I was checking my email yesterday, and all of a sudden someone called me on Skype. We chatted for fifteen minutes and then I had a notification on my IPhone that someone had commented on my Facebook status. As I was checking that, I got a text from a client, followed by a missed call from the babysitter. OMG!! There is too much going on in our "private" lives these days, and with all these distractions, it's no wonder that sometimes you get to the end of a ten-hour work day and feel like you haven't achieved a darn thing. Here are my thoughts on how to stay focused in the midst of the pings, tweets, and all those other fancy sounds that surround us.
1. Make a Decision
Decide early what you want to spend your time on for the day, and then stick to it. I try to pick a particular project at work or home to tackle, and work on it periodically through the day. Some of us (meaning women) tend to prefer multi-tasking. That's no problem, as long as you have one major project and a few minor projects going at the same time. Don't try to multi-task two important things simultaneously or you will start to get completely overwhelmed, and will probably perform poorly on both.
2. Keep it Simple
Young moms, this one is for you. My husband reminded me yesterday that he only has two hands and one brain. Sometimes I expect he will do things faster than a normal human being can, and this is simply because my brain is usually on turbo-speed. By simplifying and prioritizing what has to get done, it is easier to share tasks around the house. You probably won't get the spotless lace curtain of generations in the past, but give yourself a break. Your great-grandmother probably wasn't expected to follow the stock market or care about famous people's lives either. Figure out what really needs to get done, and tackle that first. Leave the junk drawer for the spring clean-out, Trusts me, your family will thank you!
3. Turn off the Ringer
It is okay to be unavailable sometimes. People may not like you, but you need it. Turn off the ringer at night. Put that phone on silent during dinner. Just because you are just a click away, it doesn't mean you should put your life on hold every time someone wants to reach you. Respect those signs that ask you not to use your phone. If it's really important, they will either leave a message or send a frantic number of text messages.
4. Be Present
In order to get the most out of the people who are actually around you, you need to give them at least a little bit of attention. The most upsetting thing about our beautiful drive through the mountains with my parents and sister was the half an hour that we regained cell phone reception. Everyone in the car (including the driver) took out their phone for some catch-up. We aren't living in pods yet, so while we actually can interact with each other, let's make the most of it!
5. Downtime is Key
Surfing the net does not count as downtime. Have some time every day where you do something un-technical, such as go for a walk without your IPod or read a book the old-fashioned way. If you are relying on technology to provide entertainment, stimulation, and companionship, you may be quickly sinking into the land of the lonely. See if you can go out for a coffee or invite people over and not watch a movie. The options are becoming limited, but if you get creative, you will see that technology-free downtime can be very rewarding.
6. Tech-Free Zone
This may be a stretch for the techies out there, but I challenge you to leave a small section of your house plug-in free. Okay, a lamp doesn't count, but anything else electrically charged can be removed from this space. The point? To get away from it all. My husband an I have a no-electronics-in-the-bedroom policy. Besides our cell phones plugged in to chargers (yes, they are on silent), we have no computer or television or any other entertainment device in our bedroom. This has been our policy since we got married, and it has led us to discovering various other "past-times" for the bedroom!
I don't love technology the way my two-year-old does, but I like it, and I like to use it. There are times though when I spend more time staring at a screen then anything else in my day, and I know that can't be good for my brain, my body, or my human spirit. Take a few breath, get outside, or pick up a book, and you will start to remember that there are things in this world more impactful than 30 second sound bytes and liking someone's status. The choice is yours.