This is going to sound crazy, but hear me out.
I want you to turn off all of the notifications from your phone
and delete your social media and email apps.
No one has a harder time unplugging than me. For almost a decade I prided myself on being the guy that would answer emails, Facebook messages, and texts at any time of the day, even on weekends. Where other places wouldn't get in touch with students or new inquiries I made it my goal to respond within one hour, often within minutes of receiving a message.
Did we get some new students? You bet we did.
Have I noticed a significant drop off now that I choose to hold more normal business hours? Not really.
It turns out that responding within 12 or 24 hours is still considered fast service for most people...even if deep down I would still rather respond immediately.
I learned something interesting. I would often respond to emails immediately, assuming that the person was waiting on the other end and would get in touch with me instantly. Many times I would send emails with 3-5 minutes of receiving a new inquiry and then patiently await a response. And it wouldn't come. Not minutes later. Or hours later. Sometimes not for days or a week!
Why would people not respond immediately when they get an email from me?
Because most people respond when it's convenient for them and there isn't really an expectation to immediately return an email. That's just in my head.
We ended our Spring semester last May and were heading on a family vacation. I did what I had been doing for the past few semester breaks: I delete social media from my phone and turn on a vacation message for our phone and email accounts.
But then I went a step further.
I deleted the mail app from my phone. I deleted all social media apps from my phone. I turned off notifications for every app on my phone. I cannot explain to you the amount of freedom that I felt. It's cliche', but it's like a weight was lifted off of me.
Then something unexpected happened.
I still found myself checking my phone every few minutes. I told myself I was just checking the time but it's like there was this itch that I had to scratch. It would gnaw at me every few minutes. Definitely a bit of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but also something real and a bit scary: addiction.
"Hi, my name is Shane and I am a social media, email, and phone addict."
This scared me. It's not just a bad habit. It wasn't me being a superior businessman. It was a need. There was a real urge and drive to check and grab my phone every few minutes.
Here's how I weaned myself off over the years:
1. Phone on Vibrate ALL the time. No sounds.
2. Phone on Silent ALL the time. No sounds or notifications unless I look at my phone.
3. Delete apps during vacation time. I have to pull up email and Facebook in my browser.
4. Delete apps permanently. I have to pull up email and Facebook in my browser.
I don't think I can take the next step which would be to permanently delete all of the apps and not pull them up on my phone at all. This would mean only checking email and Facebook on my computer. As freeing as this sounds, I just don't think that it is practical for me while I'm running a business.
I recommend jumping straight to Number Four.
If you can't, try one of the earlier steps and start working your way down.
We weren't made to function with things constantly chirping at us every few minutes.
I have a toddler. It is almost impossible to work and focus when I'm with him.
So why do we willingly choose to let another toddler (our phones) run rampant in our lives?
Here are two more things that have helped me tremendously:
It's just as distracting to be on your computer working on something (like this blog) and have notifications popping up about emails and Facebook comments.
I have a solution here too.
Most computers will allow you to set up separate accounts. I created a separate "The Studio Challenge" account on my chromebook. I don't sign into ANY of my online accounts. I can't access email, Facebook, or any of the other sites that I normally log in to. Even if I wanted to I would have to go through the trouble of logging in. I am only logged into Weebly (for working on the website), Teachable (for working on new Courses), and Google Docs. No YouTube. No Facebook. No Email. Just sweet focused work.
It has helped tremendously. I still get that 'itch' to check something or make sure everything is ok but I'm learning to ignore it. There are very few things in life that can't wait 30 minutes for me to finish writing this blog.
Here's the best part. I'm not less productive because I'm on my phone less. I'm actually more productive. When I check my phone and computer it's because I'm there to do work. I'm very intentional and try not to let myself drift off and head down the rabbit hole.
So, do you have what it takes to be intentional?
To make a conscious effort to unplug and step back? Consider it your next CHALLENGE.
You got this.