TECH SHOULD WORK FOR US

January 3, 2023

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This New Year, I’m thinking about how to lead a more mindful and intentional life… including wasting less time on mindless activities, and on goals that aren’t true priorities.

The modern world offers so many distractions. It’s alarmingly easy to fall into reflexive action, rather than intentional action.

Our smartphones are like perfect little traps for our minds. They offer every kind of distraction: news, TV, emails, text messages, chats, funny memes, sports scores, video games, shopping, weather information, traffic information . . . you get the point.

All of these tech tools can be useful. And that is the danger. They promise us real utility, but they demand our attention in return. If we’re not careful, we can pay too high of a price and lose focus on what we really care about.

Social media, designed to be as addictive as possible, is the most obvious example of a dangerous tool. I do use social media, but I’m increasingly careful to limit the time windows when I will engage.

Productivity tools like email, Slack, and shared calendars are incredibly useful. They can also be deeply distracting. Excessive pings, messages, and meeting invitations all take away from the pursuit of long term goals. This is a real downside to how easy it has become to communicate, include people in meetings, etc.

If we’re not careful, these tools will make us more efficient about doing the “wrong” things. Sure, my participation in a meeting might help the team reach a decision sooner. But is that really the best use of my time? Is it really what’s best for my team? Often, the answer is going to be no.

The same risk of distraction applies in my personal life. Am I consuming media mindfully, because it’s adding value to my life, or reflexively, because I’m bored or avoiding something? Constantly asking myself this question helps keep me on track.

In the coming year, I intend to double down on my efforts to be present with the people in my life and intentional about my attention. That means my devices are turned off (or otherwise put away) during important activities like workouts, meditation, journaling, coaching, and meetings. I think most things that are worth my attention are worth giving my full attention.

I feel energetic, healthy, and excited about how much more I plan to accomplish while I’m here. But another New Year helps remind me that life is short. Being highly intentional with my time makes all the sense in the world.

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