Keep a Schedule or Your Skills Will Degenerate

We have a unique challenge if we are sheltering in place or locked down right now. And I keep seeing trouble arise with the people I care about.

The challenge is, some of us aren’t used to working from home or dictating and keeping our own schedules.

And what happens when we are left to our owe devices is we seem to degenerate into mindless, unthinking indulgence and reactionary attention.

Our actions become desultory. We haven’t practiced taking the reins over ourselves, as our own boss or manager. We haven’t learned how to regulate our circadian and ultradian rhythms.

Sure, some of us have, and that’s good.

But when you can suddenly stay up as late as you want, or sleep in as long as you want… everything becomes subject to randomness.

Idleness and distractions abound.
Productivity withers.
Motivation wanes.
A sense of purposelessness (and even meaninglessness) can settle in.

And this makes it all the harder to drown out the allure to entertain ourselves at the slightest hint of boredom.

We can’t stand as single second unamused.

And the more we let that impulse drive us, the less capable we are of being focused. And the less motivated we are to be productive.

And the less focused we are, the less productive we can be when the time comes… and the lack of efficacy or fruitful results or immediate rewards from our actions leads to a sense of disappointment and futility.

When we train our brains to get instantaneous rewards (in the form of likes, comments, friend requests, messages, reactions, shares, ruby red notifications, fresh email, new news, the latest Netflix sitcom, or anything else that manages to seize and sustain our attention from these companies who have built their highly-guarded and unfathomably sophisticated technology to do that very thing––hook us, irresistibly––better than anyone or anything else)… we’re in trouble.

Because hard work isn’t instantaneously rewarding.

Our efforts rarely pay off immediately.

The finish line isn’t often in sight (indeed, the finish line often isn’t even defined).

Everything that we get out of the endlessly distracting and superficially rewarding world of super stimulators is utterly absent from the Deep Practice crucible and Deep Work arena.

That which isn’t instantly rewarding becomes all but impossible to tolerate.

And the compounding effects of avoiding the deep is a life half-lived, a brain made shallow and scattered and fragmented, and a chronic, forlorn gaze, looking back at the blurry days of your squandered life.

If that sounds dramatic; that’s fine. Drama can sometimes have a way of galvanizing us to live right if we pay attention to it properly and let its implications sink in.

Because this addiction to distraction can happen fast.

And we do it for a long enough period of time, so stooped in the soup of it, that the long-term consequences and ramifications of our addictive behavior are invisible to us.

But our empathy atrophies.
Our sensitivity to stimuli erodes.
Our attention span decays.
Our ability to focus and to read and to write and to deeply consider things and to think straight attenuates.
Our tolerance for frustration, uncertainty, and ambiguity weakens.
We become less patient.

And what we tend not to notice is that our ability to practice and develop skills and to learn and to create all require the capability and capacity to withstand frustration, live with uncertainty, and be persistent and patient.

But, like a friend you see every day who gains 50 pounds over the course of the year but you don’t really notice––the same friend who, if you had seen on New Year’s Eve, and then not again until the next Christmas, you’d notice they had blown up in size… We fail to see how we are fraying away.

Get yourself a schedule and stick to it.

A solid schedule and routine starts with sound sleep.

Strive to go to bed at the same time each night.

Even more important: wake up at the same time each morning. And get after it. Direct yourself before the world directs you.

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