There is a lot to love about the time we live in.
We’re more connected to each other than ever. We can be more productive. We can do more with less time. We very often take it for granted.
I remember when my parents had to sit down once a month to “do the bills,” which meant spending an entire night writing checks, balancing accounts, licking envelopes, and driving to the post office the next day.
Now, I write precisely one check a month and it’s to my landlord, and in fact, it’s one of the few times a month I write anything by hand. There are few bills I don’t pay automatically, and it’s easy to manage things online.
I remember phone chains where people scheduled events and spread the word about changes in meeting times by going down a list and calling people one by one. I remember how precarious it could be to meet someone when they could have an unexpected delay and had no way of letting you know. I remember how I sometimes didn’t know baseball scores for two days because the games ended too late to be printed in the next morning’s newspaper.
And I’m only 32!
At the same time, as the Arcade Fire memorably put it, We Used to Wait. We used to have to be patient. We didn’t have to unplug because the default state was unplugged.
The consequences of this constant bombardment is well-documented, whether it’s car accidents caused by texting or an inability to sleep because of blue light from the laptops we tote to bed or chronic short attention spans.
For me personally, I find the consequences most acute when it comes to brainstorming new creative ideas and especially when I try to making decisions.
Creative thinking requires a calmness and a blocking out of distractions in order to let ideas come to you. Decision making requires you to truly be in touch with how you feel and to stop and listen to yourself. They require concentration, which can be in short supply.
It’s not at all easy for me to find calm moments when inspiration can strike, so I try to block off one day on the weekend for a trip to the park or a walk through a museum or both. Even then it’s hard not to peek at my phone, but the fresh air of the park, the sunshine, the quiet… it’s vital. I don’t always make it, but I do my best to carve out small spaces for myself when I let myself be still.
As we do more and more sometimes it can be productive do less.
How do you carve out calm moments in a distracted world?
Art: Pastoral Landscape by Alvan Fisher