The Disconnect That Reconnects - Part 1
Welcome to the first article in a blog series about reclaiming lost minutes in your day and reconnecting to what is truly important in your life.
Have you ever reached the end of the day and wondered where it went or tried to figure out what you did? Does that upset you, to go through an entire day and feel as though you had nothing to show for it? Or perhaps you figured out you spent more time reading posts on Facebook than you did enjoying the company of your family and friends? How and why does this happen?
A few years ago, I attempted to determine how often my life got distracted by things like text messages, emails and social media notifications. From the time I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I took note of how often I checked my messages, emails or looked in on Facebook. I noticed the first thing I reached for in the morning was my phone and checked to see what had happened on Facebook since I went to sleep. This took about ten minutes of my time. Next, throughout the day, I noticed that about 10-15 minutes of every work hour, I spent distracted because my phone dinged from an email or social media notification. That's 80 to 120 minutes spent distracted. Up to TWO HOURS worth of my time spent checking emails that honestly could have waited for a response and Facebook posts that added little value to my life. Then add another hour or more spent reading texts, emails or social media posts in the evening. When it came down to it, technology was stealing away about 3 to 4 hours of my day and time from family, friends and work.
If you consider the average person sleeps eight of the twenty-four hours in a day, I was spending almost a quarter of my waking day staring at meaningless junk on my phone or computer. Does this sound like you? Is this something you are particularly proud of? I wasn't and I decided it was time for a change.
Before I share what I began doing, I want to state that I in no way have all of this figured out, and I am still working to reclaim precious minutes of my day. We live in a loud world where everything demands our attention, and I fight in that struggle each day. However, I can say that I better off now than I was a few years ago. Also, I love technology. Email and texting have made work much more efficient and Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have made checking in with old friends and exchanging information easier than ever before. However, too much of a good thing is still... too much.
So what did I begin to do? Well, first, I had to figure out what was important in my life. That may sound odd, because most of us know what is important in our life, but many of us do not spend our time on those things. I found out what was important and what I needed to spend my time doing by writing those items down and then setting goals for each of them. It helped focus me on what I needed to be doing in the moment.
These goals covered seven topics which are Career, Education, Financial, Health, Family, Spiritual and Social. For fans of Zig Ziglar and other inspirational speakers, these may sound familiar to you. It may sound silly to sit down and write out goals for each of those seven items, but it truly helped me focus on what I deemed important. Under career, I made goals such as the number of clients I wanted, amount of money to make in a year and number of projects I wanted to finish.
Since I already have a degree, though I would like to add another or two to that eventually, my educational goals listed the number of non-fiction books I wanted to read in a year. Financial goals were the amount of money I wanted to save and items for which I wanted to save up money.
Health goals became particularly important to me because I had honestly reached the lowest point of athleticism of my life. Growing up I had always played baseball and basketball. In college, I remained active playing intramural sports. However, once I got married and had kids, active events took a back seat to the rest of life. Well, a hiking trip with a group of men from church really opened my eyes to how out of shape I had become in just a few short years. We had decided to hike the Eagle Rock Loop in West Central Arkansas. Thinking I was still in moderate shape I did very little to prepare for this difficult hike. Oh, if only I had known what was in store for me. The hike nearly killed me. That may be a slight exaggeration, but the guys I was with were genuinely concerned for me. I came almost crawling into camp well after dark. I could barely walk. I was in pain. I was soaked head to toe from falling in a creek. Some men had to carry pieces of my gear. I was miserable, because I was out of shape. I had an awakening. I needed a change.
So my health goals included drinking less soft drinks and running 5K races that year. And I did. I eventually upped that goal to running a half marathon. Which I did. The next time I hiked the Eagle Rock Loop, I was much more prepared. I conquered it. Am I a specimen of great health and fitness today? Hardly. But I'm better than what I was a few years ago.
Last on the list was Family, Spiritual and Social. Family and Social were easy, as I set goals for date nights with my wife, Daddy-Daughter date nights with my girls and determined how many get togethers with friends I wanted to have through the year. (Yes, I'm one of those people where if I don't set a goal for dinners with friends, it probably won't happen.) Spiritual, for me, was more difficult. I didn't want to develop a religious to-do checklist. As a Christian, though, I knew I wanted to develop a deeper relationship with God. If you're not a Christian, you may wish to set goals for meditation, reconnecting with nature or whatever your religion or philosophy deems worthy of your time.
So, how did writing goals for all seven of these areas of my life help me save time? Throughout each day, every time my mind wandered to something other than work, or every time my phone dinged with a new message or new status update, my written goals would pop into mind. Those goals pulled me back to what was really important. They reminded me of where I needed to be. Also, I would check my goals throughout the year to make sure I was on track to meet them. Now, this doesn't mean I met every goal I set, but I know I did far better with set goals than I ever would have without them.
The goals gave me perspective. It helped me see that while things like Facebook, text messages, video games and other things were fun, they weren't things I needed to let distract me from what I deemed truly important in life. Gradually, I began to see myself spend less time on the less important things, and spend more time on the things that gave me enjoyment and fulfillment in my life. I disconnected my life in order to reconnect to what was truly important.
Check in with my next blog when I lay out specific habits I developed in my day to day routine to reclaim more minutes in my day and reconnect to the truly important things in my life.