learning to act with intention

I’ve spent the past couple years with my email provider as the “home” page for my browser.  I’d turn on the computer, pull up the internet and bam! There’s my email, staring me in the face and asking me to react to anything I’d been sent.  As I worked on other sites, read the news, etc., I would leave my email open in a tab.  When I would see a new message come in, I would immediately read it, attempting to respond as quickly as possible.  The smartphone hasn’t helped.

It’s no wonder I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with email.  At the end of each semester, I unintentionally for 24-48 hours without logging onto a computer or reading my email.  That day or so without checking email goes by without effort.  By that point, the freedom of not having to check seems freeing.  But there’s still an addiction component.  I recently, excitedly, told two co-workers that I was down to 9 emails in my inbox.  I’ve been reflecting on how crazy this thinking is.  On one hand, it’s nice to not let things pile up, particularly when they are small things that require quick responses.  Though this post on Zen Habits says to complete things that take less than 2 minutes, I find that I constantly used that as a reason to take away from bigger tasks because something will take less time and I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.  In other words, the Getting things Done (or Zen to Done, as Leo calls his version) was not working for me.

So what does work for me?  Well, I don’t know, really.  Right now I’m practicing not checking my email for distractions.  I’m examining all of the ways I obligate myself to various things: email, work, kids (and their commitments), volunteerism, etc., and I’m asking what I can cut out in order to give myself less to check.  I’m asking myself if it’s okay for email to go days without a response. I like the idea of processing my inboxes once a day–all of my inboxes.  What would it look like if I set a time each day to respond to emails, return phone calls, check Facebook and then… log off.  Maybe I’ll try for checking twice a day, and then I’ll back off from there.

All of this to say that I think technology creates a much more re-active person than a reflective person.  Since I am focusing on learning how to think before acting, I am recognizing all of the things that cause me to react rather than to act with intention.  I am trying to decrease multitasking and instead embrace one thing at a time so I can bring all of me to a task.  Most of the time, I’m not successful.  While lifting, practicing yoga, or going on a walk, I’ll think of something that needs accomplished.  At one time, I would have begun that task, but lately I’ve told myself that it will have to wait until my current task is complete.

(Apologies. This should have been yesterday’s–May 17–post, but I left for a bike ride before I hit publish.)


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