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You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do


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.

I’m in the Same Boat

What I tell them is that I’m just as prone to mindlessly using technology as anybody else. I suspect making positive and healthy use of technology is even more challenging for me — and that’s why I’ve become so obsessed with this topic.

If it came easily and naturally to me, I probably wouldn’t be focused on it at all because I wouldn’t realize the need for improvement.

This reminds me of the founder of one of the karate styles I study. He was a pretty weak, sickly child. It isn’t hard to understand why he turned to karate, as he saw so much benefit from it compared to other children who were naturally strong and athletic.

The main reason I’m saying all of this is to let you know that if you’re having any self-critical thoughts or feelings about how you interact with technology, I’m in the same boat as you are. Even those who have practiced and taught the discipline for many years have expressed difficulties with staying mindful.

There isn’t anything wrong with you.

Focus on Your Improvement

In my experience in several different areas, I found that people who have natural talent in a particular field often aren’t very good at teaching it.

My theory is this: Those who are naturally talented have never had to struggle or work through challenges. There wasn’t much conscious thought behind it. Generally, they are great at demonstrating but often aren’t very effective teachers, as they can’t understand or relate to others’ learning experiences and see what they need to improve. 

So when you’re working on being more mindful — even though you may feel like you’re struggling — practice self-examination and you will develop your skill and ability to identify ways to continue being mindful.

Focus on how you’ve improved as a result of your efforts and not just your perceived shortcomings.  Have a bit of self-compassion.

Tips for Mindful Task Management: Part 2

Here are some more ways to apply mindfulness to tackling the tasks on your to-do list.

1. Time Your Tasks and Prioritize Them

Sometimes it feels overwhelming to get the to-dos onto the calendar — particularly at the beginning of the week.

I start out by just dumping all of my to-dos on a Monday and creating an appointment, description, and duration for each item. I throw them all onto Monday in any order simply to get them out with a description and period of time I want to allocate to them. Then I start dragging them around to different days and different times of day to see what feels right by looking at them visually. If you’re a visual thinker who feels hesitant and overwhelmed by the scheduling of to-dos, this tip could prove beneficial. I find that seeing them out there not only helps me schedule them but reduces the anxiety I have about the idea of organizing them, which then makes it easy to revise the schedule if I slip up on anything.

2. Incorporate Mindfulness into Processing Your To-Do List

What does this have to do with mindfulness? There is great value in stepping back from everyday chaos and thinking mindfully about when to-dos should be completed so that you can focus on what’s important rather than simply what’s urgent. To me, that’s all an exercise in mindfulness.

If our norm is to mindlessly race from one thing to the next throughout the day and then again every time we have a spare minute to scan our to-do list for an item to check off, that’s a somewhat mindless approach — regardless of how important or relevant the to-do is.

This process of stepping back periodically and really thinking carefully about what needs to be done and why represents an exercise in mindfulness. Reducing the stress and anxiety level can help facilitate a more mindful state. If I know that my important to-dos are sitting on my calendar somewhere, I feel much less anxious than when I’m thinking, “Oh no, there are things I know that I need to get done, but I don’t even know if I have them written down or indicated somewhere.” If I know I’ve scheduled them, then I’m less likely to believe that something critical is going to slip through the cracks. That decrease in anxiety can help me be more mindful overall.