Maybe You Aren't Overwhelmed. Maybe You Are Distracted.
"He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams."
“Busy.” “Overwhelmed.” “Stressed out.” When we ask each other, “How are you doing?” those are often the answers. So we buy planners, we read books about being less busy or hurried, and we try to organize our closets. Now, none of those things are bad – I (Chris) have multiple planners and I have read many books on how to have a less-frantic life (my closet is not that organized.) My point is that, as helpful as those things can be, it’s possible that the bigger issue is not that we are too busy, but that we are too distracted, and so our minds never have the chance to settle into anything.
Consider this point from Brigid Schulte in her book Overwhelmed: “All those stolen glances at the smartphone, the bursts of addictive texting and email checking at all hours with the iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry by the bed, the constant connection – even taking electronic devices into the toilet to shop – don’t show up in time diaries. Yet that activity splinters the experience of time into thousands of little pieces. And living in an always-on technological haze leads to mental exhaustion.”
Psalm 23:2 describes a peaceful scene. A meadow is both peaceful and busy, if you think about it. On the one hand, when you are in a meadow you are further away from civilization and surrounded by nature. You can feel a breeze, you can hear birds and insects, you can see green grass and flowers. On the other hand, when you look closely you can see all the creatures constantly moving, and you know the plants are working even though you can’t see their growth or photosynthesis. But when a bird is singing, it is just singing. The bird is not trying to multitask and so it feels peaceful to us.
It is encouraging for me to realize that when I feel tired and/or overwhelmed, it’s not always because I am not abiding in the vine enough or keeping a good calendar. It could also be because I am allowing technology to interrupt me. Your phone and laptop are useful tools for you to use – if YOU control THEM, not the other way around.
We reach for our devices, but they are also set up to reach out to us. Every notification is our phone initiating with us. It takes intentional effort on our part to set limits on our devices, but doing so will help us be more productive, not less. We fall for the lie that we will be more productive if we are connected all the time, and it’s helpful to remember that’s not true. Do we really need to know every time we get a new email?
- Are there any notifications you can turn off?
- How intentional are you about your use of technology? If you are just going with the flow, you will end up on your screen quite a bit. Ask God to clue you in to mindless uses, and find some small ways to cut back on those.
- Try a day without social media. Record what you notice at the end of the day.