Setting Mindful Time Limits

I don’t know about you, lovely beach bums, but I seriously struggle with mindless scrolling. It seems that every time I open my phone I suddenly end up on Instagram, checking my email, or going on Facebook. All the sudden, it’s been 30, 40, or 90 minutes, and I’ve been staring at my screen, zombie-like. Usually, I’ll have forgotten why I even opened up my phone in the first place!

via GIPHY

Making Scrolling Mindful

Scrolling isn’t a terrible pastime in and of it itself, but the glaze-eyed mindlessness that can arise from it is certainly unhelpful for our mindfulness practices and mental health. Especially for someone like myself, who struggles with comparing and despairing, Instagram scrolling can be a dangerous spiral into self-loathing.

This was the original reason I got off social media for over 4 years. It was simultaneously mentally draining, unproductive, and downright harmful to my self-esteem. Now that I’ve decided to be a blogger/ writer/ freelancer/ whatever the heck I am, having a social presence is highly necessary. My social presence is something to cultivate, but I’m finding that more than ever my time spent on social platforms is becoming destructive.

A Simple Mindfulness Tool

A solution I’ve found to this comes from practicing mindfulness. When we scroll through various platforms with no intention of absorbing the information from it, whether it’s T.V. or Twitter, homework or exercise, we aren’t making the most of our most valuable commodity in life—time. While there are lots of apps out there for regulating screen time, I’ve found the single-best mindfulness solution to mindless scrolling is also one of the most accessible tools out there…can you guess what it is?

cute mushroom timer for mindfulness
my favorite mindfulness tool!; processed with VSCO

That’s right, a good old-fashioned timer!

It’s one thing to create a goals list for the day, it’s another to follow through on those tasks and activities. I can make a fantastic to-do list for my day, but it’s all for naught if I don’t keep myself on a schedule!

Scrolling is (kinda) Necessity

Mindless scrolling does have a place in our lives. Sometimes we need a little break to play Words with Friends, Angry Birds, find cute puppy videos, or read funny memes (because taking breaks can and does make us more productive in the long-run) to re-charge our brains for the more cognitively strenuous activities. The trick is in setting up limits for yourself so the 10-minute break you decided to take doesn’t turn into an hour-long zombie session.

Using a timer tells my brain two things. First, it tells my brain to focus on that specific activity, whole-heartedly, for a set interval, which I know has a clear beginning and end. Second, it aids my brain in compartmentalizing my activities, giving a structure to my work and my relaxation, so I can be as effective at both as I need to be.

My Mindful Scrolling Tricks

Here’s an example of how I set myself up for optimal mindfulness and productivity in each activity for any given day:

purposeful scheduling to keep you on track
an old-school scheduling approach; processed with VSCO

When I know I have a lot to accomplish in a day, this is the best strategy I’ve found thus far for optimizing my mindfulness and productivity simultaneously. This doesn’t have to be limited to screen-time, either. When I bartended, I had a hard time with distractions. The limes needed cutting; the beers needed organizing; the floors needed sweeping. I would end up walking around in circles, doing each task partially, but not completing any of them. When I was studying to get my B.A., I would rotate my homework tasks, like this:

example studying session time-schedule
an example of my studying schedule back in college; processed with VSCO

This way each subject, as I returned to it, would seem less overwhelming, and much more interesting. This is also a great strategy for frustrating topics, work assignments, or research. When I give myself a break from an especially difficult task, and return to it 20, 30, or 45 minutes later, I’ve almost always come up with a new solution I wasn’t able to see before.

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Time Limits for Everything

Even with exercise, setting time limits helps me to get the best workout I can in a specific amount of time, rather than aimlessly wandering around, halfheartedly trying one machine or another. It might sound crazy, but even when I wake up in the morning, wanting to go right back to sleep, I set a 10-minute timer to quietly lay there, resting my eyes. That extra 10 minutes of mindful resting invigorates and charges me up, so by the time the alarm goes off I’m ready to get out of bed.

Setting time limits for myself has tremendously improved my focus, mindfulness, restfulness, and enjoyment of each task I set out for myself, in almost every aspect of my life. I hope this mindfulness practice will help you, too, to make the most of your precious time. Experiment with different time limits, checking in with what works best for you. Some of us might want a full hour for each task, others of us might need 10-minute breaks every 20 minutes. Create your own time-frame by being mindful of what your brain needs to be its best.

As always, I would love to hear your questions, experiences, ideas, and whether this mindfulness tip worked for you in the comments section below!

Header Image Credit: medicalnewstoday.com

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