Humans are easily distracted by a lot of things.
Smartphones, gossip, social media, substance abuse, endless email, mindless web browsing, too much TV, video games, unnecessary meetings, bargain hunting. When done in excess, these activities rob you of energy, productivity, a willingness to serve, and ultimately fulfillment.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Here are five ways to rig your environment for greater success and happiness:
- Avoid passive screen time. Many (if not most) of us use a lot of screens to get work done. I’d call those active screens, in which we’re contributing rather than taking from the world. On the other hand, passive screen time reinforces the idea of “letting things and life happen to me” as opposed to actively seeking out and doing things that that are important to you and your family. For maximum success and fulfillment, avoid passive screen time unless it’s something that truly excites you (such as a blockbuster movie, high-stakes competition, or niche medium that gets your heart racing).
- Keep a journal. Research shows that doing so increases gratitude. That alone can make you happier. But keeping a journal also lets you know yourself better, which in turn will help you make better choices in the future. Since keeping a journal several times a month, I’ve been able to turbocharge my decision-making and learn from mistakes faster than I used to.
- Say “no” to invites that don’t resonate with you. More specifically, that could be declining things that don’t interest, excite, or speak to you individually. Obviously this could be a bad thing for people with fear and confidence issues or who don’t already volunteer their time to help those in need. That group should probably say “yes” more to opportunity. But for everyone else, saying “no” more usually means saying “yes” to yourself more, which results in greater success and more oxygen to improve and maintain your own health so you can better help others. Moral of the story: be strategic with your availability.
- Declutter your mindshare. I am a devoted minimalist for several reasons—thrift, better speed, and less Murphy’s Law chief among them. On top of that, however, being a minimalist creates an environment were you literally have less to think and worry about. Fewer thoughts to distract you. That’s a powerful thing to both our productivity and mental well being. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t reward yourself or splurge on things you love. You totally should. But only do so when you truly love something, as opposed to merely liking it or feeling peer pressured to love or like something that society suggests you should.
- Play more. Unstructured play time is as healthy for adults as it is for children. The act of play lets our minds wander, which activates them in new and sometimes innovative ways. Of course, more play doesn’t always lead to greater inspiration. But more work certainly doesn’t either. In fact, overwork has been linked to burnout and stale thinking, both of which can frustrate our productivity, efficacy, and contributions to the world. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, more play results in greater success and fulfillment.
If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re already hoping to change, improve, or inspire your current trajectory for the better. For that I commend you. But I also leave you with one of my favorite quotes on finding the courage to change. It’s been attributed to a variety of modern leaders and is a superb mechanism to instill self-mastery. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
In that pursuit, I wish you luck.
This story first published to blakesnow.com in 2018