No Screen Time
Most of us (the hyper-productive) go from task to task without taking a moment to think. We rush from dinner with a friend, to fixing bugs or writing code before reading a book and then going to sleep. And that's during our "free time." Our days are even worse. The to-do list stacks up. Calendar invites pile on. And the result is little to no time to think.
This year I hacked that. I decided to start thinking more and doing less. Crazy, I know. Here's how you can do it.
One of the best ways to stop doing and start thinking is to put your phone, computer and tablet away. Since so much of our "productive" lives are lived on screens today (email, social media, learning, working etc.) putting devices away offers an escape from the busy, chaotic online world.
I realize I am sounding like an old person (I'm 21), but hear me out.
When you get a text, do you feel obligated to answer it? I certainly do. And therefore when I'm tethered to my phone I'm not free. At any moment someone can steal my moment of thought. Email is the same way. So is Facebook and just about every other notification pushing medium. On average I probably get 5 of these notifications per hour. So that means that in any given hour the longest thought I can have is roughly 12 minutes. But the best thoughts, ideas and reflections don't happen in 12 minutes. They happen over the course of an hour or more.
How can you make sense of all of the commotion of a day when you only have 12 minutes to think? How can you think when you go from website to website taking in more inputs than your brain can process? The answer is that you can't. Your brain is overworked and unable to do what it does best: think.
But that's fine right? As long as you're getting shit done it doesn't matter if you don't have time to do that hippy thinking stuff.
Wrong. When you don't give your brain time to think you don't give it time to grow, question, or rest.
This year I started sitting on my porch at night frequently without a phone or computer. I pushed action-items to the next day, closed my email client and left my phone inside to buzz all by its lonesome. Some nights I bring a pen and paper. Other nights I just sit and watch the clouds roll by.
During this time I take all the sensory inputs from the day and distill them down to my takeaways. I try to think about what I learned that day and how I can take the best step forward. I think about my goals and aspirations and question whether that day moved me closer to them. And I ask myself questions. Am I happy? Am I growing? Am I being the best man I can be? When the answer is no, I think about how I can change that.
During some of these meditative porch sits I've done the following:
1. Come up with the idea for a side project that grew to $5,000 / mo MRR in just two months.
2. Questioned whether I was happy and growing at my day job, decided that I wasn't and thought about how to quit (update: I quit. It was a great decision).
3. Felt calmer than almost anytime in my life.
4. Drawn for the sake of drawing for the first time in years.
5. Learned to calm the "voices in my head."
This "no screen time" idea that I previously thought was only for overprotective mid-West mothers has had a huge impact on my happiness. It's lead to personal discoveries that have helped me grow faster than I would have otherwise. And it's become one of my favorite activities.
Startup CEOs looking for the next productivity app: I encourage you to try something radical and put the computer, phone and tablet away. Then take a moment to sit and think.