Yesterday for the Infomagical Challenge we were supposed to single-task: throughout the day, we choose ONE thing to do and carry out that task to completion. For those of us who are really used to bouncing around from webpage to Word to chat program, it might have been pretty difficult. How did you do? What did you notice? What was the most difficult part of trying out doing one thing at a time until it was done?
Since the first Infomagical challenge way back in February, the feedback that the Note to Self team has gotten seems to indicate that single-tasking was the hardest — but most beneficial — exercise of the whole week. And I’d be inclined to agree; yesterday, as the afternoon wore on, I found myself self-interrupting more and more as my focus waned. I had to remind myself to stay on target with a deep breath and a reminder to “stop interrupting myself”. I’m so used to reflexively clicking on every blinking icon or making sure there are no red numbers on any of my phone apps that it was really easy to slip back into that behavior. But it was so worth it to resist the impulse.
My biggest take-away on the benefits of single-tasking is this: training your brain to finish what you start. When we’re “multi-tasking”, what we’re really doing is training our brain to drop whatever we’re doing for the new or more immediate thing. It doesn’t matter if this new thing is less important, or can wait until you’re done with your current thing. It’s new, and it’s demanding our attention, so that’s what matters. When you train yourself to satisfy that instant curiosity, you’re also training yourself to abandon the things you’re working on — no matter how important they are to you.
But by staying focused until the thing you’re working on is done — or by setting a goal to get one step closer to completing it and not stopping until that’s achieved — you’re training your brain to do something far more productive: finish your shit. There is a really great feeling associated with knowing that you’re working towards a goal you’ve set out before-hand, and actually achieving that goal before you move on to something else. By building the expectation that you’ll work on something until a goal is met, it becomes easier to actually see yourself finishing all the things on your to-do list. And that’s a wonderful world I would like to live in.
Today’s challenge: tidying up your phone. So this is actually pretty cool, and it’s based on the organization method thought up by Marie Kondo in her book The Magical Art of Tidying Up. Take some time to look through the apps on your smartphone. If it helps, touch until all of the icons shake (iPhone) or open it up. Then, right then and there, decide if this app brings you joy. Does it help you become your best self? Is it a huge distraction and time-sink? If it doesn’t bring you joy or is more hindrance than help, thank the app for its service and delete the sucker. Once you’ve gone through every app on your phone, put them all into one folder on your home screen.
This simplifies the home screen on your phone something fierce; you can actually SEE that gorgeous phone background you’re so proud of. And by putting all of your apps into one folder, it becomes easier to simply search for the app you want when you pick up your phone — one subtle way that using your device becomes a more mindful action. It’s not a matter of swiping and tapping to get that quick fix of what you want. If you want to play a game for five minutes, you’re going to have to make the decision to type in the name of that game and open it.
You might find that the work involved in opening those time sinks is all that’s needed to break the habit of messing around with them. Maybe the extra moment or two it takes to type in the app you want is enough pause for you to realize you’d rather, I don’t know, open up the Word app and type up some flash fiction instead. Or maybe not. It’s your choice — that’s the whole point. Yes, you’re sacrificing a little convenience. But you’re regaining conscious action in return.
If you’ve joined Infomagical, I’m glad you’re on this journey with me! If you haven’t, it’s not too late to sign up here. Be sure to listen to the Case For Infomagical, and if you can double back to the Day 1 Challenge.
That’s it for me, folks. See you tomorrow. May you live mindfully today.