Furious Focus

Credit: Mr. Paul Green

Social Media has been terrible for my writing practice.  I fell in strong like with Instagram this time last year. I went from skepticism about the value of yet another social media platform to raving to my siblings about much more more appealing it is. It’s not like Facebook,I tell them. Facebook is soooo distracting.

But guess what? It’s not just Facebook.

In the last number of months I’ve been taking note of how many times I tap on the little pink icon on my phone. Morning, afternoon and evening, between bushing my teeth, typing, doing language lessons, eating lunch, I’m scrolling.  Contrast this to how many times I opened my notebook to write? The ratio is shameful.

The problem is not with any particular social platform. Yes, they are all designed  (exceptionally well) to have users continuously engage. The makers of those sites are doing their jobs and doing it well. I can’t knock ‘em.

But I ask myself, ‘Am I doing my work just as well? Or am I delightfully training my brain to have a short attention span and to wander even more than it already does?’  As much as I’ve been inspired- even to action- by the posts and images I see on the ‘Gram, I’m gonna say the answer is the latter.  I realize I was spending more time scrolling than I was working on my craft.

My late aunt had a magnet on her fridge that said “Focus furiously on God.” That statement always stuck with me; the qualifier “furiously”. I was like okay, that’s some pretty serious focus.

But that’s what I want. I want to train myself to practice furious focus so that I am lost to the task at hand. It is in this space where we begin to scratch the surface of mastery and also where the magic of God shows up.

I’ve begun limiting my time on social media so that I can create furious focus. Here’s how:

  • Turning off my wifi and sliding my phone out of sight. This stops the notifications from coming in. When I can’t see my phone, I go for longer spans of time between reaching for it out of habit.
  • Set a period of time for use. I give myself 30 minutes or an hour to do online language lessons so I figure I can do the same with being on a social media site. This takes discipline but setting the limit makes me conscious to how long I’ve been online and what exactly I’m doing there.
  • Take in something useful and move on. You know how you see a poem or inspiring quote and you’re like “Oh that was so dope” and then you keep going and you read another one and another one? Well I’ve decided to just take in one and let that one sit with me rather than forget it by reading more and more.   In the same vein, if I see a link to an interesting opportunity, I will click it and then tell myself, okay, you got something out of this experience, it’s time get off.

Each of these still requires discipline. You have to train yourself to abide by your limits. No one else really cares what you do with your time. But what you do will make the difference between mastery and mediocrity and for me, temporary satisfaction and the lasting kind.

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