Posts in Screen Time
Five Things You Can Do For Lent (and why they matter a whole lot!)

Ash Wednesday begins on March 6, 2019 and for millions of people around the world, this means something- action. All of us want to put our faith into action and Lent is the perfect time to do this.

People will begin a 40 day sprint towards Easter and will either give things up - a sort of sacrifice- and also try out new things. It’s also a wonderful time for humility, a time to acknowledge that our prayer lives are rarely what they ought to be. As St. Josemaria Escriva said, “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.”

I figured it would be interesting to connect five actions you can take during Lent to my upcoming book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People. I wrote The Five Habits in order to provide a virtual toolbox of strategies for prayer. It’s designed for the busy person in mind.

Before we link the book with Lenten action, let’s remind ourselves why Lent matters in the first place. Lent comes from an old word meaning “lengthen”- as the days get longer, the sunlight returns and we inch ever closer to Easter. Since Easter is all about Jesus triumph over the cross through his resurrection, Christians have, for thousands of years, practiced a sort of “retreat” during Lent. This looks like, not surprisingly, a series of actions designed to help us get ready for Easter. 

Lent is a fitting time for self-denial.
— Pope Francis

If you “do Lent right”, you’re more likely to enter into the deeper mysteries of the season and as a result, draw closer to Jesus. As Pope Francis said, “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt."

The problem of course is that we get distracted, tired or bored during Lent. The things we resolve to give up can become a distant memory if we’re not laser-focused on the task at hand.

Ok, let’s now match a strategy with each of the Five Habits:

  1. Habit of Passion and Pursuit >> Begin to enjoy five minutes of pure silence each day. Start with one minute each day for a week. Each week, add a minute to your silence. Invite God into the stillness.

  2. Habit of Presence >> Look people in the eye. When you are in public and in passing or when you are one-on-one with someone… work to give them your full attention.

  3. Habit of Preparation and Planning >> Choose the tools you’ll use during your morning quiet time. This will likely be a Bible and journal. Besides that, what else speaks to you? An icon? A crucifix? Identify and group the tools you’ll use. Place them somewhere that you’ll have your daily quiet time.

  4. Habit of Persistence and Perseverance>> Install a quote that inspires you in a place you’ll see it. This might be a quote from a saint or a Bible quote. Put the quote inside your journal or Bible. Or, have the quote framed and placed in a spot where you’ll see it often.

  5. Habit of Pondering>> Take one day off from technology each week. This is the single most powerful strategy I’ve used in the last five years. Step back from your phone and give God one day a week to break through the noise of digital stimulation.

These strategies really work. More significantly, they matter a whole lot. They contribute to a more prayerful life and collectively will help you to slow down. When we slow down, we are more present and it’s much easier to find God in everyday life. 

Quick Win: Learn the One Phrase that Will Transform Your Prayer

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FOMO and What You Can Do About It

FOMO, or the “fear of missing out” is more pervasive than we’d like to admit.  While the internet certainly enhances our vulnerability to FOMO, I can remember being in college and wondering what others were doing on a Friday night.

What if, my thinking went, other students are doing something more fun than what I am doing? 

I was left with a feeling of not only being left out but maybe that I wasn't as valuable as others.  

Ready to Reduce the Noise Around You?

Download the FREE PDF, "5 Ways That Noise Wreaks Havok on Your Prayer Life."

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Social media makes FOMO more of a reality than ever before and you might not be aware of its effects on your psyche. If you're consuming large amounts of social media, it may be impacting you more than you realize. 

  • A recent BBC article detailed the experiences of British teens who accepted the challenge to lay off social media for a week.  (Source)

It didn’t go so well.  The students struggled mightily during the week to stay off Facebook and Snapchat.  They actually felt as if they were missing out on life while staying off the internet.

  • This NPR piece explored the effect of too much Facebook on a young woman’s desire to be happy.  She explained that Facebook allowed her to post the good and the beautiful and avoid the ugly aspects of life.

Talking about the view outside of her home, she put it this way, “If you looked only from the porch, you could see mountains straight, but if you looked to the left, you could see this huge factory. But, of course, I didn't take pictures of the factory because why would you do that?”  

The result of Rachel’s savvy use of social media revealed an awareness of its inherent bias towards posting only what’s good.  Beyond that, she realized that she didn’t want to be posting everything for the world to see.  Sure, life is good when it’s good but sometimes things can go south, like when Rachel’s marriage fell apart.  She didn't feel like posting much of that aspect of her life.

FOMO increases anxiety.  We feel somehow “less” than the others we see online, especially if what they're posting looks exciting.

The good news?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  First, from a posture of how you use social media.  I suggest using it in the way that you want it.  There are no set rules to how often you should post to Facebook.  If you feel like posting, go for it but never feel pressure to stay up to speed each and every day.

Related to this, if you feel like social media has been getting the best of you, take permission to ditch it altogether.  

After all, the world won’t stop if…

  • you don’t post to Instagram
  • you don’t check Facebook for a week
  • you miss someone’s new pin board on Pinterest
  • you can’t stay on top of everyone in your Twitter feed
  • you go "off the grid" for a week or two

It’s ok.  Put the phone down. Look around and be with those that you are with.  As Jim Eliot famously said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

Why Is It So Hard to Work ... at Work?

Working at work is hard.  

The distractions, interruptions, poor lighting, climate control, and constant meeting schedule make it hard to work when you're at work.

I'm mindful of Jason Fried's Ted Talk from 2010 which first caught my eye.  In the years since it went viral, it became a reality for me.  Here's the video in case you haven't seen it in a while:

There are likely two options for people with whom Jason's talk strikes a chord:

a) Fix what you can of your current working environment.
b) Find another situation that allows you to work remotely, even if it's only for a portion of your week.

Which can you choose?  Which will you have the courage to choose?

Download The Free Daily Planning Sheet

This is the planning page we suggest using every day.

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Why You Need an Evening Routine

This is a guest post by Hank Geng from Min-Max Your Life.  Hank writes about productivity and organization, helping readers overcome overwhelm and procrastination.

When was the last time you looked at your phone? Checked your email?  10 minutes ago?  Less?

In this day and age, we’re addicted to our screens, and we get barraged from every direction. So many things demand our time, and in the process of managing it all, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters to you. 

It’s incredibly helpful to make a habit of unplugging on a daily basis so you can stop this constant flow of information and have a chance to recharge. 

This works best in the context of an evening routine that prepares you for the next day, allows you to reflect on what you are grateful for, puts you in a relaxed mood, and lets you get a good night’s sleep to wake up refreshed and energized. 

There’s no one size fits all approach, but you can get started on creating your own evening routine by following this four-step simple formula: 

The Four Steps

  • Review tomorrow’s schedule and tasks to make sure you don’t have any surprises. You may want to:
  1. Plan out what you’re going to wear in the morning
  2. Set your alarm for when you need to wake up
  3. Decide how you’re getting to your first destination tomorrow
  • Reflect on today by asking yourself a few essential questions:
  1. What are you grateful for?
  2. What made this day unique?
  3. Did you learn something new? 
  • Relax by putting your screens away and starting to wind down. You could try one of the following:
  1. Read a physical book or your Kindle
  2. Yoga
  3. Meditate
  • Rest by turning off your lights, drawing the curtains, and going to sleep. 
  1. People require different amounts of sleep, but start with allotting yourself 8 hours for sleep and go from there.

By creating your own evening routine that includes these four factors, you’ll start waking up the next morning refreshed and energized, ready to face the day. 

Do you have an evening routine?

If not, try reserving an hour before your bedtime tonight to try creating your own using the framework above.

What My Non-Smartphone Taught Me About Life

I'm a techie.


I admit it- if it's new, shiny and requires a power cord, I'm interested.  If Apple makes it, I'm looking for my wallet.


For better or worse, this "trait" has been passed on to my children.  They know the value of data.  They routinely look for wifi in public places.  They are a chip off the old block...


And then something serious happened about a month ago: we ran out of data.  This was cause enough for a Family Meeting, which of course the kids hate.  Bear in mind that not ten years ago, this concept (losing data) would have made no sense at all but in 2016, data is a big deal.


We see data as a right, an entitlement and a part of everyday life.


I was traveling for work that month and needed to use a lot of data and returned with two weeks left in our billing cycle with (gasp!) very little data to spare.  Since we have a family shared-data plan, this became a family problem.


We shut down almost everything that would consume data and by the end of the month, just made it with .07GB to spare. Phew!


But you know what?  Those two weeks with basically zero data taught me a few things.  First, I learned that most of the stuff I do on my phone is kind of lame and going without it was no big deal.  So I can't check Facebook?  Ok.  So I can't see Instagram updates when I'm at the grocery store?  No big deal. 


And, even better, I learned to daydream.  I learned to be bored again.  To stare out the window and watch stuff.  It was nice.


As it turns out, my not-so-smartphone without data taught me a great deal.  It made it easier for me to unplug and just be with my family and friends.  It taught my kids the value of margin and open space. 


One final thing: it taught me that Facebook and Instagram aren't nearly as interesting as I had previously thought. 


Here's to the simple things in life... With or without data.

Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 14: Interview with Tim Metz

Tim Metz is my special guest for Episode 14 of the Emergent Leader Podcast.  Tim is the founder and CEO of Saent Productivity.  Saent (pronounced "saint") is a company dedicated to helping you focus while you are at work. Their new product, "The Saent" is pretty cool- a unique marriage of software and hardware.  

Tim and I talk about his journey from fatigue to focus. Assisted by his discovery of Getting Things Done, Tim found that by doing one thing at a time, his productivity increased exponentially.