we can do things to help us create a habit and supports for the habit, and once the habit is ingrained in our minds and bodies, we no longer need those initial supports to keep the habit going.
Say you’re practicing not using your phone before bed. Maybe you set an alarm 15 minutes before bed to remind yourself not to use your phone. When that 15 minutes is over, pay attention to how you feel now that you have not used your phone. Bringing my attention to how I feel after I’ve practiced something I want to form as a habit actually helps that habit to form better. It’s a way to bring mindfulness to the formation of a new habit to help enforce the behavior you’re trying to habituate in yourself.
Bear in mind that you can apply these tips to any kind of habits. I hope you find them helpful for any change that you are seeking.
Our culture strongly promotes the idea that the newest technology is always the best. That belief is spread by its makers with their own incentives for encouraging us to always buy the latest version of every product. However, sometimes using older technology can be better in terms of reaching our mindfulness goals.
Today’s tip is to not automatically reach for the shiny new toy. Instead, be aware of your options so you can make wise and mindful choices about which technology to use in any particular situation.
I’ve given a few specific examples, but I encourage you to apply the same principle to all aspects of your life. Focus your attention on becoming aware of any opportunities to use older technology or no technology at all when you want to get something done.
Most of us do nearly all of our writing on devices. When was the last time you wrote an actual letter to someone? Using pen and paper is just one of the writing options you should explore:
Try out different options and see what works best for you.
Although I use an app on my phone to keep track of my tasks, sometimes I find it more effective to quickly jot them down on a small piece of paper so that they’re easier and faster for me to find and look at as I move from task to task.
Efficiency and focus are not the only reasons you might want to try using older forms of technology for writing. If you want to convey a personal and heartfelt message to someone (such as a thank-you or condolences for a loss), many people find it more meaningful to receive that kind of message in hand-written form than by email or even a pre-printed card.
You may find that writing out the message longhand helps you focus not only on the content of what you’re writing but the feeling behind it. You might experience that feeling more deeply than you would on a device.
Now I’ll use the flip side of writing: reading. While I do an incredible amount of reading on devices, scientific research confirms that attempting to read anything longer than a paragraph on a modern device’s screen can be extremely frustrating and counterproductive. This is in large part due to the number of distractions that our devices present to us while we are reading.
The good news is that many other options are available to us, and they don’t all involve giving up on technology completely.
Think about the size of the screen that you use to read different types of messages too. I don’t know anyone who’d want to read a long piece on an Apple Watch. On the other hand, a smartphone can be a great way to read text messages. As a general rule, most people find it easier to read longer works on bigger screens, but try out different options to determine what works best for you.
I don’t want to suggest wasting paper at the expense of the environment, but in some cases, I print out documents to read them on paper — particularly if I need to provide the author with feedback on what has been written because I find it both easier to stay focused on what I’m reading and to jot down notes on paper than on a word processor. Despite all of the advances with screens and document software, I still find it easier to quickly glance back at previous parts of a document on paper than on a screen.
Writing and reading are just two examples of how many different technological options are available to help you avoid the common trap of automatically turning to the latest technology or whatever technology you happen to be using at the moment.
We all tend to engage in that kind of technological inertia or let it dictate which technologies we use and how we use them. But if we apply some mindfulness to pause, step back, and reflect on what our intention is for the task at hand while considering our options, we can then make a conscious choice based on our intention and understanding of our current situation.
As a result, we will be less likely to rush ahead automatically and more likely to engage in that task in a way that is not only more productive but also more satisfying.
I have no natural sense of direction. As a result, I think the GPS is one of the greatest inventions in human history. I rely on the GPS on my phone to get me almost everywhere and appreciate it not only because of its obvious purpose but also because it reduces the stress of driving, walking, and traveling to new places. It gives me the confidence to go places on my own that I normally wouldn’t try to travel to without a GPS.
At the same time, I’ve become aware of how overly reliant I’ve become on my GPS and how I tend to use it in a way that does not necessarily help me become engaged with, aware of, and attuned to my surroundings.
Continue reading How to Mindfully Use Your GPS
Both Google and Apple recently announced major initiatives to address the problems of digital distraction, stress, and anxiety. These will affect all of their products.
The initiatives are going to include a variety of features for their products, like an enhanced version of Do Not Disturb and other ways of giving users more control over how and when they’re interrupted or distracted by their devices. Some features will provide you with in-depth, quantitative information about how frequently you’re using your phone and what you use it for.
I think the details of these initiatives aren’t as important as the magnitude of the message Apple and Google are sending.
Like most companies on the internet, they
have based a significant part of their business model on distracting people and encouraging them to maximize how much time they spend on their products and devices.
The launch of these company-wide initiatives is a pretty groundbreaking and historic event for two of the big five tech companies. The fact that they’ve decided to create and make major announcements about these initiatives shows that they are taking the problems seriously enough to invest in shifting their direction to enable people to live more balanced technological lives.
It’s clear that some of the features of these initiatives will help people to spend less time using the devices and apps that Google and Apple make and sell. They must have decided that this would be more helpful to them overall from a business perspective.
I don’t know what all of the reasons were behind these decisions. To a certain extent, they don’t matter to me.
Let’s stay mindful of how they implement these major initiatives in response to our needs.
For those of you who are old enough to remember what it was like to attend a meeting before the internet, the only opportunity to speak to that person was at the scheduled appointment.
I remember when I started working as a lawyer and I was going to meet with a client. What would I do? I would prepare!
Continue reading Let’s Start Planning for Meetings as if There’s No Internet
We all know that the image people portray of themselves on social media is highly selective and curated. People often post only the information that paints them in a positive light and makes them seem as interesting as possible. As a result, their social media lives don’t always reflect their full reality.
Continue reading Positive, Negative and Neutral Posting on Social Media
As mindfulness in the West is picking up and taking off as a popular movement, I’m getting the feeling that many people are being introduced to it as a purely intellectual and mental practice. After all, the word “mind” is in mindfulness.
However, there are ways to achieve a state of mindfulness that don’t start with or focus primarily on your mind. Other approaches focus more on the body or integrating mental and physical training. Continue reading The Mind Can Also Follow the Body
Have you ever watched a tennis sequence in which a player serves and the receiver runs in reaction to the serve and then hits the ball back off balance? Throughout the exchange, the server stands firm and is seemingly dictating where and when the receiver moves.
Do you ever feel like that with your smartphone? Are you the receiver and is your smartphone the server? Continue reading Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone
Since I write and teach about using technology mindfully, many people assume that I’m somehow naturally gifted at that practice. They believe I’m always focused at work and never struggle with distractions when I should be doing something more productive.
In fact, when I tell people about my work in this field, they get embarrassed and think I will look down on them because of how poorly or distractedly they use technology. Continue reading You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do
This article is about what to do when none of the suggestions seem to work.
Continue reading Practice “Not Even One”
A critical part of mindfulness is paying attention to our experience in the present moment.
Continue reading Beyond Noticing: Putting Mindfulness into Action
In recent years, many of us have taken to canceling plans at the last minute via text or by using our smartphones in other ways. It usually happens minutes from the meeting time. I try not to do this, but I am definitely guilty of it.
Continue reading Make Plans as If the Internet Didn’t Exist
Do you ever feel like your smartphone is calling to you even when it’s just sitting in your pocket not doing anything? When your phone beeps, vibrates, or buzzes, do you ask yourself, “Why is my phone doing this to me?!?”Continue reading How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone
Here are some more ways to apply mindfulness to tackling the tasks on your to-do list.Continue reading Tips for Mindful Task Management: Part 2
This exercise consists of revising your daily or weekly tasks in light of your long-term goals or intentions.
Continue reading Updating Tasks in Light of Your Intentions
Winter Feast is a 40 day Worldwide Spiritual Practice Period everyone is invited to join.
It’s for people of all faiths who take part in committing 40 minutes of spiritual practice each day for forty days. The intention behind Winter feast is to create peace in each individual’s life and to extend to others as well. Participants are also invited to practice daily acts of kindness. Although it may seem like only a small group of people setting out to do this, the impact of such an act can be much greater.
“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
Winter Feast is from the morning of January 15th until February 23rd. As most of the Northern Hemisphere is deep in winter during this time, it’s a perfect way to begin the New Year to reconnect with spirit and bring our awareness to a new level.
“What nine months does for the embryo, forty early mornings will do for your growing awareness.” — Rumi
I’ll be taking part in Winter Feast and I encourage you to do so as well! Here are ways you can participate: http://feastforthesoul.org/feast-2018/
Winter Feast — Jan 15 to Feb 23
We can do it when we work together!
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