As part of our new Better Self series, I am committing to reading a book-a-week. This week, I was reading the Art of War from Steven Pressfield. It describes how we can avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor and how Resistance is the root of all procrastination, hesitation, and laziness. The book is about creativity but it briefly explains how any addiction, such as being addicted to your phone, is an excuse to evade our inner genius.
How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us.- Steven Pressfield
I am not addicted to anything that would negate my health such as alcohol or drugs but, over the past few years, I did develop a compulsive behavior that does negate my mental awareness, social interactions, and creativity. I am a compulsive phone user.
Our minds are delicate little things. Too many obstructions and it will get lost, too little and it will get bored. In today’s world, boredom has become a rarity.
Smartphones have made most of us unconsciously avoiding boredom, even for seconds. Whether we are waiting for the bus or even just walking in the park, we get out our phones. Even for the smallest thing, like walking from one room to another, I would peak at my phone. Just to see that one, little, bright icon that notifies me of an uneventful event.
Don’t get me wrong, phones are amazing but only when it serves us. When your phone starts ruling your daily life, you wake up to a sad reality.
At one point, I was looking at my phone while watching television, as if my brain needed even more stimulation. I forgot to enjoy the present. Whatever I was doing, my phone was not very far away. I was addicted to the tiny amount of excitement my brain was getting for social media, texts, or any little notification that would pop on that screen.
I can remember, as a child, I would play outside, read books, or even play with the same old toy for hours. Where did that go?
Once I acknowledged the fact that I was addicted to my phone, I did something about it. I tracked my phone usage with a tracker app and saw how, on most days, I could spend over 2 to 3 hours on my phone. The number of times I would simply glance at the screen, even for a second, was scaring. My mind wanted to avoid boredom at all cost.
Boredom, however, greatly improves creativity, mindfulness, and relaxation. Letting yourself get bored for some instants, or simply enjoying your environment truly, without any diversions, is a real eye-opener.
Try it; put the phone away.
Even for a day, you will see how the world is around you, how wonderful people are, and how you do need to be reachable at all times.
For my part, I went on a phone diet, cutting down my usage and eliminating these unnecessary notification checks. Since I started decluttering most of my things, the next step was to declutter my distractions.
- The first thing to do is to get a phone case with a flip cover. Hiding your screen makes it harder to peak over and stare at notifications. You can also achieve this by disabling all notifications on your lock screen.
- Then, uninstall any application that bombards you for constant attention such as Facebook and e-mail. You can always access those in your browser without having it a click away.
- If you do have some notifications on, set them to be soft-toned and on low-vibrations. They will be less obstructing.
- Have some quiet time and respect your quiet time. Just leave the phone down.
- Use your phone for all the great things it can do, not because you are bored. Allow yourself to be bored and discover the world around you and start being conscious whenever you are using your phone.
- Focus on a single-tasking. If you are cooking supper, cook. You do not need to be checking out your Instagram feed while that pasta is boiling.
Once you clear the distractions out of your life, you will have a clearer mind. I started enjoying my interactions much more, connecting with people I am actually with rather than my phone.
Being idle sometimes also gives me an incentive to read a book, stare into the sky, look at the trees, be creative, and make connections with people around. As part of all this, I started reading a lot more, like a whole book more per week!
Social media is much less social than your local get-together.
Spend less time on social media and more time with the people around you. I have noticed my creativity, curiousness, and attentiveness increased. With constant access to the answer to any question I could think of, my brain had become lazy. When I do not know something or simply forget information, my brain has to work for it. Having to think about something makes me think and learn from a process.
Try it; don’t succumb to the urge to have your answers spoon-fed to you.
Creativity is also greatly affected by distractions. When I am writing, for example, having constant notifications or vibrations on disturbs my flow of thought. Furthermore, creativity often comes from boredom.
Boredom is actually a crucial tool for making your life happier, more productive, and more creative. We all have the need for our minds to wander, daydream and create. Finding a just balance between technology and your life is the key. Your mind will only wonder for so long before something new will emerge.
Don’t know where to start? Take the challenge day-by-day:
- On day one, start tracking your phone usage with any free tracker app. It is truly eye-opening.
- On day two, silence all your notifications.
- On day three, uninstall any notification-intensive apps you didn’t miss the day before.
- On day four, take a vacation. Leave the phone away
- On day five, make a conscious choice to activate some notifications if they are truly important and leave the rest deactivated.
Now that you cleansed the distractions from your phone, enjoy life, flourish, and be happy. And try to read a bit more 🙂 Xyz.