We live in wonderful but dark times: distractions abound in the form of texts, vibrating iPhones alerting us to Facebook messages, @mentions on twitter, overflowing email inboxes, advertisements, captivating TV shows, and addicting games galore. It’s a love/hate relationship that is difficult to escape. We are quite entertained, but if we are honest, our focus and productivity have taken a hit. I am not going to tell you to fast from media. That would be like telling you to don monastic robes and head for the Himalayas. What I am going to suggest is that you are intentional in your media consumption. When you want it, really want it. When you need to focus elsewhere, step away. Here are a few tips to become the master of your media.
Allow yourself to engage. I truly enjoy Pinterest. There are millions of beautiful pictures and interesting things to learn. Instead of feeling guilty or thinking in the back of my mind that I am wasting time, I allow myself a set amount of time to spend there. For 15 minutes in the evening, when my brain is past the point of productivity anyway, I let myself relax with my favorite media. This is “me time” and I fully engage in it.
As with other habits that you want to reign in, deprivation can backfire. If you don’t allow yourself the necessary luxury of pleasure in your life, it will be difficult for you to be productive all the time. So go ahead, enjoy your favorite show or Facebook stalking, but do it on purpose, without beating yourself up. Own your choice to enjoy media, and make that choice on purpose.
Easier said than done. If your web browsing feels more like a compulsion then a controlled choice, you are in good company. Addictions are hard to break because of the reward hormone called dopamine that your brain produces every time you get a notification or interesting Instagram image. It’s like candy and we seek it out even when we “should” be doing other things.
Now that you have a specific time and place that you enjoy your favorite media, you also know when you don’t. You may need help at first, and that is ok. There is no need to struggle your way through in anguish- here are my 3 favorite tips:
-Tell your significant chatters: if you have a friend who always Facebook messages you at work, and your mother often texts you during dinner, let them know what times you are unable to talk to them and give a better time. It’s great practice in setting boundaries.
-Hire a nanny. I do not get on Pinterest during the day, unless it is work related, but I was in the habit of opening the site before I even realized what I was doing. There are many different programs to help you monitor and control your web use. Nanny for Google Chrome is a good tool as a last resort if you have problems with unconscious typing.
-Get some grit. If you think you will have a hard time building barriers around your media use, you may need to upgrade some inner skills. It is not easy, don’t expect it to be. I picture an angel and a devil on my shoulder, and the devil is wearing a Facebook logo t-shirt. Controlling your thoughts is a learned skill, and one of the most worthwhile ones at that. Just do it and it will eventually be easier. Let yourself feel the negative emotions associated with the struggle and move on.
-Take a break. I had to delete the Facebook App from my phone for a month before I broke my habit. I would scroll down my timeline on my phone automatically when I had an extra minute. After deleting the App, I began to just look at my surroundings or take a moment to think. It was quite an upgrade to my inner peace and eventually I did not miss it.
How nice will it feel to give your full attention with ease? Now that you are a focused, productive beast, what are you going to accomplish? You can give it some thought once you shut down the device you’re reading this on. ;)