Ryan Carmelo Briones

mostly harmless

The Right Distractions February 22, 2013

Sometime last year (I can’t remember when) I got really fed up with the distractions that were caused by different notifications I was getting. On my phone, I’d get buzzed and/or visually alerted on texts, tweet mentions, Facebook messages, Instagram likes, etc, etc. On my computer it was incoming emails, instant messages. Probably other things too.

I decided to draw an arbitrary line in the sand and killed probably 90% of those notifications. Nothing is allowed to audibly alert me or buzz me on my phone accept texts and Twitter direct messages. I think I can attribute a nontrivial amount of focus and de-stressing due to that decision.

This week I have made a new decision in the fight for focus in my life. I’ve removed the mobile Twitter (Tweetbot) and Facebook applications from my phone.

I wish I could say that I had some big master plan behind why I did this, but I don’t. All the sudden (and probably related to my friend @bjeanes doing the same thing) I felt that having these constantly updating feeds on my phone (which is always on a high-speed network) was unhealthy.

It’s too early to speak to any health changes (mental/physical), but I did want to share one thing. Like a “quitter” of other sorts, I find myself constantly reaching for my phone wanting to look at my social feeds, especially in situations where I am idle. I started to think, “What could I be doing with this time instead? I don’t have anything else to do.” When riding the bus/train (for a decent distance) the answer is relatively simple: I could be reading one of the eleventh-billion books I have purchased or is on my infinitely-growing list. But when I’m waiting in line, or in an elevator, or in a cab, the answer is not as easy.

Naturally, I decided to tweet about this, and I got some interesting responses (3 so not a huge sample size) I thought I would share.

First two people suggested “just be with your thoughts.”

This seems obvious, but it’s not as natural as you would think. As a matter of fact, many of us relish in this experience, but because of our habits, we find it hard to replicate. I’m of course speaking of taking a shower. This is an oft-cited place of magical epiphanies. Part of the reason is that we have nothing but to be with our own thoughts. This is something I will definitely try to practice more regularly in my idle time.

A “more clever” response was this one from a friend:

I really like this. I’ve been trying to make time to learn Spanish (and I even bought a subscription to the “big, online language learning provider”) but I don’t make it a priority. Idle time plus something simple like flashcards is perfect. It’s not going to make me a perfect speaker or reader of Spanish, but it will help keep me motivated and continually moving forward.

Ultimately I’m looking forward with finding interesting and healthy ways to use my new-found time. I recommend you try some of the things I’ve tried and see how you can be feel better or more healthily as well.