Eliminate the distraction that’s preventing your success

4 Minute Read

We can’t push back on technological change, but one thing we can do is to slow down and give ourselves space.

Part 1: Tips to use technology to eliminate distraction

It’s common to see our digital world as the enemy of wellness, but there are many techniques and ways we can use technology to tune out and switch off. Here are a few examples.

Tuning in to tune out

There is a plethora of apps available that offer digital wellness to help us tune in and tune out. From the beautiful Buddhify and to popular Headspace and Smiling Mind, these meditation programs are developed by psychologists and educators to help bring space into our lives. But if you wish to build up a more active practice, try Yogaglo and the all new Mission 360 dedicated to empowering those seeking a ‘stronger body, enriched spirit, and expanded mind.’

Become an ‘online’ flâneur

It was philosopher and cultural essayist Walter Benjamin, who coined the phrase flâneurism in his posthumously published tome The Arcades Project. Flâneurism is the art of wandering around a city observing society. To get lost is something that doesn’t come naturally in a GPS-world we live in. Our absent minded scrolling is like a type of mind wandering, an activity that takes us away from the present and often away from our own body. We too can stroll and get lost on the internet with unencumbered contemplation and attentiveness to our own mind.

Become an artist

We’re half awake, half asleep, multitasking, according to Kenneth Goldsmith this is a reason to celebrate. “The vast amount of the Web’s language is perfect raw material for literature. Disjunctive, compressed, decontextualized, and, most important, cut-and-pastable, it’s easily reassembled into works of art.” So become an artist, a writer or a digital archivist, collecting and cataloging things in places like Tumblr, Pinterest and Spotify. Akin to the more traditional bricolage and scrapbooking but with incredible online resources now available to us all.

Daydream online, take it slow

See everything you do online or offline as an experience. You could argue that’s what we do daily when we check our Instagram and Facebook feeds. So relax and enjoy it. Geniuses like Einstein and Newton knew the importance of daydreaming. Learning how to relax is what brain scientists call default neural networking, that is, to think without demands. Looking at Instagram, Facebook try thinking ‘without demands’ in the same way.


Part 2: Tips to tune out, no, really tune out and switch off

If switching off technology is really what you want to do, here are some ways to create digital resilience and build attention with intention in your day. It takes practice, it’s true. Start by turning off phone notifications.

Become an ‘outdoor’ Flaneur

Julia Cameron author of best seller The Artist’s Way, suggests walking as essential to being creative.’ You might walk out with a problem, but as you walk, you come into a solution. You just get a different perspective. You go out for a walk, maybe see a cat in a window box, and suddenly hear yourself saying “Oh, I could try X.” Walking is very powerful.’ Whether it was Aristotle, Beethoven or Emerson, many famous thinkers and creative souls walked for pleasure as well as for political, aesthetic, and for deeper meaning.

Keep a diary

We all think keeping a diary is something that you did as a kid but grew out of. It all becomes too hard. Try this every morning write four pages of stuff that comes into your head in long hand. No editing, no thinking, just write it out the page. Now need to reread it. Just do it. This daily habit is like flossing your teeth. It clears your brain so you can get on with your day.

Another technique is Lynda Barr’s four-minute diary which is a simple way of building creative muscle and attentiveness. Spend two minutes writing a list of things you remembered from the day before, and then another two of what you remembered seeing. With practice you start seeing differences in your day to day, you notice patterns and things you may not have noticed before.

Build a beginner’s mind

‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few,’ so said Zen master Shunryu Suzuki. Learn from one of the greatest innovators of the 20th century, Steve Jobs who believed that meditation taught him intuition and curiosity and how to concentrate and ignore distractions. The best way to not think is not to think. When thinking through a problem, come to it with the mind of a four year old. Keep asking why then why and then why again.

Create pause in your everyday

Find the ritual and ceremony in daily lives. Rather than use an electric kettle, get a stove top and wait for the water to boil. Start the day with breathing or meditation, or simply a word of gratitude for this morning for this day. Many composers and writers find ritual in their work practice. Composer Stravinsky did the same thing every morning when he entered his studio, he played Bach as a warm up. Descartes lingered in bed, his mind wandering through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.” Rituals are the beginning of something, a small devotional action, a reminder of what it means to be alive and awake.

Take the 100 day project challenge

Choose one action to repeat every day for 100 days. Pick a start date and an end date 100 days later. Something quick, creative, and do it without fear. Don’t think too much, or even better, don’t think at all. After day thirty, you will get you in a groove and probably get to the through to the end. As writer Isabel Allende said ‘Show up, show up, show up, and the Muse shows up.”

Write with a pen, first

There’s something about writing with the hand that is different from typing. There’s something about the act of drawing with your hand that’s unique. It give us more originals. Something magical passes from your brain and through your heart and then to your hand. It’s organic and full of surprises. Designer Milton Glaser describes the difference between brain and computer “…has to do with the way the brain works by maintaining its fuzziness… You do a sketch ...and the brain examines the sketch and modifies it. The brain then thinks of another idea. And then you do another sketch, which is still fuzzy, and there’s a response on the part of the brain, and you move in a series of steps toward clarification. The maintenance of ambiguity is a central part of how the brain works.

Learn to be alone, but not lonely

We have forgotten to enjoy solitude. Artist Twyla Tharp suggests if you are not used to solitude you have to build tolerance. She calls this process ‘quietness without loneliness.’ So start small and set your timer for one minute. Then for that minute, let your minute go and just ‘watch it’, watch where it takes you in that minute, see what materialises, a goal, a word, an idea a solution? It’s almost the opposite to meditation, you’re actually seeking thoughts rather than pushing them away. These thoughts appear from deep in you consciousness. Get engaged in a thought and literally watch where it takes you. You’re no longer alone anymore, your ideas, your thoughts your words become your company.

This content was created by Guardian Labs as part of a partnership with HSBC, and published on 16th October 2017.