Ever since getting back from New York, I’ve been making more of a conscious effort to slow down, get quiet, and find more peace throughout the day. I definitely believe in staying informed, but I also think it’s important to choose when to go in search of information, as opposed to getting bombarded with it all day long. Too much stimulation and information can wreak havoc on your productivity and focus, especially if you’re an introvert like me. Not to mention that it can take an obscene length of time to get back on task after distractions. In both my work life and my personal life, the quieter the better. Here are a few of the ways I consciously create more peace for myself each day.
1. Learn to Love Do Not Disturb
I cannot stand phone notifications. I have kept mine off or on vibrate mode for years now, and my social life has, amazingly, not suffered all that much. I highly recommend doing this (and so does Wired). I love that I don’t get pinged all day, and as a result of doing this I have suffered literally zero major consequences. I probably miss about 1-2 calls per month, but I just call people back! It’s amazing!
Even if you’re not in a position where you can turn all your phone notifications off, I’d encourage you to play around with them. On my iPhone I can set all kinds of combinations for notifications – for example, I have set it up so that I get iMessage notifications on my lock screen, but not Facebook Messenger ones, and Snapchat notifications just appear as a little number on the app itself. Rather than just choosing the default, play around with selecting the ones you actually want to see.
I also love using Do Not Disturb mode while I’m working and don’t want any interruptions, on both my phone and my computer (which I only recently learned how to do). I cannot overstate how much this has increased my productivity, so much so that I sometimes leave it on all day long for both devices. Boomerang, my favourite Gmail extension, recently released a new “Pause” feature for your email inbox that allows you to stop emails from coming in for a certain period of time, in case you need to keep your email open to access other information or files, but don’t want to be pulled away into new work.
2. Be Woke Without Waking Up to the News
I got this wonderful turn-of-phrase from Austin Kleon, who describes this point so eloquently in his blog post on the topic. The gist is that we do not need to read the news (or our Facebook feeds, or our emails, or check our social media feeds) first thing in the morning before we’ve had a chance to even start the day.
The way I handle this is by putting my phone on Airplane mode every night before I go to bed and leaving it that way overnight, only turning it off once I have written in my journal, meditated, and gotten ready for the day ahead. This suggestion has been controversial when I’ve brought it up to friends (ie. what if someone needs to reach you urgently?) but for now I am taking the chance. As an alternative, you could just turn off all home screen notifications or keep your phone in another room so that you don’t pick it up until it’s time to leave the house.
3. Unfollow & Unfriend
I love Instagram, and I love watching Instagram stories – they’re so fun and it’s interesting to see what people are up to! Know what I don’t like? Endless scrolling on my phone, or sitting through looooong Instagram stories that I don’t find interesting. But I find that the way that stories and newsfeeds are set up means that I want to watch everything that’s in front of me, and keep scrolling until I’ve “seen it all”. The best way I’ve found to combat this is to limit what “it all” consists of.
You can mute any Instagram story by pressing & holding the story and choosing “Mute”. I have muted many of the people I follow and have not missed their stories one bit. Some I love and am happy to watch every time, but these days I usually only have about 5 waiting for me, which feels much more manageable. I also routinely unfollow people whose posts I don’t enjoy or that I just scroll past without even really looking or reading the captions. This also goes for Facebook friends – unfriending or “hiding” people’s updates can save you a lot of time and cut down on the noise.
4. Limit How People Can Reach You
Who you follow online is one thing, but being selective about the ways information can reach you goes even beyond that. For instance, I have an email address devoted to signing up for email newsletters so that all the junk doesn’t come anywhere near my main email inbox. My regular email account is only for personal and business emails, and everything else gets unsubscribed from.
When I give out my business contact information, I never include my phone number, and as a result am able to field inquiries more easily (for me!) over email. For some people, the opposite might be true – you might prefer to only give out your phone number instead of your email address to new contacts. Whichever way you decide, stick to it, and things will quiet down as people learn they can only contact you in a limited number of ways. This is one of the ways we set expectations!
If you use Slack, set it up to automatically Snooze Notifications overnight once your work hours are over each day. Set yourself a personal rule that you don’t check email in the evenings after a certain time of night. Let all calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail. Wherever you can, protect your time and your energy as much as possible.
5. Have Leisure Time Without Screens
Last but not least, try to find ways to relax, rest, and restore without looking at screens. Trust me, my default setting is to “relax” by surfing the internet or watching a show online, but I always feel more rested if I go longer periods of time without using screens. Having periods of time when I don’t look at my phone literally feels like a mental vacation.
For me, these kinds of screen-free leisure activities include going outside, reading books from the library, listening to podcasts, knitting, napping with my phone in the other room, cooking while listening to music or an audiobook, doing yoga, going for a run, and writing.
Has life felt noisy for you lately? What are some ways you make your own life quieter and more peaceful?