“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
– Albert Einstein
Our brains have been changed. And not in a good way. The average person in the United States watches 2.8 hours of television every day. All told, that’s 42 full, 24-hour days per year spent in front of a talking box. That’s a mind-numbing statistic. And a scary trend.
Now consider how often we check Facebook, check email, search the news online, or consult our Uncle Google. It’s not uncommon for workers—real estate agents included—to check their email 30-40 times per hour and reach for their phone at traffic lights to check Twitter or see if anyone has “liked” their status update. We’ve become slaves to the web, seemingly losing our ability to think and get work done.
Former Wired writer Nicholas Carr wrote an article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” His research turned up an unsettling answer: Yes.
Indeed, the internet is changing our brains. You can sit down to look up one thing, fall down a rabbit hole of hyperlinks and related searches, and emerge an hour later, dazed and confused.
Many real estate agents equate being at the office—hours upon hours being in front of the computer—as working. It’s not. And it’s one of the hazards of our modern lifestyle. Our tendency to become more and more addicted to staring at screens, and more and more sedentary, is unproductive at best and downright unhealthy at worst.
We look at laptops and desktop computers, iPhones and Androids and iPads and iPods, TVs and movie screens, we play video games, watch videos, surf the web, socialize online, and work online. And we’re sitting the whole time. Too much screen time means less active time, less time thinking, less focus on the present, less time for getting real, productive work done, and making time for the ones you love. And too much sitting means fewer years on your life.
So what’s a better way? Limits.
Reclaim Your Brain
Limit how much screen time you have each day. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself on the Internet (I use an application called Freedom. It’ll be the best $10 bucks you’ll ever spend). Limit your sitting to short periods with breaks in between and when you must sit frequently, stand up and walk around for 10 minutes every hour.
This isn’t the only way to do it—you’ll have to find the limit that works for you. But the idea is to set limits, and to break the total up into pieces so you’ll take breaks and do other things. I’ve loved it. I’m reading more books, spending more personal time with my kids, getting more chores done, and exercising more.
And because you have a limit, you have to figure out the best way to use that time. You have to make choices—what’s worthy of your limited time and what isn’t. This means a more controlled, conscious use of your time.
I haven’t instituted the limits with my kids yet, though I have been talking to them about it to get them thinking about what would work best for them. And I do tell them to take breaks from devices throughout the day so they’ll do other things. For the kids, this has meant they have more unstructured, imaginative play, more reading, more art and music, more activity. Kids get addicted to screens just as much as adults do, and it’s unhealthy. I’m trying to teach them ways to live a healthy lifestyle, which is a lesson with lifelong benefits.
I’ve found this lifestyle to be healthier, better for my career, better for my relationships, and better for my peace of mind. And to me, that means it’s something worth keeping and refining, because it paves the way to focus on purpose and passion.