NPR Told me I Don’t Have Time To Think and They Are Right

78321193 thinking“I’m so busy I don’t have time to think!” Do you feel like that sometimes? I know I do. The thing is, I realized this week that I DO have time to think, I’m just spending that time doing other things instead.

My Gut Reaction

I’m an NPR junkie, and I heard a story called “bored and brilliant” this week that made me instantly feel defensive. The premise was that because of the instant and constant availability of Smartphones, we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. My gut reaction was, “What’s so wrong with that? Sure, I use my phone a lot during the day, but it’s to be efficient with my work and squeeze every moment out of my workday. I never pull my phone out during family time. This is just another story making technology out to be evil. Grumble grumble grumble.”

Then I listened more closely to the story. The author makes the point that we’re more likely to get our most brilliant ideas when we’re bored, daydreaming, or thinking about something else. Makes sense. That’s why we come up with our best ideas in the shower right?

My Realization

Then it hit me. The shower is one of the last places we still let our minds wander, and when waterproof phones are everywhere, that will probably change too.

Now I notice my aversion to being even the slightest bit bored all the time. Waiting in line at the post office? Pull out my phone. Arrive a few minutes early for a meeting? Pull out my phone. Out to dinner and my hubby gets up to go to the bathroom? God forbid I sit and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant for 90 seconds. That’s 90 seconds I could be using to check my very important email.

There is a very fine line between being efficient, and never allowing your brain any moment of downtime. I’m going to try to manage that balance much better. Because you know what? I DO get my best ideas when I’m not trying. So I’m going to try to “not try” more often.

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Would You Survive the 24-hour Smartphone Challenge?

I am addicted to my smartphone. There, I said it. Every time I pull it out of my purse, I feel like a 5-year old on Christmas morning. I slide my finger across the unlock screen in gleeful anticipation of finding this oh so fabulous symbol:Time management gmail

So many fun and exciting things could be waiting behind that tiny icon. Will it be a new gig request? A new book sale? Somebody commenting on my witty Facebook status? Or perhaps just a solicitation from a store I shopped at once and never plan to visit again. The possibilities are endless.

My Challenge

When I need to focus, I put this magical device out of reach so it won’t be a distraction, but recently I’ve noticed that it’s started to distract me during non-work activities as well. When I found myself scrolling through Facebook in the middle of Yoga class one evening, I knew I had to do something! I needed to prove to myself I could stand to be less connected to the technology in my life. That’s why I decided to spend 24 hours away from my smartphone. Here’s how it went:time management email

6:35am: Wake up. Immediately grab for my phone to check my email. Try to rationalize why it would be fine to put the challenge off to another day. Realize that’s exactly why I need this in the first place. Remain resilient.

9:00am: Realize I still need to check my email today. Get out my laptop and spend 30 minutes doing that. Realize it was far more efficient to do it all at once rather than gradually over the course of the whole morning.

11:30am: Get frustrated with work. Almost crack and pick up the phone. Stay tough and keep working.

12:15pm: Feel the desire to “check-in” on Facebook and let everyone know what a lovely lunch I’m having with my husband. Realize that nobody really needs to know that, and I’d rather focus on having a great time… without my phone.

2:00pm: Want a coffee and wonder if there is a Starbucks around. Try to justify the use of the phone because technically the GPS feature wasn’t what I was trying to avoid with this challenge. Realize I don’t need to spend the money or the calories. Avoid the coffee.

4:30pm: Get a text message. Debate whether texting should be included in the ban. Call the person back instead. Personal communication for the win.

7:45pm: Need to unwind. Pull out phone to scroll through the news. Figure I’ve made it this far, so maybe I can quit a little early. Stop myself. Pick up a magazine instead. Print journalists around the world rejoice.

The point of this blog is not to say we should not utilize our amazing communication tools. I’m going to go back to using my phone: email, texting, web browsing, GPS, etc…I will not, however, forget the importance of disconnecting every once in a while. Just because we have the ability to be constantly connected to everything, doesn’t mean we should. Sorry smartphone. I’m going to pretend you’re “dumb” every now and then.

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