the power of airplane mode

over the months it took to write my masters thesis, i discovered the power of airplane mode. it has totally changed my life and how i engage with my phone and my computer, too.

while trying to do pomodoros (a method of creating focus), i discovered that, like many people, i have developed an addiction to checking my phone. regardless of whether i need to be checking it for a specific reason or not, i check it several times an hour. this, of course, means that whenever something does show up, i engage with it.

unfortunately, interruptions are the death knell of focus (i recently started reading a book on focus; i’m sure i’ll be writing about that soon). despite what people say about multi-tasking, it is still generally less effective than bursts of intense, specifically directed focus.

i discovered that airplane mode really helped me (made it out of my power) to not check my phone incessantly. one big thing i’ve learned on this productivity journey is that highly successful people use as little self-control as possible by building habits and routines that allow them to make progress on their goals without thinking about it.

of course, i could have turned off airplane mode when i wanted to check my phone in the middle of a focus session. but i found that having it on created just enough barrier to allow me to not.

eventually, i found that the best way to focus was to:

  1. put my phone completely away so that even alarms and reminders didn’t distract me,
  2. take imessage/messages (apple’s desktop app that allows text messaging) off my computer, and
  3. turn off my internet. this internet disconnect thing is what lead to me realizing that i should write first and do research before or after writing. most days i just insert a placeholder and then return to it during editing. example: yesterday, i read an article, [FIND HYPERLINK AND NAME OF ARTICLE], and it totally changed my mind about ham sandwiches.

all this ubiquitous computing and technology has some pretty incredible benefit to society, but we also need to learn how to not let it own us. i think learning how to disconnect periodically is really important.

ps - my friend, casper, practices a technology sabbath based on this methodology… i’m not there yet, but i think it’s going to be a practice i start with in 2017.