Life after (Dis)traction

Reflections on a month of eliminating distractions

· Thoughts

I read a book 18 months ago (or better) titled Digital Minimalism, written by one of my favorite minds, Cal Newport. Being a big fan of Cal's previous works I was very excited to get into this one. The only problem was it wasn't for me.

There was no wayyyy I could give up receiving email on my phone.

There was no wayyyy I could delete all of the social media from my phone--after all, I used that to keep in contact with my clients and if they needed me, I'd have to answer...

There was no wayyyy I could just be bored at a red light when the opportunity to take a quick look at my Newsfeed and scroll for a couple moments would entertain.

Oh, Cal had it all wrong. Those were great ideas for other people. That just wasn't going to work for me.

And that was when I realized, I needed that book more than I wanted to admit.

But there were a lot of things going on in my life a little over a year and a half ago. Many changes needed to be made, other than just my smart phone addiction. From business partnerships to personal relationships, a relocation out of state, I was making some overhauls to my life. But interestingly enough, I was making these overhauls without upset. Still remain great friends with my former business partner, no hate or hostility with the former lover, I still even like the state of North Carolina where I resided... So I thought, perhaps I didn't need to cut my smart phone out of my life entirely, just modify it and set some boundaries.

And to be clear, this is what Cal recommends doing in his book. So I deleted the distraction apps, took off my email and basically was left with my 5 year old 6S Plus that only worked on speaker phone, to send text messages and taking photos, but the front camera was permanently damaged. Would you believe, with literally nothing on it, I still picked up the device around 15 times a day! A broken device still held the power for my attention.

I'm here to report that I held a funeral for my smart phone a month ago. Gone are the days of constant distractions. Gone with the codependent relationship I was carrying around in my pocket, checking out of habit, even when I knew it was not going to provide any satisfaction--it was just what I always did. I've moved onward and upward.

Life after (Dis)traction:

  • I purchased a phone that uses e-ink, works as a phone, has text messaging and 4 or 5 'tools' that enhance your life (like podcasts) and zero apps.  There is no browsing the internet, checking email or taking photos.  It makes phone calls--calls where people can actually hear me without being on speaker.  
  • I invested in a fancy little point and shoot that can take better photos than any smart phone on the market and fit inside my handbag.
  • After liking how I can read the e-ink on my phone in direct sunlight or how it automatically backlights in darkness, I decided to get an old-generation kindle.  
But Cat, you carry around 3 items when you only needed to have one before... that seems ridiculous!

Well, I've come to realize that being optimized is not always the best thing for our mental health. My mind knew the smart phone held my distractions. It held the quick fix to boredom, filled the solitude with shallow mindlessness and kept me from maximizing my attention span; consequently robbing me of countless hours of productivity.

Living life with intention is only possible without constant distraction. It made little sense for me to attend yoga 4-5 days a week for mindfulness and well being, only to be scrolling endlessly on my smart phone when I returned from practice. When I want to fill time I will listen to one of my favorite podcasts, or take out my kindle and strengthen my knowledge. I've read 3 books last week alone.

But how much work have I gotten done with this undistracted time, you may ask? All of it.

So much so that I've decided to reconnect with my blog. In the time it used to take me to finish one monthly project I had on my plate, I was able to complete it in around an hour of undistracted time. Previously, this would have taken me around 27 days to finalize. Productive? I'd say so.
I have 3 major projects I'm working on at the moment. I plan to tell you about them in the months ahead here on this blog. I spend a great portion of my day researching and developing these ideas so I can bring them to fruition. Life after Distraction has helped me discover something I haven't enjoyed in a very long time, if ever--or perhaps, I just forgotten what it felt like. But I have found peace in/and presence.
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