It happens without fail every morning, whether it’s during the week or on the weekend: my alarm has gone off. I instinctively and automatically reach for my phone to shut it off (or press snooze, let’s be honest here) and then whether I doze back to sleep or not, I will almost always do a routine web check: scan emails, scroll through my Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat feeds, the usual. More often than not, I will click on a headline that catches my eye, usually something sensational and clickbait-ey because in my half-dozed state, I make only half-good decisions. I’ll read through the article from said headline and feel, perhaps appropriately, outraged (especially after scrolling through the comments).
Or maybe it’s an email telling me a shoot was canceled. Or my pitch got rejected. And depending on my level of outrage/disappointment/self-loathing, carry that with me throughout the day, a tone that I have set before I have even had my first cup of coffee.
In our world of 24/7 connectivity, FOMO starts setting in at the very start of our days. And for me, this isn’t a good thing. While I thrive on information — after all, my work depends on it — the unceasing inundation of pings and headlines and breaking news, I have found, makes turning the noise off increasingly difficult. Indeed, science shows it’s changing how our brains work as we become addicted to information, yes, but also distraction. Yikes. I want to be informed but distracted? And, even worse, agitated? I’m not sure about that.
But I do know that starting my day off wanting to ram a Sand Snakes-worthy spear through my forehead because Patricia from Pasadena wrote in The New York Times comments section that she can’t “read emotions on Asian actors’ faces” is not the most productive or healthy way to kickstart anything. I started to feel depleted before my days even began.
Last year, I downloaded the Calm app which provides guided and unguided meditations, including specialized series (side note: I am NOT sponsored by Calm and am a paying subscriber). Working my way through one about the improving my ability to focus, I was struck by one piece of advice in particular: do one thing at at time.
I, like many others, pride myself on being a multi-tasker, so being advised to do the opposite sounds anathema to me. But I’ve tried to adapt the practice of tackling one task at a time in subtle ways throughout the day, instead of jumping, limbs in every direction, into multiple tasks at once, swiping and clicking with abandon.
This also applies to my morning routine. While I have yet to break the habit of instinctively reaching for my phone first thing, I am trying to change what I reach my phone for. Instead of going straight to emails and headlines, I try to do a quick 2-minute meditation using my app so that I can start equipping myself to distill some of the inevitable noise coming my way. Then, rather importantly, I leave my bed. I found that what made me so anxious in the morning was that I was taking in all kinds of information and trying to process it and decide whether to be upset or not before I had even put my slippers on!
While brushing my teeth, I’ll get a quick hit of news from the 5-minute NPR Newscast and listen to the first story or two from Morning Edition, both on the NPR app which I use obsessively throughout the day.
And then finally, during those first sips of coffee, will I start scrolling through and answering emails, reading Twitter and mediating my reactions. Deciding what to get outraged about and what to just shrug my shoulders and say, “Meh.”
I am far from settling into this routine; it is far from perfect. But I do think waking up energized rather than exhausted before I have even left the bed might make for better days in general. Patricia from Pasadena and her opinions can chill and wait.