One of the crucial factors in rebooting your life is the time to consider what is going on in your life and what has to change. This quiet time is critical, but it can be hard to find. A reader asked a question on how to do it.
“Quiet Time: Did you have trouble with this one? The last time I attempted to have ‘quiet time’, I went on a 3 day mini vacation, just me. The place had no TV, no phones, was away from the crowds, and hardly any cell service so no phone calls, texts or emails. I came back to a nightmare. It took me months to get everything at work and at home back together.”
My Experience With Quiet Time
I have a tendency not to take large chunks of quiet time away from my family. With work I do take time off, but the nature of the work I do means that I can wrap things up before hand, and little will be placed on my plate while I am out.
One of the reasons I don’t take large chunks of time away from my family is because, from experience, I know I will not utilize it fully. It is better for me to find pockets of time and intensely focus in order to get the time to think.
So today I will walk you through getting the most out of quiet time. Next Tuesday I will talk about how to find that quiet time, if the rebooting process doesn’t get you the time you need.
Freeing Up Time
In my previous article, I went into detail about how to shut down the various aspects of your life in order to get some breathing room to think. In some cases it might be a permanent shut down of an activity; or it might be just a temporary hold. Regardless, if you did this, you should find that you have much more unscheduled time for a week or two.
Utilizing the Free Time
Most of the free time you have won’t be in uninterrupted stretches. It will probably come in half-hour snatches, or if you are really lucky, and entire evening or weekend day.
The first thing you need to do to make the most of this time is to set a limit. If your time is less than 30 minutes, you’re fine. Otherwise, work the Pomodoro method , and do 20 minute increments followed by 5 minutes breaks.
Next, and I cannot emphasize this enough, set a goal for the time. Your goal might be to list all the areas of your life. It might be to list the positives and negatives of each area. It might be cleaning out your project list. But whatever it is, decide what your outcome is. If you are easily distracted (as I am) I found it helps to write the goal on a sticky note and keep it in my field of vision.
Dive In Deep
I didn’t know this was called Deep Work until I read Cal Newport’s book. But Deep Work is a focused session of intense work. Making the most of your bits of time to do the reboot will require deep work. You must be able to think.
If you are like most of the people these days, your ability to focus has probably degraded (there is a great explanation of why in the book Deep Work). So use these tips to get your focus back
- Remove distractions. If you are working at a computer, shut off all other programs. Silence your phone. Clear your desk of papers. Get everything out of your field of vision that distracts you.
- Use headphones. Noise can derail us too. Using headphones with music or a noise app can make it easier to focus. I like Coffivity and Ambiance
- Set a timer. When I have trouble getting started, I set a timer. Not to let me know when to stop, but to get me going. I tell myself I don’t have to watch the clock because the timer is doing it for me. The timer also allows you to keep track of pomodoros (above).
- Use paper and pen. I find that switching to paper and pen allows me to slow down and get deeper into the process. I did my “thinking” about this last reboot in my bullet journal, and I found that I thought better, and got more done. Plus there was no temptation to stop and check email.
This is another Cal Newport term, but is what my grandfather called “clearing the fog.” In essence, you go for a walk without any audio input (leave the headphones behind) and think about a single issue. Bring your mind back to the issue when it wanders, and challenge yourself to remember everything you came up with.
Productive meditation allows you to think on a topic while not putting concentrated effort on it. It allows you to see things peripherally, and can often lead to breakthroughs.
By finding your free time, utilizing that free time as it comes, diving in deep and meditating productively, you will find that you can get the thinking time, or “quiet time” you need to consider what you are going to stop, and what you will continue with.