Our lives are often filled with busyness, noise, distractions, and sometimes meaningless activities.
What if we could filter out all the noise in life, and focus on meaningful activities? What if we could find stillness instead of constant distraction?
We have the power to filter the noise and find stillness. In my experience, most of the noise is there by choice, but we’ve fallen into unhealthy patterns over the years.
How can we filter out the noise and find stillness and meaning?
Identify the noise
Take the rest of today to notice the noise you find in your life. Make a list of these noises whenever you find distraction or busyness.
Noise in my life comes from email, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, blogs and other websites, text messages, Slack, and Netflix. You might have other sources like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Messenger, news, and cable TV.
Once we’re aware of the noise, how can we filter it out? We have to decide that we want more quiet and meaning in our lives. Is your desire for quiet and meaning important enough to miss out on the activities of those noisy channels?
Filter the noise
- Turn off notifications as much as possible. Including the count of unread messages by each app on your phone.
- Check on social media (like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) just once each day.
- Check email only once or twice each day, but set a limit.
- Tell people you are only checking your messages once a day, to set expectations. Don’t use an autoresponder. Autoresponder messages are incredibly annoying. Instead, just send a reply message to the people who matter most, and ask for their understanding.
- Delete accounts or delete apps that aren’t giving you real meaning. (I deleted my Facebook account years ago).
- Unsubscribe from everything possible in your email account.
- Unsubscribe from notifications on social media.
- If you use an RSS reader, unsubscribe from as many feeds as possible. Leave only a handful that give you meaning.
- Set a time each day to watch TV or movies or read news or blogs, if at all. If you tell yourself, “I only watch TV after 7 p.m.,” then you’ve limited how much space this takes up in your life.
- If there are certain tasks (like email) where you need to stay connected because of work, try to negotiate with your boss or team so you can find periods of disconnection. Ask if you can take a couple hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon to be disconnected in order to focus on more important work.
After removing the noise from your life, you’ll find more time for quiet, stillness, focus and meaning.
Find stillness and meaning
Once you’ve filtered out the noise from your life, you’ll have the problem of finding stillness and meaning. Be grateful that you can work on these problems to make your life more meaningful.
Take time to notice your constant need for busyness or distraction.
For example, if you have a moment where you’re not doing anything — you’re waiting in line, you’re alone at the restaurant table while your friend goes to the bathroom, you’re sitting on your couch — what do you try to do out of habit? Do you reach for your phone, laptop, or tablet? This is your pattern of busyness and movement.
Let go of unhealthy patterns.
Catch yourself in your habit of busyness and instead opt for stillness and quiet. Just sit there and notice your surroundings. Soak it all in. Savor the moment. Meditate on your breath. Reflect on your day. List all the blessings you’re grateful for right now.
Build new patterns of stillness.
Practice prayer, meditation, or yoga every morning, even if just for a few minutes every day. Go for a morning or evening walk, without your phone. Turn off the phone and computer and write in a journal.
Find new activities that are more meaningful.
This doesn’t have to be done in one day. You can slowly experiment to figure out what’s meaningful to you. You might start writing a book or screenplay, take nature photos, draw, or make music. You might start a business or charity that changes the world. You might start to learn something that’s meaningful, or find joy in teaching others. Find ways to help others and make the world a better place. Journal, meditate, exercise, make healthy food, declutter, and make dates with people who are important to you.
When you notice yourself running to busyness and distraction, pause. Turn instead towards stillness and your meaningful activities. Build a life around stillness and meaning, and notice the difference it makes in you and the people you love.