I spent years in the gray zone. That area where I was always “half-connected” to my family and my business.
I wasn’t giving my family or my clients my full attention because I was giving half of my attention to the other.
That’s what happens when you have a smart phone. Expectations change. Clients want to reach you immediately, because there’s no excuse to be disconnected anymore. Your spouse wants you to respond to text messages when you’re working.
It’s frustrating and distracting. Neither of those things are conducive to producing high-quality work.
Remember the good ol’ days?
I’m an 80’s baby who grew up mostly in the 1990’s. Pre-broadband. Before the smart phone. Most telephones were attached to the wall.
You didn’t panic if you left your phone at home because that’s where it stayed.
If you didn’t answer the phone, it was because you weren’t at home.
Depending on how old you are, you might not remember a time before the smartphone. Or it’s a vague, dream-like memory that doesn’t make much sense. Some of you might not have been around before the smart phone, which makes me uncomfortably aware of my age.
I remember the 90’s with nostalgia. And I wanted to bring some of that reality back.
Going low-tech in a high-tech world.
“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.”Henry David Thoreau
I recognized that I didn’t want to be a slave to my technology. Technology is a tool that can be used to great effect if you control it.
So, I started stripping the tools down to the things that served me.
- I uninstalled social media apps from my phone.
- I turned off notifications on my phone and my computer.
- I made a resolution to only have one tab open in my browser at a time.
- I set times on my calendar to respond to messages and emails.
- I keep my phone in Do Not Disturb — the only person that can call me through the filter is my wife. Everyone else can leave a message.
- I stopped reading the news.
- I have my news feeds hidden on all social media.
- My programs all run in full-screen mode, and my taskbar hides automagically (like a Mac).
These steps were taken to remove distractions without losing power.
If anything — I get MORE power with my technology now.
There’s less visual clutter on all of my technology. Every time I sit down to work, I can do it without getting pulled in 100 different directions.
I get to use technology with much more leverage.
Where to leverage specific tools.
Some of my favorite pieces of technology now get the focus they deserve. I have a handful of apps that act as workhorses for everything I need.
Notion acts as a place where I manage most of my life. I can create databases for everything. I have a database for my contacts. I have a database for my book notes. I even have databases for my goals and projects.
For learning — I use BookFusion to store my books and notes in the cloud — including PDF files. It’s the most powerful eBook reader I’ve managed to find, and incredibly affordable.
Beyond BookFusion, I use Anki to create flash cards of the concepts I want to internalize. I review my master deck daily for spaced repetition and active recall.
I used Duolingo for learning French, but I realized that it wasn’t something that moved me toward my major goals. I stopped focusing on language acquisition and directed my efforts toward critical thinking, creativity, and art.
That being said — if being a polyglot is a goal of yours, Duolingo is a phenomenal tool!
Cloud services are the next piece of the puzzle for my workflow. I have three devices that I cycle between. A desktop, a shared laptop, and an ancient Windows tablet that I travel with. Microsoft OneDrive lets me keep my work synchronized between all three devices.
Google Suite helps keep my family synchronized with plenty of room for our photo storage. And Google is the home of my calendar, as well.
Finally, my ancient set of noise-isolating headphones let me drop into my own little world whenever I want.
Above the influence instead of under it.
Removing notifications immediately helped me regain control over my attention.
It’s easier to focus when I have specific tools for each job in my life.
Having this kind of focus lets me be completely present with my projects. I’m more productive and the quality of my work is much higher.
At the end of the day I go home to my family and not worry about my phone interrupting dinner. I get to BE with my family like most people don’t experience anymore.
Technology has become a tool I use, not a tool that uses me. This ability to see my phone and my computer for what they are feels like a superpower when everyone else has forgotten what the line between work and home life is.
Are you ready to find YOUR superpower? It’s not comfortable, but it’s liberating. You can download my NO-tification Checklist below and take it for a spin. When you do, respond to the welcome email and let me know how it goes!