This article was last updated on December 30, 2015
I have a confession: I’m an addict.
I can’t stop checking my email, social media, and phone. I’ve surrendered my ability to be present with my family and to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time. It eats me up inside, every time I do it. But I don’t stop.
According to research, self-regulation is the psychological process that detects inconsistency between our goals and our behaviors. It is the ignition of our motivational forces which helps us get from where we are to where we want to be.
Specifically, self-regulation works in three ways:
Self-monitoring determines how well we are currently performing.
Self-evaluation determines how well we are performing comparative to our goals.
Self-reaction determines how we think and feel comparative to our goals. When we feel dissatisfied with our performance, self-reaction pushes us to reallocate our motivation resources.
Recently, I’ve been highly aware and disgusted by my behavior. If I’m going to achieve my goals, my performance needs to alter profoundly. It’s sad it came to this—but an intervention was necessary and I decided to go off the grid for five weeks. No social media. Email and phone check only once at the end of each day.
The results and insights of this personal experiment were more radical than I expected.
Losing Control Over Our Lives
How many times have you checked your email and/or Facebook today?
How about in the past hour?
It is almost impossible to not be addicted to constantly “checking-in” in our society. Not only checking-in, but shifting frequently from one thing to the next. As we’ve become accustomed to constant interruptions, our attention spans have radically shrunk and our ability to focus is dismal.
Consider these staggering statistics:
People between the ages of 15 and 30 spend approximately 3 hours on social media every day. People older than that spend the same amount of time watching TV. With these numbers, the average person spends over 9 years of their lives on these activities.
– Collectively, humanity spends 39,757 years on Facebook every single day.
– Most people check their Facebook at least 14 times per day.
– 79 percent of people check Facebook within 15 minutes of waking up. Hilariously, 62 percent cannot even wait those 15 minutes and check their smartphone immediately upon waking.
– 84 percent of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device.
– Studies indicate many people check their devices every 6.5 minutes.
– Not only that, our cell phone addiction even impedes our sleep! Nearly half of cell phone owners sleep with their phone next to their bed because they don’t want to “miss anything.”
Consider these prophetic words by Peter Drucker:
“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”
Unless we do something about this, we’re hosed. Collectively if we don’t do something about this, society is hosed.
This article is a desperate plea to take back control of our lives. If you are addicted, please consider unplugging for an extended period of time. After you do this, please create new patterns in your brain that allow you to unplug multiple times each day. Your happiness (and success), and the happiness of those around you depend on it.
Since the early 1980’s, Bill Gates has gone into seclusion for two, one-week “Think Weeks” per year. His family, friends and Microsoft employees are banned from these retreats, during which Gates spends the majority of his time reading and thinking. Many insights and innovations at Microsoft are the fruits of these Think Weeks.
Similarly, every seven years, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio for a yearlong sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh his creative outlook. In his captivating Ted Talk, he explains the massive overflow of innovative projects that were inspired during his time in Bali.
Bill Gates and Stefan Sagmeister are not the only creatives who take regular retreats like these. Steve Jobs did something similar, as does Mark Zuckerberg.
In his landmark book, The 4-hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss proposes what he terms, “Mini-retirements,” which are a media detox lasting at least four weeks but preferably three months or longer. “You want a complete removal from your day to day routine and day to day reactions,” Ferriss says. “One of the main purposes of a mini-retirement is acting as a reset button.”
Ideally, these retreats take place outside your typical environment. However, I wanted to test the possibilities within the chaos of my normal life. I wanted to prove to anyone that they can unplug in the midst of their busy schedule and find themselves.
I challenge you to read this article, not only with your head, but with your heart. This is serious. I strongly believe your happiness, relationships, and even your highest contribution to society depend on your ability to detach from your addiction to all the noise.
5 Enormous Benefits Of Being Completely Unavailable
Clarification Of What Matters And What Doesn’t
“Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”—Caterina Fake (CEO-Founder, Flickr)
When you disconnect from everything going on, you can actually get space to ponder and reflect. You will quickly become clear about what is misguided in your life.
You will be shocked by how much time you are spending in the thick of thin things. Indeed, 80 percent of the things we do account for around 20 percent of our results. These are the things we need to remove.
Purging from social media and entering what Greg McKeown calls, “monk-mode” has allowed me to focus on the essentials. Almost everything in life is a distraction.
Resetting Unhealthy Patterns: Shifting From Inputs To Outputs
For most people, the immediate response upon returning from a break is to check email. In spare seconds, we hop on Facebook and check the newsfeed. We’ve become addicted to input. Or in other words, we’ve become addicted to reactively being guided by other people’s agendas.
Interestingly, when we make a fundamental shift in our lives, often, everything else begins to fall into place. The cool part is, we don’t have to try to fix everything. Instead, we focus on one keystone habit—which tightly locks all of your other habits in place. Without the keystone, everything falls apart.
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes keystone habits as, “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”
As I’ve disconnected from social media and given myself the space to think and work, my diet has radically improved, I’ve become a better husband and father, and I’m more organized. That one change caused a massive ripple effect.
Forced Presence And Productivity
I remember the first night of being Facebook and email sober, I didn’t have anything to do but hangout with my wife.
After putting the kids to bed, my wife and I generally chill on our computers in the same room, coexisting. But here I sat with my day’s work behind me and nothing but reality before me.
I told my wife to get off Facebook and we watched an episode of American Ninja Warrior together.
It was a strange reality that being present was my natural state. Usually I have to focus on being present. Now, it took no effort. My eyes have been opened.
Similar to being present, productivity has also become my natural state. Because I’m not jumping onto Facebook or checking my email every few minutes, I’m able to focus on my work. It’s startling how simple life has become.
Reconnection With Real Friends
One benefit I did not expect from purging social media and email was the reconnect to old friends and family. It’s true that in our hyper connected world, we’ve lost touch with connecting to our people in certain ways.
I’ve been sending video text messages to friends and cousins I haven’t talked to in years. It’s been a lot of fun to rekindle old ties.
Not only that, but I’ve been able to have some deeply intimate and important conversations with people who are struggling. These conversations wouldn’t have happened if I was lost in the void of my addiction. But since I’ve been able to find space, my conscious awareness of others has expanded. I’m more available and ready to meet their needs and be a blessing in their lives.
From a research perspective, motivation is the psychological force that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior. Thus, like self-regulation, motivation functions in three primary ways:
1. Direction: The target of your motivation. What are you trying to do?
2. Intensity: The level of effort, attention, and focus devoted to a task. How bad to you want it?
3. Persistence: The sustained effort over time, ability to face rejection and failure, and tolerance of stress before you quit or stop. How long will you work to get it?
Naturally, as I’ve been successful at being more present and productive, my motivation levels have sky-rocketed. I’ve built confidence my abilities because I’m seeing myself succeed in the key areas of my life. My vision for what I can achieve has expanded.
As my goals have grown, the distance between them and my current behaviors has also grown. I’m now living beneath my goals and thus need to change. Self-regulation is doing its job and I’m in growth-mode.
If you’ve read this far, you may be addicted to social media and your email. Do yourself, your family, and your work a favor and take break.
You’ll be blown away by how much life you’ll get back.
Photo credit: @felixtriller