For the first few months of this year I found myself picking up some bad tech habits.
OK, maybe not just tech habits. Just bad habits in general.
As I would wake in the morning, my eyes barely open, I would grab my phone on the bedside table, ready to scroll all the social channels to see what new chaos was happening in the world.
- Who is tweeting at me?
- What’s happening with Covid?
- How is the world burning today?
- What messages have I received since last night?
Before I knew it, an hour of mindless scrolling had passed and I hadn’t “done” anything. I’d make a quick coffee and get to my computer to start checking email. It didn’t feel like a good way to start the day.
I started asking myself…
- What did I accomplish in that hour, and what would I do differently if I had that hour back again?
- What is the line between staying informed, and taking care of my health and wellbeing?
- How much social media is necessary or helpful?
- How can we be responsible citizens while keeping our lives and businesses humming along?
- How do we use technology responsibly without getting hijacked?
I found myself instinctively grabbing at my phone to fill time without any real purpose or intention. I could feel that my brain was being hijacked and I didn’t like this bad new habit I’d formed.
In the book Brain Wash, the authors go deep into how “our brains are being gravely manipulated, resulting in behaviors that leave us more lonely, anxious, depressed, distrustful, illness-prone, and overweight than ever before.” They go into detail about the mental hijacking that undermines us all daily.
Anything that repeatedly overactivates this powerful circuitry will change the brain and have major consequences. As we know, craving-related behavior is not always beneficial. When we find ourselves pleasure seeking 24-7, chasing instant gratification and pushing those chemical buttons, we reinforce neural pathways that keep us constantly craving and silence the prefrontal cortex by weakening its ability to exert control over the lower, limbic brain. And this manifests itself, among other ways, as internet surfing, smartphone scrolling, one-click shopping, gobbling up high-calorie foods, and checking posts on social media.
– Brain Wash, David Perlmutter
I’d read Digital Minimalism late last year, so responsible technology use was already on my mind, but something about understanding the deeper science behind why and how our brains get hijacked at the chemical level kicked my ass into taking it more seriously.
For the last 6 months or so I’d already begun to find ways to trick my lizard brain into being less distracted while at my computer using Contextual Dashboards in Notion. These are pages that embed a number of related databases into one page, helping me Focus, Connect, Process, Ideate, Learn, and Plan, so I don’t need to jump around from page to page and get distracted by shiny objects and unrelated tasks.
I realized I needed to use this same brain trickery to overcome the poor smart phone habits I had developed. But in this case I needed to create more friction and barriers to usage.
In her Marketing Without Social Media course, Alexandra Franzen encouraged us to come up with our own Social Media Policies. She also included a simple Unplug More checklist that had a number of simple actions to take to help us reclaim our time and rethink our social media usage.
Here are some of the actions I’ve taken that have really helped me create those barriers and move toward more mindful usage:
- No phones in the bedroom (+ use of an alarm clock instead of phone)
- Deleting social apps off my phone
- No phones in the office
- Created a charging station where all tech lives + stays
- Pre-defined windows of time for social usage with specified time limits
- Deciding in advance the purpose for the usage of any social accounts
Obviously it takes time to get rid of old habits and replace them with new ones, but these changes alone have made a world of difference. I have felt so much more grounded. There’s more spaciousness and less anxiety. I feel more proud of how I’m spending my time.
The course, the book, the habits… it all got me thinking about the idea of a Personal Code of Conduct, or even a Personal Operating System. An anchoring document that has you establishing your ideal conditions to thrive.
Operating systems are basically a set of expected rules and behaviours that govern how a system works. Your life, your body, your business… it’s all a set of systems operating within systems, each with their own rules, best practices, and optimal conditions.
Check out Gitlab’s CEO handbook, which details processes and preferences unique to Sid, the CEO of Gitlab: https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/ceo/
or how Maria Salamanca created her own Personal OS: https://superorganizers.substack.com/p/one-vc-wrote-an-os-for-her-life
And so my next project is the creation of my own Personal Operating System manual (in *Notion of course), which will be written and designed using the principles of permaculture.
Permaculture books and courses deal extensively with Zones One (the house and its immediate surroundings) through Five (the “wildlands”). However, after decades focusing on those outer zones, I’ve come to believe that the very most important zone is Zone Zero, our inner selves and our own bodies, upon which our interactions with those other zones utterly depend. – Chris Roth
I see the Personal OS as a living document to come back to again and again in order to anchor into your own values, strengths, ways of being, and conditions to thrive. The document itself is less important to me than the process of reflection that goes into the creation of such a document.
I hope to build this document into a template that my consulting clients and others could fill out as part of their journey into their own workflow design and self management.
In my consulting work I’ve noticed that most of the friction that emerges in the process of implementing good workflows happens at the habit + routine level, not at the tool level.
You can have all of the most beautiful pages and templates assembled and ready to go, but if you haven’t aligned your habits and routines with your workflows and processes, you’re going to run into friction.
Workflow design is very personal, and we have to factor in our individual circumstances, strengths, preferences, and proficiencies. This is at the core of what I teach in my course, Notion Mastery, which is really about mastering your life and business workflows using Notion. If you’re already in the course, you’ll be the first to take the future OS template for a spin!
Creating a Personal OS can help us get clear on and identify things like:
- when certain types of activities should be performed
- how to optimize our energy
- how to make our work feel more fun
- how to reduce stress
- what activities are rejuvenating
- what to say yes / no to
- what kind of information we want to consume
- what and who to avoid
among other things…
We get off track and fall into bad habits when we’re not clear on what we really want and who we want to be.
A document that is both practical and visionary can be a reminder of what matters, and what it means to operate from our highest self, whatever that means to you. It’s your life and your document: you get to write the rules!
I plan to use my now-in-progress Marie OS to help guide my decision making and help support me in my journey toward more mindful tech habits.
I’ll share what I learn along the way 🙂
[*For full disclosure, I’m a Notion Partner, so when you sign up with my link, you also help support me and my content!]