Category Archives: communication

Digital Minimalism: Break Your Technology Addiction and Master Your Tech Use

Digital technology has its benefits and is not all bad. But tech overuse and tech addiction cause problems, too.

To break our tech addiction and master our tech use, we need Digital Minimalism:

“A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else,” says author Cal Newport.

In episode 54 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) Online information and entertainment often create distraction (move you away from what you really want), instead of traction (move you toward what you really want).

2) Social media and online search platforms are designed to hook us. The technology that connects us also controls, manipulates, polarizes, distracts, monetizes and divides us.

3) 3 things you can do to break your tech addiction and master your tech use:

i. Complete the digital declutter process

ii. Practice solitude

iii. Reclaim true leisure

To listen to episode 54, Digital Minimalism: Break Your Technology Addiction and Master Your Tech Use, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

Watch the video on episode 54, especially if you’re a visual learner! Subscribe to the YouTube channel, The Incrementalist – A Productivity Show, to help it grow and reach you and others who want to create big changes in small steps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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How to Time Block (Without the Apps)

Do you get overwhelmed by digital task management tools?  

Are you seeking a good mix of structure and flexibility in your day?

Is there an easy, stress-free way to block time for important projects?

When you hear the term Time Blocking, you might picture color-coded calendars filled up with specific activities for the week. Digital apps to block time might also come to mind.

But you really don’t need an app or even a planner to time block. 

In episode 47 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) More busyness does not lead to higher quality or better results. To align your intentions with your actions, you need to have structure in your day. You also want to have buffers for emergencies and margin for the unexpected.

2) Time blocking is an essential tool to protect time for important projects and tasks. You assign a time block – with a start time and an end time – to focus on a specific activity or a batch of similar activities.  

3) The subtle and important difference between time blocking and time boxing.

4) 3 main tips for time blocking

Tip 1: schedule time blocks in 30-minute or 1-hour increments (not in 5-minute increments like Elon Musk)

Tip 2: time block just the day (not the whole week)

Tip 3: incorporate theming and batching in your time blocks (not time blocks for whatever, whenever)

4) You do not need digital apps or even a planner to time block.

5) How I time block the easy, stress-free way on a whiteboard.  

To listen to episode 47, How to Time Block (Without the Apps), click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

If you’re a visual learner, watch the video on our new YouTube channelThe Incrementalist – A Productivity Show! It includes a demo on how to time block the easy, stress-free way on a whiteboard.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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New: The Incrementalist YouTube Channel

The Incrementalist started as an ebook in May 2020 and became a podcast in January 2021. It’s now also a YouTube channel, which you can find HERE

The latest episode, #44, is the first video on YouTube. Past episodes 1 to 11 are also posted on the channel as of December 22, 2021. More past episodes will be posted later.

If you enjoy the video for episode 44 or want to support the new channel, hit the Like and Share buttons on YouTube. Positive or constructive comments are also appreciated.

And be sure to Subscribe and hit the Notification bell. When you Subscribe, you will receive notification when a new video is uploaded on the channel. The channel will also appear in the Subscriptions area on your YouTube home page.

In addition, you will help the channel reach at least 100 subscribers to get a Custom URL. This is great for growing the show on YouTube. 

A Custom URL is an easy-to-remember channel URL instead of the one we have now, which has autogenerated nonsense letters and numbers after the word “channel”: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm7VGAnFl3tDLy-fh69NPQw

You may unsubscribe at any time. It’s not an irreversible choice that you’re locked into and can’t change! 

If you’re a visual learner or you’re not into podcast apps, The Incrementalist YouTube channel is for you.  Most YouTube episodes will be audio only, but we do plan to post videos like episode 44 in the future. 

As with the blog and podcast, it will share productivity tools and techniques to make big changes in small steps, focus on your top priorities, and design a purposeful and well-lived life!

May you continue to create big results in incremental, doable steps! 
Dyan

P.S. The ebook, The Incrementalist, is now on sale for a minimum price of $4.99 at https://leanpub.com/incrementalist. After January 31, the price will go back up to $9.99. Check it out to get a head start on 2022!

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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Make Use of Good Anxiety

Is anxiety always a bad thing to get rid of?  

When is it a superpower you need the most?

How do you rein in anxiety to benefit from it?

We have all experienced anxiety on some level at various points in our lives. COVID-19 and the global response to it have brought massive changes and deep uncertainty since the start of 2020.

Before then, 90% of Americans in the room raised their hand when asked if they had experienced daily anxiety. Wendy Suzuki, a neural science and psychology professor at NYU, says that number has gone way up. But she reminds us that at its core, anxiety is really a protective mechanism. Like all emotions, it serves an evolutionary purpose and is key to survival. 

In episode 43 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1) Anxiety is generally defined as worry over an imminent possible event or worry over uncertainty.

2)  Anxiety is a psychological and physical response to stress, which moves you into fight, flight or freeze mode.

3) Currently, 28% or nearly 1/3 of Americans are diagnosed with a clinical, anxiety disorder. Examples are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, and OCD.

4) Chronic anxiety weakens the immune system, contributes to heart disease, impairs brain health, creates indigestion, and makes us less productive. It causes negative plasticity in the brain, changes our biochemistry and raises blood pressure.

5) Good anxiety tells you what’s important, what needs attention, what you value, and what to avoid. By befriending anxiety, you can build resilience, patience, compassion and empathy, and leverage nervous energy to deal with challenges.

6) According to the Yerkes-Dodson curve, a bit of anxiety can put you in the optimal state to perform a difficult task. But just like fine wine and delicious chocolate, you can have too much of a good thing.

7) Four tools that Dr. Suzuki recommends for activating the parasympathetic, destressing part of the nervous system:

a) Deep Breathing – which includes the 4 x 4 box breathing method.

b) Movement – which includes a power walk outside or walking up and down the stairs. Cardio exercise for about 45 minutes, two to three times per week, gives the most benefits.

c) Joy conditioning – which is active recall and selection of memories of your most joyful experiences, especially ones with olfactory associations.

d) Social support – which you might need to choose carefully because certain relationships are better than others for certain purposes and in different contexts.

8) Why you need to create an enriched environment and escape impoverished environments for brain health and emotional wellbeing.

9) Approach anxiety with an exploratory mindset so you can harness it as a superpower.

10) Embracing good anxiety helps you to avoid toxic positivity and experience the expansiveness of your emotions.

Sources cited: 

To listen to episode 43, Make Use of Good Anxiety, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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How to Control Your Attention

Where is your attention right now?

Do you know how to refocus when it drifts off?

Do you know when to just stay open to what’s happening?

There are news stories and articles on how we have the attention span of a goldfish. You might have heard that with the Internet, we can now only focus for 8 seconds at a time. The good news is there are no studies to back this up.

There is also a common belief that we use only 10% of our brain. The entire brain is being used, but some parts are more activated than others. Having a peak mind is more about knowing where your attention is than whether or not you’re hyper-focused or hyper-vigilant. 

In episode 42 of The Incrementalist, you will learn:

1. We miss out on 50% of our lives because our attention is scattered and distracted.

2. In a given experience, moment or task, it’s important to ask yourself: Where is your attention now? Is it where you want it to be?

3. A wandering mind is not a real problem if you have meta-awareness or metacognition, i.e. to be aware of your awareness, or to pay attention to your attention.

4. The three different types of attention –
a) The Flashlight is when your attention is more singular, narrow and focused on a particular thing. It gives you privileged information, selects and filters out, and emphasizes content.

b) The Floodlight is when your attention is broad, receptive and open to whatever is happening now. It does not privilege any information, is open to inputs, and emphasizes time.

c) The Juggler is the manager and executive control system. It interprets the information from the flashlight and floodlight systems and determines whether your goals and behavior are aligned.

5. Even when you get rid of all the digital distractions, you will still have attention problems. Getting bored with a task, for example, can steer us toward online entertainment if we don’t know how to use boredom to our benefit.

6. Being distractable is human. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. We need it to avoid danger and predators. The capacity to mentally time travel is useful for thinking, reflecting, planning, visualizing, and dreaming.

But it also causes us to miss out on the moment, catastrophize about the future, ruminate on the past, or be preoccupied with things we don’t control. This can lead to high stress, anxiety, brain fog and depleted attention. So, you need to train yourself to direct your focus on where it has to be. 

7. Mindfulness training is key to developing your attention. Examples are:
a) Focused attention on the breadth
b) The S.T.O.P. practice (stop, take a breath, observe, proceed)
c) Open monitoring or open awareness meditation

8) Invest at least 12 minutes a day on mental training exercises to declutter your mind and develop your attention span

9) When you’re too focused, you miss the big picture and the context of the situation.  If you’re too open, you can become indecisive. 

You need to have all three systems in play to perform at your peak. The flashlight lets you keep your eye on the ball, the floodlight helps you to scan the field, and the juggler allows you to stay in and win the game. 

Sources cited: 

To listen to episode 42, How to Control Your Attention, click here. If you prefer to read the transcript, go here. Subscribe to The Incrementalist at Apple Podcasts or other apps.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps.

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