If you have an iPhone, Apple’s weekly screen time report can be intriguing. Did I really pick up my phone 36 times and spend 7 hours on social media? You may be tempted to blame the phone as the cause of your distraction, especially if notifications are enabled. However, the main reason is your relationship with technology — a relationship that can be changed, says Dandapani, a Hindu priest, former monk, and author of Fixed focus power.
“The problem is that people haven’t defined the purpose of the smartphone in their lives,” he says. “I am very clear about my purpose in life, and my purpose has set my priorities. Since I am clear about my purpose and priorities, I can look at my smartphone and say, ‘How can this smartphone serve me in living a purpose-focused life?”
Dandapani looks at his phone the same way he looks at his garden tools. “I have quite a few shovels in the shed, and I only use the shovel when I need to dig a hole to plant a tree,” he says. “The rest of the time, the shovel stays in the shed.”
The same goes for his phone. “I don’t pick up the phone unless it helps me communicate my priorities,” he explains. Then you can see how the technology aligns with you. You can make decisions about the apps you need. What notifications you need. When and how to interact with your phone becomes clear and obvious. Once you define the purpose and relationship, it becomes easier to manage the technology. If I had that specific goal and relationship, then every time you chimed in, I would answer.”
Define your purpose
Setting your goal and knowing what you want in life requires thought, a process that can be very challenging when you are constantly distracted.
“Most people don’t spend time in self-reflection,” Dandapani says. “They will spend two hours with a friend, but not two hours with themselves. When people spend time by themselves, they are reading a book or listening to music. How about listening to your own thoughts and what you want? . . . If you don’t spend time with yourself, you won’t know .
Self-reflection requires focus, turning your gaze inward long enough to learn what you really want. The problem, says Dandapani, is that many of us are looking for a quick fix.
“There is no quick fix,” he says. “We live in this world that trains us to go from one thing to another. It’s the 60-second TikTok videos that move to the next. If you do it for 3 or 4 hours, you’re training your brain to be on one thing for 60 seconds.” Only. Even if you sit down to think about yourself, you can only self-reflection for 60 seconds because that’s the pattern you’ve created in your mind.”
Focus on construction
To improve your concentration, you need to practice concentration. Instead of meditating, Dandapani recommends starting with repetitive, non-negotiable events on a typical day. For example, you could talk to your spouse or partner in a cumulative total of two hours a day in five or 20 minute increments.
“Every time I talk to my wife, I give her my full attention,” says Dandapani. “I keep my consciousness on her. If my mind starts to drift while she’s speaking, I’ll take her back to her. I don’t soften with this practice.”
In one day, you can sign up for two hours of focus practice. After six months, you will have better focus. “We master the distraction because we practice it 8 to 10 hours a day,” says Dandapani. “Train focus instead of distraction.”
When you can practice focus rather than distraction, you will be able to enter into periods of self-reflection. You can define your purpose and priorities and change your relationship with your smartphone. “Find out what you want in life and how technology can serve you,” says Dandapani. “Smartphones are not responsible. The blame is the inability to exercise discipline around their use.”