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Time Management

The Martin family just returned from a fantastic trip to the mountains in Asheville, NC. This is a place that Mandy and I have been going since 2008 and have continued to do so when we had Jesse and Quinn. Its “the one thing” that our entire family gets an immense amount of joy out of. Before leaving for this recent trip, I had a bit of a revelation – unless I’m very focused on being proactive with my time, I would fall victim to being reactionary. 

What do I mean? 

This is really about time management. And there are two ways to look at how you spend your time: you can do so proactively or reactively. 

I’ve written a lot about this before, but I’ve implemented a few unique things the past few weeks that have really allowed me to be proactive with my time and thus more productive and present.

(No, these are not life hacks. I can’t stand that phrase or that mindset.)

Just before we left, I realized that the constant buzz and ding of notifications on my phone were frequently derailing me from the real meaningful work that needed my attention. You see – emails, social media notifications, and the like – those put you into a reactionary mindset. I’m not saying those things aren’t important – they certainly could be. But not to the degree that I was allowing them to intrude into my life. 

Enter tip #1:

I went into the notifications settings of my phone and turned off all ‘lock screen’ notifications for ALL of my email addresses. The win? Now, I only get my emails when I go into the Mail app at scheduled times that I control. If this sounds neurotic, it is. But it works for me!

This brought nearly immediate relief, as I never realized how many times I was picking up my phone to see the latest email notification. 

The next thing I needed to take care of were the constant social media bombardments, particularly FaceBook and Instagram. I never realized it until I checked, but I was basically being notified anytime someone on my friends list did anything. Jim sneezed? NOTIFICATION. Marc coughed? NOTIFICATION. Timmy put on his blinker to signal a lane change? DOUBLE NOTIFICATION!

Joking. Sort of. But you get my point.

Enter tip #2:

I went into the notifications settings of my phone and turned off ALL notifications for all these platforms unless I was specifically tagged in a post. Now I am proud to say I will only hear about coughs, sneezes, and lane changes if these crazy people tag me!

After these two things radically quieted things down for me, my ability to be productive and present for long stretches went up exponentially. In the past when we’d be hiking, I’d pick up my phone to snap a pic and get distracted by a notification. Now, it became ‘pick it up, snap the pic, keep hiking!’ 

Of course, when you get home from vacation you typically fall right back into your old routine. And I almost did. I was self-aware that I’d just pick up my phone and look at it for no reason – it had become an ingrained habit. But curiosity got the best of me and I wondered – what did the data actually say about how much time I saved the past week? That brings me to the most telling statistic of all. Have you ever looked at your phone’s ‘Screen Time’ function? Prior to these few changes, my phone showed that I’d spend upwards of 5 hours per day on it. If you’re anything like me, you probably try to justify it: “Well, I do a lot of work on my phone.” Or “Well, my kids drive me crazy and I just need a break.” No? Just me. Cool. 

Anyhow, my screen time is now down to less than HALF of what it was a few weeks ago.

I got so excited that I turned off nearly ALL notifications for anything on my phone. Magically, I use it mostly as JUST A PHONE and messaging device now. 

Because if I’m being completely honest, the real work gets done much better in two distinct ways:

  1. In person, where real relationships are forged
  2. On my computer, where I can produce content like this blog…and the videos you all love to watch so much.

If you’re interested in trying this out, let me know! I’d be happy to keep you accountable, and tag you in my next social media post announcing when I unload the dishwasher. 

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