On the Far Side of Distraction

Most of my adult life I have been known as a “techie”. Family and those I work with turn to me with their questions about technology. At one place I used to work, I was so “digital” that I was teased every time i printed something out. I have social media accounts. I read a lot, usually averaging a little over a book a week. And, as you can tell by the list in the column to the right of this post, I listen to a lot of podcasts.

But something odd has happened over the last few years. As the rising public concerns over online security and privacy have increased, I started to question my digital engagement. I stopped posting to social media as much as I used to. I started reading more physical book instead of exclusively ebooks. And after some personal challenges in the last two or three years, I started to question why I had filled my life with so much “noise”. There is so much media coming at me or piling up to be looked at and read that I’d sometimes find it overwhelming. And I started to ask myself, Why am I doing this?

As I started to quietly ask myself that question, I found something very odd happening. My desire to engage with others and my technology increased. Why would that happen? As I considered this in the relatively few quiet spaces in my life, I realized something. I was avoiding the question. Filling my days with engagement was a way to avoid self-examination. As a result, I made some changes.

Perhaps the biggest was that I banned my smartphone from the bathroom, specifically when I am getting ready for work. I used to listen to podcasts in the shower and while I shaved. No more. I also started meditating and taking purposeful breaks where I did nothing or went for a walk outside. In the beginning these were all very hard to do. The desire to fill the quiet space with some sound or engagement was strong. But I discovered on the other side of that burst of distractions a wide open peace where I could see myself honestly and compassionately, loving myself while also seeing those places where I can improve.

I am still challenged by the urge to distract myself. And sometimes I even indulge it. But I strive to break through these temptations to that space of peace and love for myself and others. It is difficult work making time for thoughtful reflection and simply being present in my world. But the rewards have been increased self-knowledge and peace with myself and others. I encourage you to explore for yourself what is on the far side of distraction. I think you will be glad you did.

Productivity and Journaling

Journal with a pen between the pages

When I was in high school, I kept a journal. I wrote in it nearly every day. It helped me notice what happened in my day-to-day life and make adjustments where I felt they were needed. Sometime during college I stopped journaling. I’m not really sure why. After a difficult time recently, I found myself again looking for the benefits I experienced from journaling as a teenager. What I discovered has worked well for me, and not just for self-awareness. Using a Bullet Journal has also made me more productive.

I was looking for a flexible way to organize the stuff I needed to get done while also trying to learn more about journaling in general. For tasks, I was always looking for just the “right way” to store and act on all the things I need to do. But as I started journaling again, I realized that perhaps there was no such thing. Not only am I a unique person (just like you!), I am also a dynamic person; I am constantly changing and growing. So, the tool or system I start using today may not work for me in a year or two. I need a flexible system, kind of like my traditional journal. My journal was just a notebook ― some pages to write my thoughts down on. It was for me and me alone. I thought of myself as writing to my future self to remind him of what I was doing or feeling at the time I wrote. I had no formal structure. I could write what I wanted in any way I wanted. And I could change however I was doing it at any time. I needed a productivity system as customized and flexible as my journal.

That’s when I came across the Bullet Journal created by Ryder Carroll. I no longer remember how I initially learned about it, but I was intrigued from the beginning. The basic guidelines are simple and make it easy to start. An entire community of bullet journalers has developed around this way of keeping a journal. Many are very artistic which can be very intimidating if you don’t feel very creative (like me). There are also some “minimalist” bullet journalers who help take the pressure off those of us who feel less creative (thank you!).

Artsy Bullet Journal Page
Artsy Bullet Journal Page
Minimalist Bullet Journal Page
Minimalist Bullet Journal Page

In my research, I also found a great book called Dot Journaling―A Practical Guide (Bullet Journal is trademarked). It has loads of simple ideas for how to get started easily and organize your journal, while encouraging you to do what works for you. You can find even more samples and ideas on YouTube and Instagram (search for #BuJo).

When I started journaling again, I tried to write in the traditional way every day. But I tended to wait until the end of each day. Often I was too tired or couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write. Now that I have a Bullet Journal, I keep track of all my tasks, appointments, thoughts, and even traditional journal entries in the same place. I am still deciding exactly what works best for me, but I love it! I encourage you to give it a go and see if it works for you. I find it enlightening, fun, and productive. You might, too!