AKA Just Stop Already

Last week my smart phone died. Completely kaput. Game over.

Of course it died on a Friday afternoon. My phone belongs to my employer, so this meant that I would not be able to do anything about the dead phone until Monday. And I had an out-of-town retreat Sunday through Wednesday. So, actually, I would be without a phone until THURSDAY!

I firmly believe that there is no point in stressing about things I cannot change — so I decided to look at five days without phone as a fun experiment.

Things I noticed:

  1. Nothing bad happens when I don’t look at Instagram for five days.
  2. I missed my phone less with each passing day.
  3. I wasn’t sure where my ID and credit card were (normally attached to my phone).
  4. I had much more inclination to read a book when I hadn’t just lost 30 minutes looking at phone.
  5. My emails and messages were able to wait on my computer for HOURS without incident.
  6. I “found” time. When I didn’t check my phone, I didn’t get sucked into other time wasters online.
  7. I got to remember what “bored” feels like. I drove two hours and did nothing. I went on walk without a podcast or music. Bored is kinda cool. My brain eventually filled in the blank space with interesting ideas.
  8. Technology makes a great tool — but a terrible master.

Who is the master of your life?

My forced phone-less experiment taught me that even though I think I am not a slave to my phone — that is not so true after all. My phone runs me. My phone has become my master.

Technology masters many of us. Technology companies spend enormous budgets building things specifically so they will DISTRACT and SUCK US IN DEEPER. Distraction for a company equals money.

I got to examine what I was giving up to that distraction. My personal time and focus — those are the things I cannot BUY and I cannot make more of. TIME and FOCUS are my most precious resources. How am I spending them? Who is my master?

Single tasking is a SUPER POWER.

The myth of the multi-tasking maverick is over.

Someone who seems to do it all and all at the same time? That doesn’t impress me a whit. I know it comes at a terrible price.

I’m impressed when I see someone block time and then adhere to that time. I’m impressed when I can do the important thing first and not get sucked into the urgent. (Heck — I’m impressed when I even know what the important thing is!) I am impressed when I deliberately DON’T look at my inbox for eight hours during a deep focus work slot. Try it. It’s hella hard.

For more ideas on “deep work” habits be sure to check out Cal Newport’s outstanding book, “Deep Work”.

Become a ruthless editor.

In writing, great editors are viewed with awe and often fear. Why? Because they are fearless in their ability to remove things that do not serve the project.

What do you need to edit in your life?

I know. It makes my stomach hurt just to write the words.

I don’t want to give anything up. I want it all. More. More. More.

But when will it be enough? When will it EVER be enough?

I am building my “essential-ness” muscle. What is essential to my life?

I just finished reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It was much more than instructive. I have always enjoyed organizing and purging but this was something else all-together. This book allowed me to release old things (and ideas) I had been harboring for years. Poof. Gone. With a fervent prayer of gratitude and a quick trip to the thrift store. I feel lighter and absolutely NO regrets.

With the KonMari Method I got rid of a lot of things. Now I am ready to apply that way of thinking up a layer into my heart space and my entrepreneurial mind.
What ideas have I been hoarding and not releasing. What projects are packed away in boxes in my head- waiting for the light of day? What relationships have I let become sour and stagnant — that I can either release or revive?

Editing is the skill of the century.

Edit everything: content, space, focus, projects, people. Be ruthless.

Limit input and striving.

I constantly look outside myself for the the right answer. I am searching for the next breakthrough (to what?) in outside content and perhaps the perfect routine.

So much input: My Morning Routine. Book recommendations. Podcasts. Email. Travel. Organizing. Productivity tools. Errands.

When I am in this mode — I become a myopic slave to the hustle-a-thon of entrepreneurship. The busier I get, the more determined I am to stay the course and somehow be the one magical unicorn who really CAN do it all!

I think I am being smart. I schedule time for my business priorities. I plan and scheme and invest. I leap from focus item to focus item.

And I keep it all going — until at some point I take an unplanned nap that lasts for roughly three days (masquerading as being sick — but really just my body waving the white flag and begging for mercy). Or I burst into tears every eight hours. Or I snap at my children for being alive and being children and swear at my husband for being a human being. I become unresourceful, unable and un-live-with-able.

The real me, the resourceful me, is only possible when I stop doing all the other stuff. Stop the input. Stop reading my books and emails. Stop the podcasts and new systems filling my inbox. Stop seeking to fulfill my life potential with the next big thing that will make my life work.

What if I am already the next big thing? Me. Just as I am.

What if I do not have to keep striving? What if I do not have to qualify or prove myself? What if I just stepped forward, every day — wait NOT every day — on any day I chose to, and helped people with what I know and love?

What if I stopped looking for approval and acclaim and enough “likes” on my Instagram post and just had fun being alive, following projects which make me curious, and contributing when it felt good?

Thank you phone, for teaching me that I don’t need you. And reminding me that everything I truly need I have with me all the time. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers.