Finding Meaning in the Distraction Economy

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right? 

Well, sure. But also, when life hands you ever-changing, vastly advancing technology, you must adapt.

Without adaptation and understanding of what the changes bring, we’re at risk of losing our individuality and other necessary things associated with our lives and personalities: satisfaction, meaning, motivation, etc. 

The attached white paper dives deep into the issues at hand when finding meaning in the distraction economy, greatly influenced by Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I’ve aimed to re-write and re-deliver the many effective strategies, meant specifically for individuals with busy and inspired lifestyles or leaders wanting to advance their teams’ dedication. 

Suppose you identify with the directed audience mentioned above. In that case, this report will give insight and thorough strategies to work with intensity, accuracy, desire, and inspiration, while also achieving a more fulfilling life with meaning behind the work. By following and sticking with the steps, you will gain more depth, less shallow work, and have a better work-life balance while pertaining to your own values identified through the reading.

So, let’s *cheers* to some lemonade and get started!

Why Is It So Hard to Follow Through? A Case Study

So many ideas, so little time. Personal project after personal project and I can’t get myself to start – or if I get started, so much time goes by that I lose interest and move onto the next task or new idea (flawed decision-making*).

Why can’t I follow through? Whenever I identify a new project, I get thrilled, which makes me feel as if that would strike motivation to finish the activity. I would think. Then, life happens – I get so preoccupied with daily functions like my regular 9-5 job, cooking, cleaning, running errands, and finding time to spend with loved ones. I let myself become overwhelmed with those subjects, that when I do find time for myself, I want to “relax” and indulge in scrolling on my phone. Something I’ve always thought was harmless.

However, not so harmless – Cal Newport would suggest. Part of Newport’s theory on achieving deep work is about minimal digital entertainment, if any at all. Sounds fanatical, right? I thought so. It turns out, he has some valid points that are worth at the very least thinking about.

In two of Newport’s Wall Street Journal Best Selling books, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, the author talks on points about the effects of social media and how to tame them. While there are many details he goes into, the main takeaway is to analyze your social media/digital entertainment use and if it’s positive, negative, or has no impact on your personal and professional goals. 

Think of it this way: what do you want to get out of your use of Facebook? Most say they want to stay updated on friends’ and families’ lives, and it’s a good way to keep in touch with others. However, how much would you use Facebook if you were charged by the minute to be on the site? The number of minutes should go down significantly – meaning that the amount of time needed to get that satisfaction of connecting with others on a digital foreground is a lot less than what most of us really spend.

I decided after reading these rules that Newport has laid out, that I’m going to test this for myself, out of curiosity and out of wanting to push myself to start fulfilling my goals. 

Here’s my case study:


  1. Grow personally and professionally by learning from new experiences
  2. To create content for others, inspiring creative motivation. 

Activities that support my goals:

  1. Research and implement new ways of thinking and experimenting.
  2. Continue researching patiently and push myself to create.

Here’s my own analysis of the social media apps I use and if they are positive enough to keep using:

Here’s my plan moving forward for the next 30 days:

In the above visual representation on social media apps that are or are not worth my time, I’ve determined that Instagram is NOT personally useful; however, it would be beneficial towards my goal of creating and distributing content. Here’s the thing: I’m now quite there yet. I don’t have enough content to support this goal or to justify using the app. 

I plan to partake in a partial digital sabbatical by not using Instagram for 30 days, and in turn, use that time where I would be on Instagram to create content every day, with a prompt. 

Digital Sabbatical – long breaks from the internet. Separate from a digital sabbath, which are short, reasonably frequent breaks from the internet.

I emphasize partial because I’m not breaking up with the internet entirely, just the one app. 

By doing this, I will allow myself to focus on my goals, removing the distraction of the app, and end the experiment with enough content that would give me a head start for distribution, both this year and next. I’m also experimenting with a new process of creation which I’ve never done before: the prompt. 

I created this prompt myself, while researching other month-themed prompts that have been popular in the past. 

Using the above prompt, I aim to create visual content related to each theme and subject. So, here’s to new experimentations and we will see what the results have to hold – 30 days from now!

*Choosing to move onto another task or project when you haven’t finished the previous one is flawed decision-making. Like I stated in one of my earlier blog posts, Keeping Up with Your Ambitions, staying focused on one project at a time is best to achieve high-quality and elite level work. 

Boredom Strengthens Your Mental Muscle

Last week, I was designing silhouettes and prints/patterns for a fabric repeat for pet beds. I found myself very much enjoying the creative process – identifying the target market and researching past common trends, understanding my direction, and diving in from there. While in the midst of creating pattern repeats with their correct pantones, I found myself – out of what I thought was nowhere – on my phone scrolling through who knows what app for whatever content I somehow felt was missing from my life until then. I thought this was unnecessary, and it didn’t register why I found myself there subconsciously. 

Thinking on this subject, when I’m working on a project, I have discovered two things: that I don’t like taking breaks (except to eat and spend some time with my dog,) and I don’t like to be bored. It wasn’t until this circumstance happened – or my realization of it – that I knew these two things go hand in hand. 

Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, discusses his second rule for achieving deep work: embrace boredom. Immediately, my mind went haywire, wondering what he could refer to for this subject when deep work requires so much focus, and boredom promotes distractedness. Well that’s just it – boredom with smart devices do promote distractedness; however, we need to embrace it in order to separate it from our deep work practice. 

By doing this, there are two goals:

  1. Improve your ability to concentrate intensely.
  2. Overcome your desire for distraction.

“A culture that is stuck in the moment is one that can’t solve big problems”

Clive Thompson

There’s no doubt that we, in the digital age, are increasingly distracted by the temptations of our smartphones and what they hold within them. We become stuck in the moment – like Clive Thompson talks about in his article “Social Media is Keeping Us Stuck In the Moment” – and the present of what’s happening in the world, that we’re forgetting how to work effectively. 

Newport, in Deep Work, mentions that instead of partaking in an “internet sabbath,” or a “digital detox,” we should take a scheduled break from focus to give into distraction. In this case, we are setting ourselves up for success when we work because we won’t find ourselves subconsciously in a loop of social media when we’re not supposed to be, and instead, have given our mind ease since there will be a time, possibly soon, to gratify those desirable distractions. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post:My Facebook Detox“. This was an attempt to begin putting an end to the addiction of going on social media when not needed. During the five day period without Facebook, I realized more-so the change in push notifications than feeling the need to go on the app. Which, due to the increased push notifications, I started to think about different reasons not to go on the network site – like the addictive systems that are engineered into it, and realizing my sociometer gets put onto this public platform, which could be used against me in ways to return to the site.

Sociometer – A mental measure that notifies us how we do in the observations of others.

Source: “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks”

After my detox, however, nothing really changed. I still go on Facebook almost whenever I feel like it – and haven’t felt the need to avoid it further, despite the negative effects both the network and users can have. The feeling of wanting to go onto the app comes naturally to me.

Instead, after learning about Newport’s theory of scheduling distraction time, I thought it was remarkable. I could see already, without ever having attempted it, that it would promote better and undistracted work, while still appeasing that distraction at some point. 

I’m so thrilled by this step in the process of deep work that I decided to implement it as soon as possible. As I’m writing this section of this blog, I’m not allowing myself to go on my phone until 8:30 PM. It’s now 6:50 PM. I have an hour and 40 minutes until I get the distraction that I crave, and I’m fully invested. 

While removing yourself from the internet may be difficult on aspects besides that they’re just distractions, there are points to consider to help to structure this rule:

  • Using internet for your job? This still works. If your job highly relies on internet use for whatever it may be – email, searching the web, building websites, etc. A way to schedule your time using the internet can be done in narrower steps, say every 15 minutes. It’s important to pursue advancing your ability without the internet so that you don’t find yourself continuing to ignore the significance of this rule.
  • Scheduled time from internet use MUST be followed. Again, even if you find yourself in a predicament, not sure if you can finish a particular task without accessing the internet, you still must resist. If you give in, even if just to look at an email, you’ll likely find yourself having a hard time not glancing at another tempting distraction, such as another email that may appear urgent, though it’s not. Don’t let yourself treat the barrier between internet and no internet as permeable. 
  • Organizing time without the internet is beneficial at home, too. This will just help to really engrain the process. Of course, there are exceptions such as texting someone back who you’re meeting that same evening, or to look on your GPS for a meeting location. 

Additional helpful tools to consider adding into your day to embrace boredom and continue building your mental muscle for deep work:

  • Commit working on tasks in a certain amount of time. Challenge yourself to work on something, while using deep work, in a shorter amount of time than what you’d give yourself originally. Commit to it, too by telling others about it or setting a noticeable timer in front of your work station. This will help to push your cognitive abilities while working with intensity.
  • Productively meditate. Make sure you have time where you’re occupied physically, but not mentally, such as walking, biking, showering, etc. If going for a walk or a bike ride, try to make sure it’s in a less crowded area with some natural elements, as more productivity tends to happen when there’s less to think about outside of that realm – for example, while walking through a busy city, we tend to use more consciousness of what’s happening around us instead of thinking about what’s really important. This is a good opportunity to take a break from your work – you know, the kind that I don’t like to do because I think it’ll be too divert from the task at hand. Taking the time to do this will help you to return with a fresh mind and often times think differently than you would if you didn’t take that productive break. 
  • Frame your memory. This is a lesson for you to continue pushing your cognitive abilities, which will help when diving into deep work more often. Using attentional control – which measures your ability to maintain focus on essential information – will promote working intensely, like the first goal mentioned above. “Your ability to concentrate is only as strong as your commitment to train it.” 

Working Deeply: The Philosophies

My workdays go as such:

  1. Wake up at 5:45 AM
  2. Shower/get ready
  3. Go for a walk with my dog
  4. Make a cup of tea
  5. Work on personal projects from 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM
  6. Begin the professional workday at 9:00 AM – from home
  7. Break at 11 AM – eat lunch, spend time with my dog
  8. Finish the workday at 5:30 PM
  9. Have a beer with my SO
  10. Cook dinner, if needed
  11. Misc. – watch TV, social media, etc.
  12. Bed by 10 PM

Though days may vary slightly, this is my go-to routine each day. It seems to work – until I get distracted by factors like social media, music, my dog acting up, etc. I haven’t come up with a solution to resolving the implications that come from this. While some of the issues are out of my control (usually – sometimes, if my dog is acting up, it could be because we skipped a morning walk); however, most of it is due to my habits. I oftentimes want to be distracted.

A 2012 study called the “experience sampling method” had 205 adults with beepers. When the beeper went off, the individuals wrote down how they felt and what desires they had – which resulted in the conclusion that people fight their desires all day long. This study was done by psychologists Wilhelm Hofmann and Roy Baumeister, described in Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. What’s most interesting about this study is that the typical desires that the adults felt were related to shallow activities like going on social media, surfing the web, and listening to music. They only succeeded in resisting these distractions half of the time.

“You’re a disciple of depth in a shallow world.”

Cal Newport

The above quote struck me, as I think significantly about work in a professional business surrounding versus otherwise. By attempting to achieve depth, I’ve quickly learned that my professional work layout does not help promote deep work, but instead, shallow work. 

David Dewane, an architecture professor, who met with Newport, author of Deep Work, discussed a system called “The Eudaimonia Machine.” In fact, this machine is actually a building represented for individuals to achieve deep work, though it is only an illustration. 

The Eudaimonia MachineA rectangular building with five rooms and no hallways, meaning to get to any place within the structure, you would need to go through the other rooms. 

  1.  The Gallery. A space that acts as an introductory room with examples of work produced within the building meant for inspiration of others.
  2. The Salon. A social space with a coffee bar, full bar, seating, and WIFI, meant for discussion and argumentation between people.
  3. The Library. “The hard drive” space with a record of everything created within the space; copiers, and scanners helps collect information.
  4. The Office. A space with a conference table, whiteboard, and some other desks or cubicles. This is meant for some of the shallow-type collaboration and thoughts. 
  5. The Deep Work Chambers. 6’x10’ rooms that are soundproof, meant for uninterrupted work and total focus. Dewane mentions that the process should be 90-minute intervals of being in and being out of these rooms. 

I explain the rooms in order of the eudaimonia machine because this would be an effective workspace that promotes deep work; whereas, most business settings have developed their spaces on openness and collaboration, which actually encourages shallow work. 

Thinking to myself, “I hope there’s a way to incorporate this into the open, meeting-filled style of the corporate setting.” Luckily, Newport explains helpful strategies that individuals could absorb, which will aid their efforts – in any environment – and be focused around deep work.

Choose your work philosophy:

  • The monastic philosophy. This philosophy encourages maximizing deep efforts by removing shallow obligations. An excellent example to understand this is by making a tremendous and impactful change on routines – such as deleting email altogether. Doing this will be more difficult for others or yourself to get in touch with each other; however, it removes the daily and time consuming shallow work of checking and responding to emails. 
  • The bimodal philosophy. This philosophy asks you to dissect time with stretches for deep pursuits, and the remaining time is open to everyone and can also be shallow. Carl Jung’s approach to deep work uses this strategy. He identifies a large amount of time to go to a small home in the woods dedicated solely to work, where contrastingly, uses the rest of his time away from this space to collaborate, be involved, and do shallow work. 
  • The rhythmic philosophy. Using this strategy is the easiest way to implement deep work in your daily life. Examples include: writing a joke every day if you’re a comedian (Jerry Seinfeld’s approach to never-ending jokes,) marking X’s on a calendar for when you’ve completed something, or setting aside time each day specific for deep work. 
  • The journalistic philosophy. Shifting gears by using whatever free time available is the backbone of this philosophy. Doing the deep work needed to complete a project can be done at any given moment, possibly going as far as socializing with friends, then actively working away from them, then back with friends after a few hours. 

Looking back to my routine for each workday, I find myself in the rhythmic philosophy standard. Using time each morning (7:30 AM – 9 AM) to work on my personal projects promotes a rhythmic routine and ritual into my deep work practice. While this is the first step in identifying how to change your work habits for deep work, many additional factors will help as well.

Additional helpful tips:

  • Schedule your time. Know where you’re going to work and how long, know how you’ll do after getting started, and know how you can support your work. Reference project management tasking in another blog, “Help, I Need More Time! A Discussion on Project Management.” 
  • Choose spaces that will promote thinking deeply. Move to a radically different place from your familiar environment, and get inspired by your undistracted surroundings.
  • Work with others, at least sometimes. Though collaboration settings like open workspaces actually promote shallow work, having others bounce ideas off is helpful. When the time allows, and it’s reasonable, choose to use the whiteboard effect*.
  • Shut down at the end of each day. Choose when you are finished with work for the day and make it known to yourself and others that you will not be thinking about the jobs at hand until the following day. However, this can be easier said than done; make a ritual of ending the workday by thinking ahead on what tasks still need finishing, and how you can achieve that at another time. This will help you to work better when you do return to work and lets your brain rest. 
  • Convince yourself that you’re multitasking – even though you aren’t. A study is written and measured by Shalena Srna, Rom Y. Schrift, and Gal Zauberman in “The Illusion of Multitasking and Its Positive Effect on Performance,” focused on the effects of subject perception of multitasking. After many focus groups with controlled and varied elements, the conclusion was that if you have the perception of multitasking, your work will be performed better. This isn’t to get confused with the studies showing that multitasking does impair your abilities to complete a task successfully (like Sophie Leroy’s article “Why Is It So Hard to Do My Work?”). The mere outlook on completing tasks has the power to make you create work more successfully. 

*The Whiteboard Effect: A back-and-forth collaboration, frequently on a shared whiteboard, can push you to think deeper than if you were to do this alone.

Help, I Need More Time! A Discussion on Project Management

Imagine this: you’ve decided to make a courageous and ambitious decision to start a side hustle, to design and sell products via an e-commerce based website. You’ve heard time and time again from others “starting a business is not easy!” and “most startup businesses fail, you need to have a plan and work hard,” which is not wrong. However, you’ve identified the perfect white space opportunity, are knowledgeable about the industry, and are in the prime of your professional life – sure that starting an online business is doable for you.

Inevitably, you’ve run across an overwhelming state of assessing what needs to be done to make the site go live, not focusing yet on what will need to be done afterward. You’re scrambling, wondering when to make time for all of these tasks that need to be done to create a successful website. Starting the business sooner rather than later feels ideal, but you’re unsure how to set everyday deadlines and stick to them with an already busy lifestyle.

What’s missing here is a visual organization process of all tasks to meet successful criteria, achieving goals by a specified time. The best way to start this is to look into and begin implementing a project management process into your life, focusing specifically on day-to-day tasks. Determine what is necessary for beginning your determined journey:

  • Understand your scope. Create your project plan.
    • Know how to access resources. Use templates to make processes easier, recognize who you may be able to talk to, and grow your knowledge or product.
    • Know your risks. What could potentially be an issue when developing your site? What could possibly be an issue when developing your product? Think of everything and have a plan.
  • What are your objectives? 
    • Scope. Continue to reference what your scope is for your plan.
    • Identify your timeline. Start with one, then move onto another.
    • Decide on a budget, and go with it.

Once you’ve identified all of what’s above, it’s also essential to understand working with your time on a personal standpoint. Identify what’s most important to you along with the implementation of a side hustle. You’re struggling with time involving professional endeavors, but what about personal time? The idea here is to work smarter, not harder, so that quality of life, in turn, remains high. Downtime aids in recharging energy. Closing your mind from work at the end of each day is essential in promoting healthy work during the next day, a strategy for routines from Cal Newport in his book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. How, especially when starting a business (possibly all on your own), can you not work too hard? 

  • Know your abilities. Identify if you’re the best person to be doing a task, and ask for help. For example, f you aren’t knowledgeable in marketing, use resources, if possible, to get assistance with this. Remember, getting feedback from others helps aid in success too.
  • Understand your boundaries. Learn to say no, and make it known to others. You can assess this yourself when “no” is necessary.
  • Set your daily calendar. Schedule each day. This is where the project management system comes in handy.
  • Speak to others. Again, use your resources and know when to reach out. If you have access to someone who may have been a mentor before or could potentially be one in the future, ask for support. Getting assessed or assessing others helps build you up professionally.
  • Implement processes. Document ways to achieve any particular task. Measure it to ensure that it works and adjust them from there. 
  • Ask questions. Change happens, and we need to adapt with it. Ask yourself how you’re doing things currently, and update them according to times, trends, technologies, etc.

Thus far, my project management knowledge has been gained throughout my professional career, using software like Netsuite and Asana. These have been useful tools for managing many deadlines and scheduling with capacity in mind. Personally, I have not used a tool for project management, but now is as good a time as ever when venturing on a journey with deep work. 

I began my individual project management journey with a course from my Master’s program (Interactive Media and Communications at Quinnipiac University) so that I can keep track of my coursework in a timely and intact manner. The tool that I decided to use for this is Trello. I’ve found that Trello is visual-based – you can attach images and assign deadlines, which helps ease use.

Screenshot of Trello Module Setup
Screenshot of Trello “do” “doing” “done”

The method used above is called Kanban*, which is the most efficient day-to-day project management technique.

Kanban – a method for project management that helps in continual delivery, processing tasks in cards like “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” 

In the past, my strategies for assigning myself tasks for personal projects have been to scribble thoughts onto the closest pieces of paper I can find at any given moment. This helped me in an instant, however, it has become an issue when I still can’t find the time to achieve these, but also when I lose the tiny scribble in my mess of random notes. 

Using Trello to layout my assignments with due dates has proven to be a successful transition from my little scribbles. 

  1. Everything can be found in one place! I’m not searching through my computer or desk for a random piece of information that’s critical, but hard to find.
  2. Trello sends reminder emails. If somehow you’ve spaced on a task that should be due soon, Trello recognizes this and sends you a reminder.
  3. Sense of accomplishment. The “Things to do,” “doing,” and “done” cards help me stay organized and visually see all of what I’ve executed, encouraging a feeling of fulfillment.

*Kanban is the method used and described through this blog post. If you’re interested in project management methods that are not specified for everyday tasks, see this article: “The Definitive Guide to Project Management Methodologies” which will explain the other useful management strategies.

My Facebook Detox

Throughout the past five days (today is day six), I’ve been enduring an experiment where I’ve learned that social media is addictive, distracting, and not as necessary as I may have thought before. 

Here’s my journey on proactively attempting to be impotent on using one of the most popular and influential social media websites and apps in the world: Facebook. I’ve gone over 120 hours without once opening or interacting on the site. The cognitive voyage has not been comfortable; however, it has been very telling. Here it goes.

Toy designs done on day 1 of experiment

Day 1 (Tuesday): I’m busy. I just started a new job and need to stay focused on my immediate large project which threw me right into the position with minimal training. I don’t have an issue with not opening Facebook. I know that I can’t, and I don’t. 

I realized already on day one that I can achieve Deep Work: undistracted amounts of time, which push cognitive abilities to their limits. My designs were flowing*, and my pace kept moving faster as I was getting used to the process. The pressure was there, but it drove me to work better without the distractions and keep my focus on what was important. 

*flow: a term that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses to describe a mental state when someone is stretching their mind to its limits to achieve something difficult and worthwhile. Cal Newport in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World uses this connection to illustrate why Deep Work is meaningful. 

Day 2 (Wednesday): 24 hours after starting this process, I haven’t opened my Facebook app, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. 

I got a friend request within these first hours – I know because I received a push notification. At the beginning of this experiment, I thought about turning my push notifications off to be less tempted to use the app, but I decided last minute not to because:

  1. I didn’t want to go through the (minimal) hassle of turning them off just to turn them back on again once I was done with my five-day undergo.
  2. I wanted to see if my experience would be more enticing – and, therefore, a little more interesting. I was right about this.

I received several push notifications that I had to ignore. At this time, the number showing up on my app is at 13. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever willingly allowed the reports to get this high, and yes, it did seem high to me. 

I’ve concluded that notifications residing on an app are always alluring to me – enough so if just to open the app to remove the numbers attached to it. I resisted doing this as well.

Only under 10 hours later, my notifications still reside at 13. In my head, I wonder, “maybe there’s a cap on the number of notifications that show on my Facebook app?” That can’t be it…. Right? However, it seems that when I access Facebook more often, I get more push notifications sent to my phone. I thought, “maybe this is just a way that they keep me returning for useless feed because they know that I come back for more.” Which is possible – Ramsay Brown in “What is “Brain Hacking?” Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care” describes us social media users as “guinea pigs,” referring to us being used in experiments through Silicon Valley – based on the data of how we use our phones, then changing our device’s reactions to get us returning to our apps.

Screenshot of notifications on app *painful*

“Put simply, the less time you spend on Facebook doing things that don’t matter, the fewer notifications you’ll get for things that don’t matter.“

“Facebook’s Notifications Are Out of Control. Here’s How to Tame Them.” By Eric Ravenscraft

Day 3 (Thursday): Now, the app has recognized that I haven’t gone on it for 48 hours; the notifications are at 19. So there’s not a cap on these numbers like I initially thought. They must just slow down. 

Also during this day, I encountered something fascinating: I received a Facebook notification through email. This caught my attention right away (as I also get push notifications of when emails arrive), and I thought it was odd. Doing some research, I haven’t gotten a notification through email AT ALL before now – and I’ve had this particular email linked to my Facebook for five years. Just a happenstance? I think not.

Screenshot of an emailed Facebook notification

Day 4 (Friday): 22 notifications. Work’s done, and now it’s time for the weekend. I’m having a more challenging time not using Facebook this day. My thumb still absent-mindedly hovers over the app on my phone screen, but I catch myself every time. This only happens when I’m bored and looking for some comfortable brain stimulation through social media. Like Newport has put it in his book Deep Work: we tend to gravitate towards easy work. 

Screenshot of notifications on app *more painful*

I never really thought of myself as addicted – and I know that I already use my phone less than others around me. When I have physical interactions with friends and family, I typically forget to use my phone – though I still have it in the convenient placement: my pocket. However, I’ve quickly identified that I almost unawarely open social media several times throughout the day, no matter what I’m doing, if not stimulated enough – unless using Deep Work. 

Growing up, I had an issue with how much I watched television. THAT, I believe, was a young addiction. However, I made it essential that we never had the TV on while eating dinner with family. It made it too difficult to have actual conversations. 

At that age, I realized that most other families did not do this and sat while immersed watching whatever was on the television at the time, whether it really mattered or not. As phone technology progressed, I also noticed that this became a distractor during family dinners as well. This is where I made connections that TV and phones’ advancement continued to become more influential in our lives.

Jean M. Twenge in “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” invented a generation name for those who have not been alive without the internet, or were very young when the internet first emerged (1995-2012): iGen. This generation uses their time distinctly different from other generations, even millennial’s where some of them might be close in age. The time used is mostly on their phones, at home, with little human interaction with friends and family – because they have easy access to be able to communicate through smart devices instead. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the amount of time is what’s to worry about. Lydia Denworth in “Social Media Has Not Destroyed a Generation” determines at the end of the article, that it’s not how much it’s being used that affects your mindset, it’s how much you feel you control it (or if it’s controlling you). 

This is where I’ve realized that I’m not addicted, and I can control myself with social media, and therefore, being less affected by the use of it. 

Day 5 (Saturday): I’m at my family cabin, for what’s probably the last time this year before we close it up for Winter. As I sit out on the end of the dock, dog by my side, views of the calm, clear lake water and a slight change in leaves, with soft clouds grazing the blue sky, I feel peaceful. It’s an escape from the attention that I typically seek through social media – when I don’t have anything else to do. I don’t need my phone up here – the views, surroundings, and company are all I need. It’s where I can spend actual quality time with who I consider being my family – we get to know each other better up here. And a great influence in this is that there’s no social media to distract and take away from it.

Day 6 (Sunday – today): The experiment is over according to the timeline set for this. However, I didn’t instantly feel the need to open my Facebook and see what I’ve been missing. In fact, it was the opposite. I almost felt that opening the app now would be disappointing. As I write this section of the blog at home now, I don’t want the tangled mess of endless notifications and scrolling through feed to see mostly pointless memes and content that doesn’t matter and doesn’t bring satisfaction. I want to focus on what matters to me; like science writer, Winifred Gallagher has said: 

“I’ll choose my targets with care… Then give them my rapt attention. In short, I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is.”

Winifred Gallagher in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Individuality – Don’t Let it Disappear

Media is a diversion.

While most of us love the escape it creates – the flight is typically unnecessary and often overused. There are also questions on if what we view through our smart devices is real or not real – and does it matter if it sustains our brains for just a little bit?

Big tech companies have been adjusting how we digest information on smart devices for quite some time now. Our gadgets are meant to be addictive and create algorithms for each individual, which help promote sales, and other content which occasionally seems unnecessary.

Tristan Harris describes in “What is “Brain Hacking”? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care” that these companies are “shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people. They are programming people.”
Larry Rosen, a psychologist of technology, also mentions in the same article that we tend to check our phones every 15 minutes or less, even if there’s no alert.

We’re addicted.

“Over time, the long merger of man and machine has worked out pretty well for man. But we’re drifting into a new era, when that merger threatens the individual.”

– Franklin Foer

We’re at risk for our individuality.

Especially during these times – while in a Pandemic – social media and use of smart devices have increased significantly.

Screenshot of graph from “When a Virus Goes Viral: Pros and Cons to the Coronavirus Spread on Social Media”

With the added use that most of us are indulging in during our time at home, we’ve let ourselves become even more addicted, and even more susceptible to Silicon Valley engineering our brains through our gadgets.

Additionally, with our overuse of this screen-sucker, we’ve discovered that news (whether real or fake) is just that – news that we indulge. S. Harris Ali and Fuyuki Kurasawa in “#COVID19: Social Media Both a Blessing and a Curse During Coronavirus Outbreak,” state that there is a “coronavirus infodemic.”

Coronavirus Infodemic – affects our responses and advances confusion on what sources are trustworthy, causing fear and furthering rumors.

It appears that we’ve become more accepting of information that we see or read, without confirming if it’s real or not. For example, the conspiracy theories on if masks actually work, resulting in the comprehensive push back from (mainly) Americans.

Social media = information poison

So here are some words of advice:

Use some of your time each day to be without any smart devices. This will allow you to be yourself without the constant algorithms shaping what and how you might think. Learn to be yourself, and DON’T let yourself lose your individuality!

Is Shallow Work “Normal”? Capacity Building in Terms of Deep Work

Having the capacity to complete tasks is essential, there’s no doubt about that. This goes the same whether you build your schedule or are in a “normal”* 9-5 setting with many peers. In my experience, capacity is hard to make; however, not unachievable. 

We’ll start by assessing business-type capacity, then move onto building capacity for yourself. 

Business setting:

You’ll notice that I use a fair amount of quotation marks throughout this blog post section. Bear with me, and you’ll discover why.

Capacity building meetings, with a base of: “how can we stop unnecessary work and make time for what’s most important?” as well as working with others who need information sent back to them STAT are examples of what I’ve experienced in a business setting. Including adding chat apps instead of email for the “short, quick, and easy” way to communicate, moving workstations closer together to encourage collaboration, and have many meetings scheduled – no matter what the “important” subject is. 

In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, businesses have been gravitating towards open spaces and collaborative environments, thinking that this is a great way to get employees communicating effectively and continuously. However, this promotes distractions, and in hand, reduces deep work while advances shallow work. If you’re unfamiliar with deep work – reference another of my blog posts, Keeping Up With Your Ambitions

Shallow work – logistic-style knowledge work with not much need for cognitive ability, which doesn’t add much value to this world’s content.

Another personal example of working with a business – which often finds capacity building difficult, while also promoting shallow work – is that working from home “does not work.” Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, where working from home has become much more influential, we’ve had to discover what this means for businesses and how to make it work. For some companies, the transition has been much smoother, where others have had difficulties. 

Personally, working from home has been successful, and here’s why:

  • I’ve been able to have fewer distractions.
  • I have had the opportunity to find answers to my questions myself, making my work feel more fulfilling. 
  • I’ve been able to focus on the work that’s important.

Disclaimer: this may not work for every individual, as some positions require much communication, and yes – communication is typically “easier” while in person. 

Note: The use of “easier” above also contributes to the principle of least resistance. As Newport describes it: the easy work – like directing questions towards others instead of solving it themselves – is increasingly more acceptable in the workplace because of the promotion of collaboration. 

= distracted work. 

The businesses that have resistance to change by not allowing working from home unless absolutely necessary is a result of not having clear information on whether this actually works. There’s no data available to confirm that being home while working is beneficial, and therefore, has been placed within the metric black hole. 

Metric Black Hole – An area in our system that makes it hard to measure individual contributions. 

Deep Work capacity building:

How can you build your capacity and complete your tasks in a timely and effective manner:

It’s basically doing the opposite of what businesses are increasingly advancing towards with their employees.

  1. Remove yourself from the collaborative setting, at least for a bit. People tend to think they need answers quickly to resume their work and will add distractions to your work. Noting back to the principle of least resistance, this is an attempt to make their work easier. Set aside time for where you ONLY work on your tasks – that means no email, no chat, no phone, and make it known, among others.
  2. Don’t try to make yourself look busy just for the substance of it. Just because you may look busy doesn’t mean you’re productive. Busyness as a proxy for productivity is a trend among workers who may not have clear indicators of their work value and, therefore, choose to have the visibility of being busy. Make time for what matters – whether you’re truly busy or not.
  3. And remember, remove yourself from distractions. Again, find a time where there’s no email, no chat, and NO PHONE. Make sure the time without your phone is the longest, as this is a distraction always. It’s true that phones, whether they’re used for work or personal, have addictive qualities. “This thing is a slot machine,” spoken by Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, on smartphones in the article “What is “Brain Hacking”? Tech Insiders On Why You Should Care”. Find time without these distractions, and you will thrive.

I’m ending this blog post with a substantial quote; take the time to think about what this means for you while you’re building your capacity to create what you love.

“Creativity is above all a mental act. Any time one has to make a choice, any choice, there is an opportunity to be creative and therefore, the possibility to make more of one’s life.”

Richard Stine

*Normal. How can “normal” be defined? The world is ever-changing, and so are our norms. Advancing technology and the growing spirit of self-starters (not to mention the Pandemic that we’re residing in) are, in turn, increasing the ability and willingness to transform the way we work. Speaking from personal experience and my audience’s desire to thrive with creativity: do what feels right and screw all the judgmental cynics that turn their nose to you. “Normal” can and should be individualistic – do your normal. 

Creating for Others in a World of Cynicism

Cynicism can be described as a general lack of trust or belief in those inspired by ambition. 

As described in another blog post, Keeping up with Your Ambitions, deep work needs to be involved to achieve them in an elite way. Those with ambitions desire to accomplish something through hard work. With growing initiatives in each individual, new tasks must evolve with technology and our continued screen-focused world. How we produce work needs to be modified with our ever-changing environments.

“The resonance of printed books – their lineal structure, the demands they make on our attention – touches every corner of the world we’ve inherited. But online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures.”

– Michael Harris

In his article “I Have Forgotten How to Read,” Harris talks about how reading in a screen style setting has affected the way he takes in the information. However, different generations can adapt contrastingly to others, which means that younger generations are typically willing and able to take in information from a screen. 

This goes hand in hand with the way we produce work. 

I used to draw and paint using 2D methods with a pencil or paintbrush to put things into perspective. Using the physical technique directly onto a piece of paper or canvas is original to me; however, I haven’t used this form of generating work in years. I’ve adapted to using computer-aided systems in making art. This doesn’t mean I should stop creating in my original form; it just states that I have moved onto another way of creation which works better for my audience. 

In addition to my change in the way I develop art, I’ve altered my work quantity depending on media situations and trends. Meaning I may make more or less art depending on circumstances like societal changes.

Harris’s interesting comparison is that online algorithms tend to generate unwanted content, referred to as “garbage,” where creators and their content is similar in the aspect that ideas are generated quickly and sometimes unnecessarily. “Beauty in, beauty out,” he said. This analogy is with a cynical mindset.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for creating while cynicism is involved.


  • Understand that the world is changing, and not everyone adapts with it. You’re creating for an audience, and in doing so, your audience may change over time. This is not a bad thing; learn to adapt with the change and continue to create for your audience.
  • Learn what your audience needs. Depending on notions like societal changes, cultural context, author history, can change what your audience is looking for. Continue to identify what their needs are in these aspects.
  • Remember what deep work is and how to eliminate distractions. Focus on your deliberate practice by continuing to develop your skills and keep attention where it’s most productive. Remove yourself from distractions that will prevent you from doing this.


  • Use social proof as a means for manipulating your media. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson in his article, “How to Remember What You Read,” social proof is identified with opinions of audiences and media. It can be manipulated by the creator to make a piece of work more known. Creators may have access to buy their way into producing a popular project – recognize this and be authentic in your own way.
  • Believe your content is garbage. It’s not for everyone. “Beauty in, beauty out” is an excellent way to reference your work when creating according to the times and trends. The relevance of what’s made may not always be there, but the value behind what you make leads to more successful creations.
  • Stop creating. Grow from what you learn from each piece of work. Make a list of projects you want to do, and give yourself a timeline, while focusing on one task at a time. This will help you become the best in your field.

To sum up, creating work in a world of cynicism is in the will to adapt.

Keeping up with Your Ambitions

Having ambition – whether it be for self stimulus or an audience – is common among creators. However, this isn’t always easy.

As a creator myself, I often find my brain going in all sorts of directions. The ongoing projects that snag on my mind keep me motivated; however, if I focus on all at once, I honestly won’t achieve each idea to my fullest potential. But why is that?

In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, full professor Adam Grant has mastered deep work at an elite level. 

Deep Work – put in short – is the act of distracted free concentration, which can create new and unrepeatable value to content in this world if done successfully. 

Newport interviewed Grant to learn how he’s achieved deep work while maintaining a work-life balance. A noteworthy way Grant produced material at an elite level was by sectioning off each piece of work into one long period; meaning, no multitasking

Multitasking nowadays is often identified as a skill in this screen-run world of advancing technologies and entrepreneurial attributes in organizations. However, juggling work is not the answer to achieve high-quality work, even if tasks need to be done in a short amount of time. Attention residue, introduced by Sophie Leroy in her article “Why Is It So Hard to Do My Work?” is an effect that comes with multiple projects, or moving quickly from one project to another. The residue left over from a previous task is often passed onto the next job, making the quality of work less valuable. This is important to understand when working with high ambitions.

If you’re a determined creator like I am, and have multiple light bulb ideas which are essential, here are a few steps to help keep those ambitions rolling:

  • Remove yourself from distractions. Give yourself a distraction-free workspace. This includes turning off or removing your phone from your space, which affects your cognitive ability. If working on a computer, don’t have email or any other tabs open unrelated to your task. Choose to work without music. Ensure that the time dedicated to your work is by yourself – no one else should be able to approach you during this time.
  • Dedicate to one project at a time. This helps to keep focus for the best outcome. If you’re worried about time, think of it this way: time used to master one task helps build the next one’s skills. By keeping focus and practicing your most productive approach will also lead to turning jobs around faster.
  • Give yourself a break. Once done or almost done with a project, take a break. Mentally move onto another part of your life – not another project just yet. Use this time to receive feedback from peers on your work so you can go back to refine it for the best outcome. 
  • Learn from the process. Using these steps is a form of deep work, where you can build your skills in the process of mastery. Keep your attention where it’s most productive – take advantage of what you learned from your previous task and adapt in order to develop your expertise.

Remember these steps and keeping up with your ambitions will become fluent!