deep work

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An invite came through my email one day at some point during 2006 from a friend asking me to log into a website to see a folder of photos she posted from a party I had attended with her. I followed the link to a site I never used before called Facebook, and quickly realized I could not see any of the photos because I did not have an account. My reaction was to shrug it off - I decided not to sign up. Then after hearing some other friends talking about being on the site and seeing the photos I went back to the link and submitted an email and password. Besides looking at that folder of my friend’s photos, I was confused by Facebook and don’t think I logged on again until a few months later when I was a new boutique owner and, at the encouragement of my peers, I started an account for the store.

I used Facebook for 4 years, slightly longer than the length of time my store was open. Over those years I gradually became more addicted to it. What better to do, sitting at a pretty checkout counter, day after day? One night, a few months after the business was closed, I was scrolling the newsfeed at home and finally snapped. The act of scrolling plus being able to see so much information about all these people I was “connected” to completely turned me off. Also, why was I still using something that was supposedly a tool for my business, which was now defunct? I deleted my account the next day (because that was how long it took me to actually figure out how to) and never looked back.

In the next year, 2011, I got my first iPhone. At that time there was a small buzz about an app that many of my friends encouraged me to check out knowing my love of art and photography. This, of course, was Instagram and I was immediately smitten. In those early days that little phone app really got my creative juices flowing. Beyond being inspired by other people’s photographs and perspectives, it also inspired me to literally look at things differently. It really nurtured the aesthete in me. My feed originally was compiled of casual snaps of day to day life, snippets of Philadelphia (my home at the time) and occasional travel vignettes. It very much inspired an old blog too.

In the years since then I think we all know what happened with Facebook taking over. For someone very anti-Fbook that was a hard pill for me to swallow. And along side the Facebook changes to Instagram, my relationship with the app changed too. It was no longer a fun and occasional distraction. Now it had become a tool that I “needed” to use to document and promote my ceramic hobby that had turned into a full fledged business (thanks in large part to said app).

And so the struggle begins. For a long while now I have wrestled with my feelings around using and abusing Instagram. I have taken the occasional instabreak, logged out of the app, “hid” it on the last page of my phone. Today I am doing something new. I am deleting the app. Not my account. Just the app. For my creativity. For my time. For my well being.

This icky feeling of needing a break from social media has been intense for about two months now. Last week I listened to an excellent podcast interview that finally sealed the deal for me where Dr. Mark Hyman speaks with guest Cal Newport in a conversation that was very much about this. Newport’s idea of “deep work” which refers to working in large chunks of time, undistracted was something I found myself craving. The potential impact this would have on my work at the studio and beyond is too great to dismiss. Here are some word’s from Newport that resonated with me very strongly;

Ultimately what you're judged on is the thing you do best. If you're producing beautiful new results that have a big impact, everything else good will follow. What matters is to take all the time you would spend on other things and put it towards trying to actually produce something that is truly valuable, truly new to the world. In the end you should be putting as much of your work effort as possible towards craft, actually trying to get better and create something that’s at the very limit of your ability to create. If all of your time is being spread out on all these sort of periphery things, things that aren’t competitive to do, things that don’t require skills, things that are kind of useful but not great, you’re not creating real value. If you create things that are at the very limits of your ability to create all the other good stuff that you’re seeking comes after it.

In the past year I have watched other users of IG struggle with their relationship with the app. It has been intriguing and encouraging watching my fellow creatives and entrepreneurs flourishing while disconnecting from social media. Reading the powerful words of ladies like Marlee Grace, Elizabeth Suzann, Shanna Skidmore and Gretchen Jones have shown me that there is benefit in this. So moving forward into my deep work, I am preparing to step off of my social media outlet of choice, Instagram, today. And though it feels slightly silly and dramatic to do so, I announce this mostly to hold myself accountable but also because I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. I would like to think that I will take a month away but it could be more (or less). In all honesty, I am curious to see if and how this impacts my business financially but I am way more excited to see how it effects my creativity and output.

Also, I want to get back to habits of self care like reading books, regular exercise, meditation and this style of writing and journaling. I look forward to it being a new facet of my work. And I hope you come along for the ride or stick around for more. I plan to continue sharing my process and progress with my work both here and through the newsletter. Stay tuned…

Regina Mandell1 Comment