Managing Connection Overload (Even When It Hurts)

How do you define connection?

Well, according to Merriam Webster, connection is:

the act of connecting (well, duh); a causal or logical relation or sequence; a contextual relation or association; a relation of personal intimacy; a means of communication or transport; a person connected with another via marriage, kinship or common interest; a political, professional, or social relationship; an arrangement to execute orders or advance the interests of another; and definitely also a source of contraband.

In other words, connection is everything.

It’s in every potential and actual social interaction, every place you go, everything you do. Connection starts the minute you open your eyes in the morning. You connect with your partner, your children, your pets, and the world around you, and that’s before you turn on the tv, or literally connect to the internet.

There are a multitude of scientific disciplines that study connection. A bunch of woo varietals, too (for a really good time, look up Earthing). Connection is found through the media, in the marketplace, through every single monetary transaction. It is the foundation of our world.

And all of that makes connection overload a very real thing.

The problem is, we’re not remotely deliberate about limiting our connections to the ones that really matter to us.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is “lack of time.” You’re overwhelmed, overloaded, and uncertain of why every time management technique you’ve ever tried has failed to properly manage your damn time.

And you definitely can’t understand the people who always appear to have everything together all of the time. They look great, their houses are clean, their children wear clothes that match… and they either have super fulfilling careers, or the time to do Pinterest projects (or they have made a career OF Pinterest projects, in which case, just STFU).

Sure, sure, intellectually you know that these people have the same problems as everyone else, and their lives aren’t perfect. But how do they seem to get so much more out of their 24 hours a day than you do? Do they just not sleep?

Well, mostly they say no.

There’s been a lot of research done on the value of clarifying your intentions versus trying to self motivate–and, wouldn’t you know it, beating yourself over the head is actually LESS motivating than doing nothing at all. The clear winners are those who establish a plan and a deadline, regardless of whether or not the deadline was actually met.

But it’s much more than that. People who are conscious of how they connect to the world are much more likely to say no.

I want to be perfectly clear here. I do not want you to feel guilty for how you are currently managing your time. Because I know that’s exactly where your brain is going. “I know I spend too much time on Facebook, Briar.” Instead, I want you to focus on simple awareness.

My favorite tools are Moment for iPhone, and RescueTime for everything else digital. Offline, I recommend a hyperdex, but the spiraldex is also nifty (there’s also the chronodex, and if you can figure out how to use it, please teach me).

And I’m not even going to lie to you. At first, it’ll be hard not to mentally berate yourself for what you find here, but again, the goal is awareness. It is impossible for you to know how to better manage your time if you don’t actually know how you’re spending it.

Take some time to evaluate your actual habits. Track yourself for at least a week, but two is better. See if you can spot trends and patterns.

BUT. But, but, but! Don’t try to make changes yet. If you do, you’ll be right back where you started. You’ve run this hamster wheel before.

Our tendency as humans is to see a problem, and want to fix it. Because if we can make it better, we can make it go away. However, one of the problems with connection is that you can’t ever turn it off. You can’t disconnect. I have TRIED.

So. We’re back to saying no.

Once you have a clear understanding of how you manage your time, you can start to eliminate the unnecessary.

What’s key here is to eliminate what YOU think is unnecessary, not what everyone else thinks is unnecessary. So, if your Facebook time is mostly acquired while you’re nursing, and all your friends live there, don’t feel obligated to remove it completely. Maybe you need to cut back, but only you can make that determination.

A note here if the majority of your time is spent with very tiny humans: you’re only ever gonna be so great at time management. Unless you have significant, regular help, you are NOT going to be able to manage your time effectively when it is dictated to you by terrorists in short pants. THEY don’t accept the word no.

Everyone else, however, is going to start.

Your mother, who expects you to drop everything on less than a days’ notice, and drive eight hours to not just move her, but also to PAY for the moving truck? You can and SHOULD tell her no.

Your husband, who informs you two days before the Officer’s Ball, leaving you to scramble for a dress, childcare, and everything else? Yeah, you can absolutely tell him, “no, you’re going by yourself.”

Your sister, who demands you plan her bridal shower, and then demands you pay an exorbitant amount of money so you can be a bit player in her bridezilla tour de force? You can cut her off. You CAN set limits on what you will and won’t do.

Your church friends and family members, who show their true colors by posting racist memes on Facebook? You should only educate if you feel called to do so. Otherwise, you should let them go. Hide if you must, but frankly, you get to be the judge of what you want to see online. If you want to surround yourself with cat pictures and smiling babies, then I think you should do it.

Those, by the way, are all real examples. I can’t make stuff up better than this. It’s the people we love who are most likely to abuse the trust of our time. After all, it’s not THEIR time they’re wasting.

You don’t have a choice to connect. You DO have a choice in HOW you connect.

Make those connections matter. Choose to spend your time on the things that matter to you, in the ways that matter to you. And understand now, you MUST pick your battles. You simply cannot be a warrior for every cause, every movement, every battle that needs to be fought.

If you try, you’ll only succeed in spreading yourself too thin, diluting not just your time, but even more importantly, the power of your voice.

Because… there’s a lot of injustice in the world. There’s a lot of pain, and death, and tragedy. It’s in the far corners of our world, and it’s in our neighborhoods. Right this minute, there are actual battles being fought in the arenas of racial equality, marriage equality, religious equality, mental health care, victim’s rights, prisoner’s rights, patient’s rights, and guys, that’s just the BIG stuff, and only a sampling of it at that.

And here’s the really horrible part. You have to let some of it go.

You have to decide which fights are yours, and which ones you’re going to walk away from. And the choosing? It HURTS.

Because the reality of these choices is, you’re going to feel selfish. You’re going to feel like a horrible human being. How DARE you prioritize your wants and needs when there’s so much pain and suffering in the world?

Except it is those very feelings that marks you as a worthy inheritor of humanity. It is your empathy that speaks to the world, a beacon of hope and light that you get to share with the world. THIS is what makes you YOU.

Don’t waste all of that on indecision.

It’s YOUR time. Only you get to decide what is actually worthy of spending it on. Go and make it amazing, okay?