For many of us, the technology we deal with on a daily basis is out of our control. We can't remove the screens from our faces, and we can't turn them off. But what if we could choose how we are being influenced by our devices?
If we're spending hours interacting with screens every day... I believe it can be useful to think of ourselves as cyborgs. But, just because you're a cyborg, that of course doesn't mean you're necessarily effective and happy.
You might have heard of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People before. It's full of timeless principles for living a life of integrity, contribution, and fulfillment.
We believe it's about time that these principles are applied to our digital selves.
As an highly effective cyborg you will feel less stressed, less distracted, less overwhelmed — and be more calm, focused, and productive. So let's get started...
Instead of merely reacting to notifications, or the inner urge to check your phone, or any kind of psychological discomfort... Take responsibility for your relationship to technology.
Yes, much of it is designed against your best interest. But you can take control. You can be in charge of your digital environment, and of your attention.
What's your strategy? What process or system do you have in place to notice your digital habits and improve them?
These problems are here to stay for a while — and in this new world, the capacity to cultivate high-quality attention and deep intentionality is a real superpower.
If you don't do this, the attention economy will slowly creep up on your capacity to do literally anything else that's important to you.
“But until a person can say deeply and honestly, "I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday," that person cannot say, "I choose otherwise.” — Stephen R. Covey
The essence of proactivity is to claim that responsibility and power, and design your digital environment in ways that support your intentionality.
What you can do right now
Install Intention, a browser extension that gives you a moment to check in if you actually want to continue to a distracting site or not. You'll be surprised how often you catch yourself.
Begin with the end in mind
This principle applies very well to our digital life — in order to create a relationship to technology that truly serves us, we first need to know:
- What are my values and aspirations? (in life / for the next 12 months / 90 days / this week)
- What are the key actions that would help me realize these aspirations?
- How would I ideally use technology in service of those behaviors, goals, and values?
First things first
Do what's most important first. In other words, set an intention. For the day, for the hour, for the moment.
And then set up your Home Screen in a way that doesn't get in the way of that. Remove the time-wasters and put the apps that you do want to use on the first page.
With Potential you can even put your intentions on your Home Screen.
Reclaim control today
In order to focus on what's most important, it can be helpful to start with what most gets in the way. Ask yourself:
- What's the number one thing holding me back?
- What can I do to better deal with this one thing?
Think win-win: Seduce yourself
There are different parts of yourself. There's one part that loves chocolate cake and eats it all, and one part that feels bad about that two hours later. This is partly due to the fact that our brains used to be monkey brains and that there's a lot of evolutionary legacy that influences our behavior.
The key idea here is that you can't force yourself to do what you think you should do. If my monkey brain wants to go to Twitter, forcing it to sit down and meditate is quite a stretch. Instead, I can try seducing it into reading something from my reading list.
That way, my experiencing monkey brain gets to have the stimulation it is craving, and my remembering human brain gets to be happy that it learned something new and didn't waste time on Twitter.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Before you can create a digital environment that serves your needs, you need to understand, what those needs are... And the best way that I know to do that, is through emotional intelligence, with yourself.
When you feel the urge to check your phone, when you feel like you can't stop watching or scrolling, take a moment.
Feel into your body. What's going on? What feelings and emotions are alive? What is it that you really need in this moment?
Emotions, especially negative emotions, can help us realize what's important to us. They can shine light on what it is we truly need.
In other words, checking in with yourself, journaling about how you feel, is a great way of realizing what needs you have, and how you can more skillfully meet them.
By the way, we're working on some really cool features for Potential to help you make conscious choices based on your emotions...
"The habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems."
We're all in this together.
We're all just humans. With monkey brains. We're prone to distraction. And we're all learning how to live well in this new world.
We're all sharing the struggle of living intentionally. And that's a beautiful project that can bind us together. Talk about these things with your friends. See how they feel about it. Find ways of supporting each other in becoming happier and more effective cyborgs. They'll most likely be grateful for it.
There are things you can do with technology that you simply could not do without it. That's what makes technology great. Here are some of my favorites:
- Listening to contemporary classical music with noise cancelling in public places
- Tracking and improving my sleep with an OURA ring
- Tracking and sharing my runs and bike rides with Strava
- Challenge my friends to work out more on Potential
- Deepen my meditation practice with world-class teachers via the Waking Up app
And on and on and on. Of course this also includes talk to people on another continent in real time, building a business by writing code and communicating these ideas to you...
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It's been years since I first tried to take back control over my attention and how I use technology. The number one thing I learned is that you're never done.
Your life changes, you move to a place, work changes, who you spend time with changes, seasons change, suddenly a global pandemic happens, ... Change is constant. And where there is change, it's likely that there will be psychological discomfort and an urge towards distraction.
In all likelihood, it won't be enough to set up your home screen once and be done for the rest of your life. Just like all the other things you do to for your wellbeing and fitness, your digital wellbeing deserves to be reviewed over time.
So... keep improoving 😉