Louis CK’s riff on cell phones on Late Night With Conan O’Brien last year went viral for a reason. We know all this connectivity is sapping our ability to focus and be present, but we can’t seem to get away from it. “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something,” Louis CK had said. “That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there, like this. That’s being a person.”
This whole business of “being a person” means letting yourself feel sad and happy and lonely and ecstatic and angry and every which way, rather than anesthetizing your emotions with distraction.
Disconnecting from technology, listening to what your body needs and being comfortable with stillness and solitude can feel uncomfortable at first, but at the end of the day, it makes for a healthier more focused mind.
“Busy implies a rushed sense of cheery urgency, a churning motion, a certain measure of impending chaos,” writes KJ Dell’Antonia in a recent New York Times post. “Busy is being in one place doing one thing with the nagging sense that you ought to be somewhere else doing something different.”
Most of us can’t drop everything in our lives and go off the grid for a month. Still, there are small ways to recreate that kind of solitude and focus on a daily basis–yoga or meditation, taking a long walk, shutting off your phone and email for an hour or two each day.
Another thing I learned: People respect your need to disconnect. Often, they even admire it. Whatever comes through your inbox can usually wait. The world will go on without you. What can’t and won’t go on, however, if you’re not there to meet it, is your creative work. So don’t neglect it.