Lose Your Headphones

A recovering workaholic’s thoughts on being present…

The other day I was digging thru my things trying to find my earbuds so I could listen to an audiobook I had been binging recently.

They were nowhere to be found.

damn it…not again…where did I leave my headphones…

damn it…not again…where did I leave my headphones…

You see, I’m an avid consumer of audiobooks, podcasts, and music whenever I venture around a city. But seeing as I had no headphones I was forced to go without as I hit the sidewalk and headed to the Central Library in Den Haag.

This strange thing happened when I left the house. I could hear birds chirping, cyclists hitting the road heading to work, and the sounds of a bustling city.

I felt present.

Is this what outside feels like? @ Den Haag, Netherlands

Is this what outside feels like? @ Den Haag, Netherlands

I could think clearly and uninterrupted without Eminem or the Greatest Showman soundtrack blaring in my ears.

The truth is I have been struggling with writer’s block for a few weeks. I have so many ideas for what to write while I’m traveling but no idea how to say it.

As I was walking through a gorgeous park in Den Haag, I started thinking about what I could write and what I’ve learned that I would like to share with others.

All of sudden the writer’s block was gone and I had a flood of clarity on how to write the piece I had been tossing around in my head for what felt like weeks.

It felt like I finally had the space to think.

A soon as I could, I sat down and began writing and finished pages and pages of work that had sat unfinished for weeks. Including the idea for this article :)

You and I live in this world of this constant bombardment of productivity porn (videos and articles glorifying working to the point of killing yourself), addictive learning (I NEED to learn more every second when I’m not working or I won’t keep up), 24/7 consumption (Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and on and on…), and things that tap into your precious time.

if I watch one more productivity video my brain is going to explode…

if I watch one more productivity video my brain is going to explode…

I used to be completely engrossed in this world of obsessive improvement and pushing yourself to your absolute limit every single day.

Thinking about how I used to glorify wrecking my health and sacrificing time with friends and family makes me want to punch myself in the face and throw up at the same time.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed. I will never get that time back and it was counter-productive.

I’m sure if I had forced myself to quit earlier every day and in turn was more focused, those extra hours would have produced very little in comparison. Losing my headphones and being brought back to reality was a nice reminder of how easy it is to fall into the workaholic trap.

It becomes a way to feel important when you have to say, “I’d love to but I’m working” or posting on Instagram #livetogrind :face_vomiting:

As a recovering “workaholic” who is prone to go into remission, let me share a few things I do to increase my focus and create space from my work.

  1. Take breaks. I take a walk or play some ping-pong (even though I get my ass-kicked every single game.)

  2. Take space to think and process things. That means I sit in silence for ten minutes or so when I can and just breathe.

  3. Step away for a while on non-productivity things. Reading a book, having a quick conversation with a good friend, or playing a game is a great way to get some space.

  4. Recognize when I need to recharge or call it a day when it becomes counterproductive to continue working.

Just like your electronic devices, our body and brain need to spend time recharging.

“Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy 
1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.” 
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

I know you want to be the next Gary V or whoever the productivity flavor of the week is but why should you sacrifice being you in the process?

Our hobbies and extracurricular activities define us just as much as our hustle. Like previous Formula guests Adrian Brambilla, Scott Dix, Talis Strub, and Kaitlyn Byers all shared, you never know what could come out of your hobbies that could affect your business or career.

Me, I like swing and salsa dancing, hiking, biking, watching campy superhero movies, and reading fantasy books (shout out to Terry Brooks but please don’t waste your time with the abomination that is the TV show.)

I enjoy writing stories based on life experiences and hosting dinners with close friends. These hobbies and activities have opened up so many doors for me it is insane. And how many of those have to do with my work?

get down and enjoy your freaky self…

get down and enjoy your freaky self…

So I must confess I found my headphones, I ran them thru the washing machine. But I’m going to leave them in my bag as I traverse around because I want to continue opening myself up to what is going on around. Plus, I want to give myself space to think and relax.

What are your “headphones” and how can you remove them to give yourself a break?

“If you keep interrupting your evening to check and respond to e-mail, or put aside a few hours after dinner to catch up on an approaching deadline, you’re robbing your directed attention centers of the uninterrupted rest they need for restoration. Even if these work dashes consume only a small amount of time, they prevent you from reaching the levels of deeper relaxation in which attention restoration can occur. Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day to follow. Put another way, trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown.” 
― Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World