Intentions Before Distractions – The Most Impactful Habit You Can Build
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“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”– Edward Tufte
Houston, we have a problem. A 2013 study from IDC Research shows that 80% of smartphone users get on their phones within 15 minutes of waking up. A 2023 survey by Reviews.org updated that statistic to 89% checking their phones within 10 minutes of waking. Most of these people go straight to their inbox or social media once they’ve rubbed the sleep out of their eyes. Why are so many launching their days with “rise and scroll” instead of “rise and shine”? Almost 57% reported that they are addicted to their phones.
What does this mean? Merriam-Webster defines “addict” as “one exhibiting a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity.” This isn’t thoughtful behavior. It’s mindless. And it has a cost.
When you launch your day by jumping into your inbox or onto social media, you are inherently prioritizing other people’s agendas. That’s what really inhabits your inbox and social feeds. I like to describe email and social as kinds of malfunctioning time machines. Once you enter, you have no idea when you’ll emerge.
Here’s a simple solution: Move intention ahead of distraction. Review your goals before you pick up your phone.
Goals come first because when we remind ourselves what we want to say “yes” to, it becomes easier to say “no” to everything that could get in the way.
Over the years, we’ve hosted hundreds of 66-Day Challenges® with our The ONE Thing training where participants select and build a powerful habit over 66 days. People choose all kinds of habits like daily exercise, drinking more water, or making their bed. The most impactful challenge in our history was inviting everyone to build the same habit – to look at their goals before they picked up their phone. That’s it. And the results were transformative. By launching their days with calm, focused energy, they gained more clarity, avoided most distractions, and got their big priorities done.
If you look around, many of the most accomplished people will give you similar advice. One of Ryan Holiday’s 6 Morning Rules is “no phone for the first hour.” Mel Robbins’s first act of the day? “I don’t look at my phone.” Ed Mylett wants you to make your goals your screensaver, so you can’t look at your phone without seeing your goals. (And he says we look at them on average 170 times a day!) If you really can’t stop yourself, the best advice is to move your phone charger out of your bedroom.
So if you’re one of the many who start their days with social, email, and texts, what can you do? Take the “No Phone Challenge” and put your intentions ahead of your distractions.
One question to ponder in your thinking time: How can I make my priorities feel like priorities every day?