From one of my 5th graders who feels my pain…
Since I’ve turned off all my notifications on my cell phone, I’ve become a lot more productive and less reactive:
- I read emails when I am prepared to, not because my phone blings;
- I focus on writing quality blog posts and creating art, and refrain from checking stats; and
- I’m far less distracted in general and my productivity has increased by at least 40%.
I feel sorry for my sixth graders.
When I was in sixth grade, the only technologies to distract me were the TV and radio. I received my beloved yellow Sony Walkman years later. But even then, in order to make a mix tape, I had to listen to the radio on my boombox and catch my favorite song, hit “record” and “stop” at just the right time.
Now, the barrage of sounds and images are relentless. You can hear the voices of your peers night and day from your phone. You can catch your favorite TV or film or YouTuber or musician 24/7. Filters and editing programs make everyone look slim, smooth and shiny.
And if you’re one of the very few who does not own a phone, you might be ostracized. You are deemed too poor or your parents are too strict. You’re square (do they say that anymore)! Regardless, laptops are ubiquitous. The temptation to enter fantasy land is everywhere.
I just completed reading Eric Barker’s “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” The book is a compelling read, replete with interesting anecdotes and scientific data to back up his various assertions regarding personal success. One of the most important tips he offers is the adage “control your environment.” A closely linked axiom: know thyself.
The most successful and productive people practice this. A few examples:
- disconnect from the internet while working;
- place cell phone in the other room;
- never keep junk food in the house;
- never hit snooze – get right up (!);
- work before pleasure;
and so on.
I remind my students that “success” – whatever they define it to be – is within their reach. But they must make a commitment to it and do the necessary work.
Now, more than ever, knowing oneself and taking actions to ensure meeting one’s potential might be the most challenging – yet important – task at hand.