I was flipping through a design magazine last week when I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t just entertaining or thought-provoking—it was arresting enough to make me reevaluate and reconsider the entire manner in which I live and work.
In the piece, the author discusses the idea of true focus and mindfulness—and how our phones, screens, apps and other digital distractions dull our real-world perception. True, the idea of “unplugging” and the concern over how much time we spend swiping, scrolling and logging in is a fairly common talking point these days, but the following test gave me pause:
The author describes a teaching exercise in which a professor asks her students to write down observations they made that morning. A glass of water they saw on a table, a flower, the sound of a bus stopping to unload passengers—anything. As I was reading, I closed my eyes and tried to remember a snapshot from my morning—a face on the train, a tree, a building. I realized that I couldn’t pinpoint one clear picture from that morning, because I spent my walk to the train shuffling through songs on my phone, and my train ride checking emails and scrolling through Instagram. I could remember nothing from that morning.
Not a great realization. Since reading this, I’ve made an effort to spend my moments more focused. I don’t automatically turn on a podcast or a playlist when I sit down to work. I go into a quiet room to grind out ideas or work through problems—sans phone. I’m making a resolution to divide my focus less and center on one thing at a time, to help me become a more observant and more concentrated creative. The updates and notifications can wait.
And I leave you with a photo of me in my zen place.
(Also, if you’re wondering if this was all shameless excuse for me to post a picture of my recent Asia-excursion—the answer is yes.)