This is part of my ongoing series: Secrets of Adulthood, where I discuss some of the life lessons I’ve learned. This was inspired by Gretchin Rubin’s Book ‘The Happiness Project.’
There is a parable that goes something like this:
A certain man rented a room in his house to a tenant.
When the tenant arrived he immediately set out to use up, destroy, and break all that the man cherished within his house. The man, seeing this, evicted his guest, cleaned and fixed his house and drafted up a tenant agreement form. After several days of advertising for a new tenant he allowed a new man to enter his house who was morally solvent, mannerly, and neat.
A week later, the man’s previous tenant returned more dirty, rude, and disorderly than before requesting that the man reinstate him as a tenant. However, upon showing his former tenant the already occupied room, the boor was forced to once again leave the house this time never to return.
The man lived with his new tenant comfortably and convivially ever after.
While I was without the internet, I had some time to re-prioritize my life.
I knew I wanted to exercise more consistently, preferably in the morning around 8:30 or 9:00am.
I knew I wanted to leave my house every single day between 1 – 3:30pm every day to go to the park, library, shop, or visit friends.
I knew I wanted to have dinner eaten, dishes done, and Ethan to bed by 7:30 every night.
Now, there are a lot of other things I like to do (read, blog) and they are important to me as well, but they fit around these basic desires and wishes as well as my son’s sleep schedule.
However, the Internet used to obscure my ability to see the day as a continuous whole. Instead I would be emailing, “just one person” looking up “just one thing” on pinterest, or checking facebook “for a minute.” Those were inconsequential moments of my day, but they acted like mini-seizures. Each time I stopped to check those things, they derailed my concentration and fragmented my focus. I was magnifying details that (truly) do need to be done, but losing sight of the greater Good. Plus, it was easy to ignore a self-imposed and largely self-regulated schedule when I couldn’t manage to see the whole thing in context. I wasn’t actually sure what was important to me anymore, aside from getting my “to do” lists done.
After I took out the Internet it became clear to me how I naturally seemed to want to structure my day, and then to reinforce these habits to achieve more long term goals. A lot of time-management gurus seem to think you can simply impose a rigid schedule on yourself with no thought to your basic nature and habits. (If you want to exercise you have to do it in the morning!) However, I have had limited success with that type of thinking.
Is the Internet bad? No. Neither are other things like eating, texting, cleaning, or whatever else it is that has the ability to fragment thoughts. But, now I’ve learned a secret of adulthood.
If I want to put peripherals in their place, I need to crowd them out with things I recognize as the Greater Good.
Now that I have identified the things I want to do, and which give me the most satisfaction at the end of the day, I can add in the icing to top it off and give me some cheap thrills.
Ps. If you recognize that parable, that’s because it’s modified somewhat from a Biblical parable, found in Matthew 12:45