I can't claim credit for the phrase "Cognitive Junk Food", but I knew exactly what it was when I heard it! There have been plenty of articles on the distraction of web browsing and social media. The problem has become even worse with the advent of the smart phone. We've are a society that's addicted to distraction, but at what cost? Often we struggle to be present with our families or at work. We're unable to focus on important tasks for long periods of time. We're wasting time that we could be using to make a difference. Do you find yourself distracted or is any of this starting to sound familiar? How much time do you spend on social media? What does your time management practice look like? Keep reading to get tips on how to address this.
This magical phrase came to me while listening to Cal Newport on episode 9 of Chandler Bolt's self-publishing school podcast. Cal has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT and also studies the impact of technology on how we work. I've not read his recent book, Deep Work, but it's now on my list after listening to him on the podcast. In general I find most people struggle with distraction and it has become much worse with smart phones and social media. I coach many people seeking to improve focus and be better at execution. The majority of the time those sessions turn into time management strategies to prevent my clients from being distracted.
It's never just Facebook. After that it's Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, Reality TV, and the list keeps going. We can't just put it down either! I recently had to put my foot down when my own family sat down to watch a movie together. At the beginning of the movie my kids were distracted responding to messages, snaps, etc.. The initial distraction turns becomes an endless chain and it just goes on and on. With my children, it was during the early part of a drama where the plot and characters were still developing. This means it was not exciting their brains yet and it craved distraction!
The question worth asking is how much time do we spend eating cognitive junk food?
That's the big deal! Our brains crave short term gratification and excitement. We live in a day and age where there's no limit to the distractions, but also the energy invested by companies to capture our focus. All of our experiences are engineered to captivate our time and money. The question worth asking is how much time do we spend eating cognitive junk food? What else could we be doing with that time? What would your time management strategy look like?
Create a time management strategy to stop the madness! This problem stops you from living the life you deserve to experience. Worse than that, the others around you are losing out as well. We only have one life to live and you deserve to say you did more than spend hours upon hours distracted liking posts and snap'ing your friends. Here are three quick tips to help you take your life back from the genius marketing people taking advantage of how your brain is wired. These will serve as the start of your time management strategy that will prevent you from living a distracted life.
The call to action is to be deliberate with your time and make sure it's not floating away in an ocean of distraction.
I would say Cal has rare discipline and some would say he is extreme in his practice, but it's serving him in the way he wants. I'm just to the left of his practice and that it's also serving me in the way that I want and need for my own life and goals. I'm not saying you have to give it all up, nor is anyone better or worse based on where they are with their practice. The call to action is to be deliberate with your time and make sure it's not floating away in an ocean of distraction. Do yourself a favor and create a time management strategy that prevents you from living the "distracted life".
I had never heard about Richie Parker until yesterday, but better late than never. I recently wrote about five limiting beliefs we should all let go of, but this guy has done that and then some! Richie was born with no arms, but learned to feed himself, ride a bike, drive a car, work on cars, and do computer aided design work for NASACAR with his feet…are you kidding me!
Wow! That’s how I felt last night after I watched this video. A big part of my job is helping others explore ways to move past what they view as obstacles. Aside from the positive focus and encouragement from Richie’s parents, I’m confident he did not have a personal coach helping him day after day.
What drives someone like Richie to find ways to live like this in a world that tells him he can’t? Even if the world was not that way, his day to day experiences growing up could easily have felt insurmountable. Richie’s vision of his life was different. He wanted to be independent, to not need help from others, and that’s what drove him to find a way to do it all. Richie’s goals required that he found a way to overcome. His focus on those goals created the persistence and wherewithal to chip away until he found success. As Richie says, “I don’t know there’s a lot in life that I’d say I can’t do. Just things I haven’t done yet.”. We would all do well to believe this.
What do we feel we can’t do and is that really the case? What’s preventing us from doing it and what could we do about it? Find one thing you’ve felt like you could do nothing about and focus on what’s blocking you. Come up with three options to begin chipping away at the obstacle and then commit to taking the action. Turn this behavior into a habit and you’ll find a whole new world is out there.
If you’re having trouble, reach out to a business or life coach to help you out. In a world where we need to learn and adapt faster, working with a coach is an advantage that will accelerate your goals.
Have a great week!
If you’re curious to know what you don’t know, then we’ll explore a different approach. BEFORE YOU MOVE ON, IT’S CRITICAL THAT YOU MAKE IT SAFE FOR OTHERS TO SHARE! This implies that you CAN TAKE the feedback well. If you struggle with this, then my suggestion would be to skip to the next paragraph and assume you got needed feedback from a 360 review. On receiving feedback, I tell others to not respond, but rather say thank you. Understand that you do things you’re not aware of and you’re not a bad person because of it! There are other cases where we know we do it, but we don’t know how to stop or we’re afraid to. Don’t judge yourself. Consider the possibility that others see you in small windows of time and form opinions based on what they observe and experience. We all do it! Assume it’s an accurate reflection and try it on. Consider what you may have been doing, or not doing, that could have led to this impression. If you can avoid reacting poorly, then you want to ask questions such as “When do you find me less persuasive? What do you observe that may cause this?” or “What habits do I have that get on your nerves? When do you see these? Do I always do it?”. Take note of what you’re hearing and avoid trying to shape it in a way that rationalizes it to your ego. Once you try on the clothes, then you have to consider if you want to keep them. There are times where we decide we don’t need or want to work on something and this is not a problem. You’ll want to consider whether your short-term or long-term goals are at risk if you choose to not work on the area identified.
In 1999 I made very little money, had dropped out of three colleges, and was newly married. Two years prior that that I was unemployed. Needless to say, I had plenty of opportunity to carry around limiting beliefs. That said, I’m confident I would not have become an executive thirteen years later at the 8th largest privately held company in the US had I done so.
What we choose to believe about ourselves, our environments, our opportunities and more has a significant impact on our ability to change and succeed. There have been plenty of studies showing this to be true, but here’s one from Scientific American talking about simple beliefs improving eyesight and helping with weight loss! In the case of the weight loss, they told a group of hotel room attendants that they were getting the recommended amount of exercise a week and were found to have improvements in BMI, body fat percentage, and blood pressure.
If we know this to be true, why do many people continue to talk about what we can’t do or how it won’t work? Not only that, but these same people want better outcomes and success! There’s more science behind negative bias and how we’re wired in this way. An article from Psychology Today points out that the amygdala, which is responsible for our fight or flight response, uses two thirds of it’s neurons to detect negative experiences.
My experience in coaching others is that many people actively, or subconsciously, avoid getting their hopes up in FEAR they’ll fail, be let down, it won’t work out etc.. For many, the limiting beliefs provide a form of protection. For anyone looking to thrive and begin tackling the challenges they’ve been avoiding, here are five stories to stop telling yourself today!
I’m confident we all have many more than five, but these were on my mind and come up in conversation quite a bit. Take some time to write down the various reason why things are not working out and then throw them away or burn them. What new stories can you tell yourself? What new beliefs can you adopt that are aligned to where you’re trying to go?
Now, you either have something you’re driven to change, or you’ve just learned there’s less passion around some of your goals. If the latter is true, you’ll want to spend some time reviewing your original list and work towards an eight or higher. For those of you that are ready to keep going, please take some time to write down what it looks like to be successful. What do you see yourself doing or practicing and how consistent will you be? How long do you practice? Where do you practice? Who helps you? What does it look like when you celebrate milestones? When you’re successful, happy, and fulfilled in your progress, what have you done that creates these feelings?
Great! We now have a destination and the mental fuel to get going, so now what? We need to go back to our list of what’s preventing us from moving forward. Some of the most common things are time, current health, current finances etc.. Some next steps in these cases may be time budgeting, change of diet, simple exercises, or basic financial budgeting. Despite the many books dedicated to this area I find this to be the easier part. I’m not saying it’s not challenging or or there’s no value in the teachings from these books. I’m saying there are known processes to follow that will address these kinds of problems. The need to focus on self-awareness becomes clearer during the doing phase of things.
Throughout the world we’re drawn to negative news, drama, crisis, etc., but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of great things going on. Because these stories don’t draw as much attention, and therefore revenue dollars, we find ourselves in a world where we have to seek out the positivity more than we should. To that end, here are some stories that I found today and felt they were worth sharing to start the week off on a good note. Enjoy!