“Texting, email and the number of likes we collect, the ding, the buzz, and or the flash of our phones that tell us “You’ve got mail,” feels amazing. As it should. We have associated the dopamine releasing feel of “ooh something for me” with getting a text or email or the like.” — Simon Sinek
There’s nothing I love more than tuning in to a genuine flow state— when time disappears and nothing exists but the present moment.
There’s no impulse to check Facebook or your phone. You’re genuinely enraptured in whatever you’re doing. It’s a beautifully rare experience for most of us, especially millennials that grew up always having something to check. It started with those innocent little Tamagotchis and now look at us.
Flow state sounds like a dream to most of us. Something far off and so unattainable it seems almost fictional. It’s a real skill to be able to focus fully on the task at hand when a million other things are attempting to grab your attention. A skill that will become more and more critical to success as our attention spans fade deeper into oblivion.
Our collective distraction has resulted in a population with the shortest attention spans ever recorded.
We want results and we want them now. Instant gratification is the go-to marketing message. Entertainment triumphs over meaning. Consumption over creation.
And hey, no judgment here, it’s important to relax. I’m just as guilty of binge-watching the entire first season of Stranger Things in 2 days as the next person. But I can’t help but wonder, where do we draw the line?
I feel best when I’m creating. It doesn’t really matter if I’m writing, cooking, or drawing something with my kid— creation is medicine. Most of us feel this way, but when the time comes to create, we’re faced with resistance.
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard.
What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.
…Like a magnified needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true north—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.
We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.
Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.“
—from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Overcoming Resistance and Choosing Creation Over Consumption
I work from home, so the distractions are extra intense. There’s no boss looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m doing my work. There are no rules. I like it that way. But it’s dangerous because I’m my own worst employee.
These are the thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis:
A hot bath would be so nice in the middle of the day on a Tuesday.
Two o’clock isn’t too early for a bit of wine.
Whaaaaaat you’re gonna give me all that for free, no way can I miss this webinar.
It’s been an hour, better check my Facebook and all three of my emails *again*.
Oh, an emergency, you need something from me right now dear client?! Let me drop everything and get on that.
I know what makes me feel confident and accomplished, and it’s not staying up to date on what my friends new baby did or the latest Trump paper towel throwing fiasco.
Truth is, most of what steals our attention is so vapid. I can’t help but ask myself if I know that it’s not helping me achieve my goals or contribute to a greater conversation, why do I do it? Why are social media and email so fucking addictive?
Maybe you have more control than I do. It’s possible that I’m just a very weak person who can’t help but get that dopamine fix the little red notifications give off.
You know those people who don’t use Facebook? Who only check their emails once a day? If you are one of those people, congrats, but seriously? HOW!?
I want to know so that I can get better at not succumbing to the instant gratifications available one click away.
“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.”
Thanks Cal, now gimme the roadmap!
Pomodoro timers are life.
If it weren’t for them, I would never write anything I don’t 100% feel inspired to write. And inspiration is fickle, you can’t depend on it.
Defining Research VS. Time Wasting
When I was first learning about running a writing business, I took a course called ‘Words and Money’ by Ash Ambirge. It was really good, I learned a lot, but one of my main takeaways was that research is relative.
As a writer, charging by the hour is absurd not just because it doesn’t address the value you bring to the table, but because you’re not accounting for the time you spend laying on the couch thinking about a project.
The hours spent surfing the web, reading the competitors materials, laying in bed at night wondering how you can do the most bang-up job. It all counts when it comes to creating copy that truly stands out.
Sure, some people don’t do it, and maybe from an outsider’s perspective, they’re more “productive”. But without that knowledge and attention to detail and the bigger picture, you’re always gonna be missing something. When you give a damn about doing your best work every time, you have to value the research, all of it.
I often find myself researching for clients, or for my own business, and going down this rabbit hole of signing up for all the free courses I can find on the topic, reading all the blog posts, listening to podcasts, connecting with others, etc.
Even though I understand the importance of it, there’s a part of me that hates myself for having this insatiable thirst for mooooore information all the time.
But then there’s this other part of me that thinks, hey, maybe that’s what makes me a good writer.
Maybe all of my Facebooking is helping me to better understand people and how they operate in this online world.
Maybe all the endless articles and webinars are subconsciously rendering and transforming into essential material for my best work.
Or maybe not. Excuse me while I overthink about this some more…
The Apps I’ve Started Using to Create Some Semblance of Control
These two strangers dance together in perfect step. Todoist zaps every task over to Trello and I have two task managers on my ass to make sure Gwenda gets her goods on time and I don’t drop the egg carton. Mad props to Alaura Weaver for showing me this hack.
I love Loom so much I’m gonna make a video with it for you right now. It saves me time because why type when you can talk? I love sending little video messages to people. My three-year-old has also taken a fancy to it.
What better motivator than the fleeting existential reminder that you’re going to die. I swapped out my momentum Chrome extension for the Death Clock one. 18300 days really doesn’t feel like a lot. I’m not sure yet whether this is motivating or just depressing.
I often have to pop on Facebook for work stuff and every single bloody time, without fail, I get distracted and sucked into a swarming sea of distractions. Newsfeed Eradicator gets rid of your newsfeed, which is so much more blissful than it sounds.
This Chrome extension blocks whatever websites you want COMPLETELY for a set amount of time. Just don’t be like me and turn it on and then check your phone instead…
How I’m Changing My Lifestyle to Improve My Focus and Concentration
The water torture test. This is how my mom used to wake us kids up for school. She would drip water on our faces drop by drop until we woke up. If that didn’t work, my dad would come in and play “le moooo” a game in which he pretended to be a cow convulsing back and forth on all fours on my bed. Needless to say, mornings have always left a bad taste in my mouth.
Sometimes 5 AM Is the Only Option
A few months ago I was really struggling to fit in all the work I needed to do while balancing time with my son. I tried late nights and ended up less productive than ever. Getting up at 5 am really was the only option.
Those two extra hours have changed my life. I can’t just hop out of bed and start writing, so I use the first 45 minutes to make tea and do yoga. It’s blissfully quiet. There are no distractions. I hate to say it but all the things morning people drone on about are true.
Sugar = Satan’s Spawn
Another way I’ve shifted my lifestyle to improve my focus is by breaking up with sugar. In case you didn’t know, sugar is the devil. Pfft, of course, you know that.
I’ve gone the extra mile and banished most carbs too, keto queen in da house. I love the way eating a high-fat diet makes my brain feel.
All of this focus stuff is an ongoing practice. I literally have to clear a lifetime of habits designed to embrace distraction. Nobody said it would be easy, but I believe it’ll be worthwhile.
I grew up in a home where we always had the TV on. I watched so much TV growing up that by the time I was a teenager I had denounced television completely.
I never wanted to flip on Channel 7 to catch yet another Friends rerun ever, ever again. So I didn’t. For years I didn’t watch anything. I barely even watched movies. Suffice it to say I was pretty out of the loop. Avatar? I watched that shit years after it came out.
Then one day I realized that watching a great series or a well-done film was really enriching and enjoyable. I came to a point where I felt like it was worthwhile once again.
As a child, I thought TV was worthwhile because I was learning about the world through this medium. And when I’d learned enough and seen the tropes repeating themselves ad nauseum, I simply said goodbye.
I hope I can do the same with Facebook. I’m almost ready, but hey, I gotta check and see if anybody responded to my brilliant comment so I’ll BRB.