Focus: Recover Your Long-Lost (And Most Precious) Resource
I didn’t think I could make it.
My energy levels were back at an all-time low.
A large part of me wanted to spend the whole afternoon in bed. Read. Nap. Just disappear under the covers… forget about the world.
But I knew going there would make me feel better.
And I was right.
Silent meditation, breath work, and sound bath were medicine for my overstimulated nervous system. These practices put me into a state of calm I’d forgotten existed.
When did I last feel this peaceful?
Maybe in the fall of 2016, when I went on a week-long silent retreat at Kripalu with Sara Avant Stover?
At that moment on the mat, however, it all came back: the longing for silence, spaciousness, stillness.
Could it be the crisp autumn air that brings the promise of a more inward focus after the high intensity of summer?
No matter, I needed it.
And my guess is that you need it too.
Let’s face it: modern life is overwhelming. Not only as an entrepreneur but as a human.
In my new copywriting course (coming soon!), I open with a shocking statistic: our human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish – eight seconds. A study by Microsoft concluded that it has dropped by nearly 25% in just a few years.
And a survey from the American Psychological Association found that nearly one-fifth of people say that technology is a source of stress.
Do you remember the last time you felt bored? I don’t.
Tech overwhelm, on the contrary, feels like a constant.
There was a time–not too long ago–when we had to work hard to get our hands on new information. Now, we have to shield ourselves from too much incoming data.
If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), overwhelm comes easy for you. Not only do you get overstimulated faster, but you also lose focus quicker.
Your focus is your most important resource for creating deep and meaningful work.
Author and MIT professor Cal Newport writes extensively about Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. (I highly recommend these books.) He says that we cannot do deep work when our brains are constantly distracted by technology. That means a lot, coming from a techie…
So back to that fateful day when my brain felt burned to charcoal. I was writing Morning Pages (a practice I share with you in my new writing course) when I noticed my mind constantly drifting off. Even from brain dumping…
I realized my phone addiction has begun to take a toll on my mental health. (And I’m not even on Instagram!)
I say addiction because checking our devices activates the reward circuit in our brains, triggering the release of the pleasure hormone dopamine.
(The same substance we get high on enjoying a delicious hot chocolate – or a hot lover.)
Anyway, something needed to change. I could no longer walk around in a cloud all day.
So I implemented some radical new habits to help me regain my most valuable resource in distracted times–my focus.
Here’s what I decided on:
-Turn my iPhone OFF from 8 pm until noon the next day. Not just airplane mode, but the off switch. (It took some time to find it.) I’m also hiding it in my closet now, so I won’t be tempted to look at it.
-Remove WhatsApp and Signal from my desktop. These messaging apps have been temptations that distract me from writing. Let me just check if someone messaged me real quick… NO.
-Enable the Self-Control app while working. Seriously, this app is a lifesaver. Insert any site you might go to for a dopamine kick when you get bored, and press go. You won’t be able to access any of your blocked sites until time’s up.
-Use Pomofocus to work in sprints. Working on an email sequence all morning can feel overwhelming. Wait, I forgot to make the bed… But writing one little email in 25 minutes feels exciting.
-Stay in silence until lunchtime. At Kripalu, we were in social silence all day. We even got an “In Loving Silence” tag. I loved it. So I decided to make a retreat out of my daily life and stay in silence most mornings. That also means no checking emails before lunch.
This morning, when I did my Two-Way Prayer practice (I first heard about it from Elizabeth Gilbert), God congratulated me on my new choices:
Thank you so much for giving yourself a respite from the constant buzz of your phone. Oh, the glory of silence and stillness! Is it not wonderful to trust yourself so much more when you’re connected to the well of wisdom that springs endlessly from the Source within you?
Congratulations on taking this brave step closer to your own homecoming. Yes, this is a huge step. You will become much more focused and prolific over time… until you can’t even remember the old self, which used to be constantly distracted. Keep the practice up for at least 60 days, so new neural pathways can fully develop in your brain. Stay with it, and you will reap the rewards.
So yeah, God approves. Teehee.
The 60-day guideline is even backed by science. (Not like God would need science to back Her up, but maybe you and I do?)
So what if the urge to check your phone (social media, shopping sites, or whatever distracts you most) comes back?
Well, the question is not if but when.
So when the pull to abandon your boundaries comes up, just notice it. These desires are like waves–they come and go. It usually takes only three to five minutes for them to pass. The longer you practice, the easier it gets.
Over time, your self-discipline will get stronger.
I see this as a form of devotional discipline. It may hurt a little in the short run but will give you great long-term rewards.
An attention span longer than that of a goldfish might just be the beginning…
Do you also want to go on a digital detox to recover your focus and do deep, more meaningful work? Try these practices. (Or any of the above.)
Your nervous system will thank you.
Then tell me what’s working! I love hearing from you.
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