If you’re reading this, you probably know the feeling: You’re trying to get into a flow state on something productive, but somehow, your mouse gravitates to your bookmarks, and suddenly you’re browsing Twitter, or Tumblr, or another internet addiction of your choice.
Raj: I’m writing in Google Drive. I have tabs open with my interviews, research, and all this stuff. Suddenly, just as a matter of habit that I’m sure you guys do all the time, I’m just clicking bookmarks, seeing what else is happening, checking email, checking whatever.
I purposefully logged out of Slack and Twitter so I couldn’t actually check those, but I still found myself getting into internet holes where it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll just check out this YouTube video.
OK, I’ll just watch this.’ Suddenly an hour’s gone by, and I haven’t actually done any writing. OK, I’ll write a sentence over here. Better absentmindedly check some tabs, click some other things. And I know there’s all sorts of productivity software, which I’ve never found particularly useful, but I’m curious to hear what you guys and other folks out there use to train your brains to focus on things when you need to be focusing on them.
Rey: I don’t use any of those apps. I’ve never used them. They don’t work for me—they just frustrate me. Because I still have the muscle memory of clicking on my bookmarks constantly. I think a lot of people have that muscle memory, and it’s almost like you aren’t even intending to click on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever you’re addicted to, you just do it, and then you’re like ‘Why did I click this?’ And that happens to me a lot.
Honestly, I talk about it far too much on this show, but meditating is the only thing that has actually helped me with my attention and having self-control in my life. That’s it. That and exercise—if I’m getting really twitchy and I just keep clicking on stuff, I’m not concentrating, I need to just run around the block a few times or like, not even go for a full run, just go for a little run and then come back.
When I was teaching kids karate and they couldn’t concentrate, I used to make them do ten jumping jacks and then they’d be able to listen to me. It’s just one of those weird things where if you’re being twitchy on the internet and you keep clicking stuff, just get up and do ten jumping jacks and see how you feel.
Because it kinda resets you. It works for me. But those apps that turn off Twitter, that just messes me up. Because then I’m trying to go to the websites and they don’t load, and I’m like ‘What am I— oh right, I had this app, ugh.’ It doesn’t make me more concentrated, it just makes me mad at myself more, and then I just fall into the hole of being like ‘God I’m terrible at this, I’m totally distracted,’ and that’s just more wasted time. So yeah, meditating and jumping jacks.
Raj: I think that’s good advice. Both good pieces of advice.
Mart: I think the logging out thing is good—do more of that. Anything that makes you more mindful, and I think, Maddy, meditation is very good for this. Mindfulness is being aware of what you’re doing. And the minute you can be aware that you’re doing these kind of trained things—and I’ve totally done that too, where you just type into the browser “Twitter” “Gmail” and all the things you check—they’re just habits, you can break them.
You just need to decide to break them, and notice when you’re doing them, and be like ‘I am breaking this habit. This is something I’ve consciously decided to do, and I’m doing it.’ Which is a mindful thing to do, because you’re being aware of yourself.
Raj: It’s also tough because you’re addicted to the endorphins you get when you do those things.
Mart: Of course, it’s hard because those things are very enticing and fun, and worth doing at times. So yeah, you have to have some discipline. I’ll get up and stretch, which is sort of similar to the jumping jacks tip, which is a great tip. I don’t do it enough, but I’ll just do some basic yoga stretches or whatever—really basic stuff—for a couple of minutes.
I don’t do this enough, because every time I do, I’m like, I feel 1,000% better and it took about three minutes—why don’t I do this more? Not even anything hard, just a downward dog for two minutes—stretch your legs out a little bit. And then come back to whatever you’re doing. It really helps.