I want to talk about the single most important tool that I have ever encountered in my entire life. That's not an exaggeration. I'm not talking about the Internet, although it is handy for binge-watching Dr. Who. I'm talking about the ancient tool of attention control. Call it mindfulness; call it dharana ("concentration" in Sanskrit); call it meditation; call it life-hacking for productivity; call it whatever you wish. It has been around as a technology for a long, long time. A mind technology. The ability to direct your focus on a single area for a specified period of time.
In our day and age of digital-social-clickbait media, focus is the number one currency--more valuable than gold. Did you know that companies like Facebook, Netflix, and Google are specifically designing content to keep you on their pages....forever? This endless scroll feature plays on the evolutionary tendency of humans to keep searching until a big reward is hit. AKA the dopamine pathway. This is such a powerful urge that it actually takes huge amounts of our subconscious processing power. Take this study in which subjects' functioning IQs significantly dropped just with the presence of a smartphone in their environment.
What I want to incite in this post is a renewed spirit in taking back our focus and putting it to use for us. There are numerous ways to do this but it starts with one simple incite. Before each task you do, ask yourself "is what I am doing fulfilling the need for which I am undertaking it, and for how long do I want to undertake it?" This means that if you plan to get on the forever scroll of Youtube weightlifting videos (which I do almost weekly), accept that that is what you are doing, and also accept that it has a definite end time. Likewise, have the same intention with meals, exercise, time with friends and family, and other self-care activities. Mindlessly checking your phone or stumbling into conversations that you don't want to be having is a recipe for self-hatred and animosity. Any time that you feel 'lost' in an activity, take a breath or two, and calmly ask yourself what you would like this moment to accomplish and/or simply be curious about the moment/activity itself.
More concrete tactics for harnessing your focus power include a regular meditation/breathwork practice, good-ole-fashioned paper book reading, setting your phone on airplane mode (or turning off notifications) when are working and not expecting calls, and numerous apps that cut off your web browser after you have spent a prescribed amount of time on certain sites. Consider taking a "screen-free" Saturday each week, so you can pay more attention to what you are doing and whom you are doing it with. One of my favorite quotes that I repeat when people tell me that they don't have enough time in their day to do what they need is, "you have all the time there is." You will give time to what you prioritize, so be intentional about what those priorities are.
Thanks for your focus on this post. Please comment below on how you like to prioritize your 24 hours each day and any helpful tactics you use to stay on task. Have a great week.