BY PIPER KLEMM
My computer has over a hundred tabs open, but so does my mind. It seems like technology controls my life. My brain and I crave it. Crave television, Facebook, mindless scrolling through social media and the addiction of that notification “ding” on my phone.
Staying home during the pandemic made the cravings worse. One of the things I’ve been trying to do during #stayhomestaysafe is relearning how to focus. Close the tabs. Zone in on only one task at a time.
It’s not easy to change my habits, especially in our social media culture. Here are 8 things I’ve done which have helped.
Organize my Desktop
Whether your “desktop” is a physical or virtual one, I know I’m not the only one who opens up their laptop to see icons upon icons scattered all over or stacks of papers on my desk balanced on old coffee mugs. I love a little bit of chaos, but I realized that taking the time to file and organize held its own appeal. Being able to find things helped the recesses of my mind focus when it needed to. I can knock out projects faster, because I know where everything is.
The Great Unfriending
Facebook has a friend limit of 5,000 friends, and I’ve found myself unfriending about 100 people every week. Getting under the limit lets me add new people in the mix, but it has other benefits too. I’ve given myself permission to unfriend those who make harmful or concerning statements that affect my mental health. It’s made my Facebook feed more of a representation of what I want to see in the world, and I love seeing all the great things my peeps are up to!
Simplifying My Phone
At the end of May I took all the social media and streaming services off my phone. At first it was so I could focus on teaching, but after the classes concluded I realized I didn’t miss those apps. I get out of bed faster, get to work quicker. I’ve found I miss all those extras way less than I thought I would. Sure, some nights I ache for TV and I’m sure my addiction will come back, but I’m enjoying the simplicity right now.
Toward the beginning of the pandemic, I did a thorough cull of my email. I opened and answered, deleted, and/or filed pretty much everything. I know—I’m just as shocked as you are! But not dealing with the onslaught of daily emails from brands I’m really not that interested in has been so freeing. Plus feeling in control of my email and desktop has been amazing.
I left over 200 Facebook groups, most of which I can’t even imagine I joined. I was in 11 groups about Irish Sport Horses… Nothing against ISH, but I don’t need to be in 11 groups! It was one more step to controlling my feed to work for me instead of addicting me to time wasters on Facebook.
Hours for email
One of the biggest changes I’ve made is setting specific times to check my email. Unless it’s my specific hour for email, I don’t look at it and instead focus on other work. Giving myself permission to ignore the inbox when I don’t have the bandwidth to give it my full attention has been amazing. Although, this only works for non-deadline related situations—it doesn’t apply to everything.
As I think about myself as a professional, I’ve spent a lot more time on my personal LinkedIn and The Plaid Horse LinkedIn accounts during this pandemic. This has helped put me into a more work-focused mode. When I satisfy my brain’s craving for social media, it’s through professional and career advancement articles instead of celebrity listicles or politically volatile arguments. I get the connection, but with content that’s better suited to my current goals.
One of the most essential parts to simplifying your life—online or otherwise—is saying no. Thank you but no, I really don’t want to go to that Zoom. Sorry but the thing you’re telling me I need to do sounds super draining at the moment. Just because something seems like an opportunity doesn’t mean it has to be an opportunity for you right now. We only have so much bandwidth. Pick what you can do with care so you can accomplish with excellence.
None of these items are revolutionary on their own, but I’ve found that when I take a little time each day to put myself first I can be a better leader, professional and even a friend. This is not a magic formula. Something different may work for you, but what’s important is taking the time to think about how you can protect your brain and productivity.
About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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