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Ritualize Attention by Lisa Gayhart

time is precious

I was supposed to write this blog post a couple weeks ago. I had it on my to do list, I was thinking about the content, and I really wanted to get started. And yet, even with a week of vacation, I didn’t complete it by my self imposed deadline. Why?

We’re not prioritizing the work that matters to us. We’re lost in shallow work. Shallow work: emails, scrolling, messaging, tidying, making appointments, laundry. All the administrative stuff of life and work that must get done but will never be totally complete. Shallow work not only eats away at your productive hours, but also dilutes our attention and focus leaving us spent but probably not fulfilled.

We all know the feeling of getting lost in work we really love: time flies by, hours lost to the task. We come out the other side energized, excited, and accomplished. This is deep work. (I can’t do the concept of deep work justice in one blog post. Go read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work for the full story.) Even without much discussion, I bet hearing the term triggers thoughts of the work that gives you life, that lights you up. This work doesn’t have to be a solely an individual pursuit or relegated to office/study hours. Community building, parenting, training for a race, planning a trip: these things all take the full care and attention of your focused, thinking mind.

How can we combat shallow work and carve out more time for the work that matters to us: ritualize.

Setting one intention and making space for it daily fosters focus as a habit, setting us up for sustainable success. Some ideas to ritualize attention:

  • Do the most important task first, while attention and creativity are high
  • Make tomorrow’s to do list at the end of each day in order to start the next day smoothly and offer opportunity for reflection
  • Complete creative work in an uninterrupted block of time, ideally the same time slot each day
  • Use the pomodoro technique of breaking work into 25 minute chunks
  • Set aside time at the beginning of the week for planning and time at the end of the week for review
  • Determine and enact your “do not disturb” mode: e.g. a specific place like a quiet office or a buzzing coffee shop; music or white noise; no wifi or notifications off; etc.
  • Schedule specific, time-limited, blocks for email, Insta scrolling, and internet browsing

For me, my deep work is research and writing. It’s hard work to dive into: I have to be in the right state of mind, in the right location, with the right tools or it just doesn’t flow. Or maybe that’s just a story I tell myself to obtain permission to slide into my Instagram feed on the train instead of tapping out 50 words in the Notes app? Most likely the latter.

During August I’m ritualizing my focus by scheduling creative time in the morning before I get distracted and exhausted by the day. Whether it’s 50 words or 500, I’m calling it a win. How about you?


Let’s share our thoughts and experiences on Instagram at #ritualattention, through this site, or in class. But not in real time - enjoy the moments. xoxo

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Lisa Gayhart works in higher ed technology as a UX researcher, academic librarian, and instructor. She’s currently researching digital wellness, in hopes of helping university students cultivate healthier relationships with technology and devices. Lisa is also a Ritual Movement Method Teacher Training student with Ritual Island. She’ll be moving you away from your devices and into your bodies SOON.

@lisagayhart

Reclaiming Our Attention by Lisa Gayhart

screentime

Last November, I started an experiment. I was feeling drained from long days in front of my devices. I felt like I couldn’t focus. I was irritable and distracted. I was tired of giving my best to screens.

I did a little reading and eventually came to the decision to do a technology fast of sorts. Like any lifestyle change, it was very difficult at first. But the more time I spent experimenting with different ways of using tech every day, the better I felt. The weekends felt longer and I felt less scattered. I didn’t bring my phone to meetings or events. With my head up, I saw very clearly how much of ourselves we are handing over to our devices.

This all sounds magical, wonderful, and full of meaningful revelations about life. But, like most things on the internet, it’s not the whole story. Today, I’m right back where I started.

Our relationships with technology are often left out of discussions on health and wellness. For many of us, technology is an ever present and growing force in our lives. Over the last decade or so, we have gradually outsourced our daily thinking and doing to technology. Getting up to flip the record or turn on the radio, walking across the bedroom to set your alarm clock, navigating to an appointment with written directions or a map - these common tasks are increasingly uncommon. Technology is everywhere and it’s not all bad. Today’s technology is amazing! We form relationships around the world, educate ourselves, discover new talents, find solace in like minded groups, start businesses, partake in democracy, and so much more.

Living with tech is not an all or nothing situation: like most things in life, our relationship with technology requires more nuance, more balance. We can design our tech use, intentionally and with purpose, to be something useful and enjoyable. We don’t need to feel drained and stressed by our devices.

In a series of posts this summer, we’ll look at our tech habits and how we got here; learn ways to increase our digital wellness; and discover new corners of the internet - and maybe even ourselves.

In the meantime, let’s start noticing our habits and how we feel:

  • What does your relationship with tech look like?

  • Do you feel drained, pressured to stay in the loop, overwhelmed with information?

  • How do you feel after some time scrolling: drained or energized?

This summer, we reclaim our attention. We make space for more outdoor adventure, more creation, more stargazing, more memories. Our devices will always be there for us.

Let’s share our thoughts and experiences on Instagram at #ritualattention, through this site, or in class. But not in real time - enjoy the moments. xoxo

--------------------

Lisa Gayhart works in higher ed technology as a UX researcher, academic librarian, and instructor. She’s currently researching digital wellness, in hopes of helping university students cultivate healthier relationships with technology and devices. Lisa is also a Ritual Movement Method Teacher Training student with Ritual Island. She’ll be moving you away from your devices and into your bodies SOON.

@lisagayhart