Since I arrived in LA, I’ve started a more religious life, and it has been hard to reconcile that with the lifestyle of a remote web worker. I’ve always had trouble making time for meditation practice in a flexible work schedule, and now I’ve added daily prayer into the mix. What I need — what I’ve always needed — is to impose my own comprehensive schedule and stick to it. I work better with deadlines and rituals in place.
I’ve never had the right tool for keeping to that schedule until now, but I think I’ve finally got it. I found a crazily beautiful iOS app called Daily Routine that lets you build a visually engaging personal schedule and sends reminders at the beginning of each block of time. You assemble routines out of individual activity blocks, and you assign the routines to days on the calendar. It can handle all kinds of complex date math. It does individual or repeating days, alternating days, all of that, and it easily handles exceptions. Your main calendar events are shown right inside the app’s day view. The app can sync with iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive (hooray!)
I spent about half an hour building a routine in this app, and I couldn’t be happier. I leave Saturday blank for Shabbat, and I leave Sunday blank for… you know, Sunday, so I’m not stuck in regimented time all the time. But having this firm schedule for the weekday is going amazingly well. Two hours for meditation and prayer before breakfast was intimidating for about 15 minutes, and now I can’t believe how good I feel.
(By the way, for meditation timing, I’m currently using Samsara. It allows me to change the chimes to the settings that work for me — three chimes to begin, one chime to end — and it can run in the background. I don’t like the plain icon, though, and “Saṃsāra” is not the best name. My beloved Mind is sadly long overdue for an update, and I hope it someday gains these features, so I can see that icon on my front screen again.)
The important thing about this schedule is that there’s no multitasking, so my phone is in Airplane Mode for the two hours of meditation and prayer. It chimes for the end of meditation and when it’s time for breakfast, but there are no interruptions.
The best part is, I’m only going to read social media feeds during breakfast, lunch, and reading time. I’ll receive notifications during every block except prayer, but other than incoming messages, I’m going to try doing only these things when it’s time to do them. When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to walk, walk. I expect to feel 10,000% better about life after a week of this.
What I didn’t realize about a firm routine is that the key is permission. By creating this schedule, I’ve given myself permission to concentrate fully on whatever I’m doing to the exclusion of all else. It releases me from the worry of what else I “should” be doing, and that was the missing key to being able to focus.
This is the kind of practice I’ve written about in the latter half of my book, In Real Life. With mindfulness as the foundation, technology can provide powerful spiritual benefits. It doesn’t have to be this distracting, anxiety-inducing, consumeristic force that it’s made out to be in the media. The trick is to begin with a rigorous inquiry into what our real work is, set that intention, and then figure out which technologies to use — and which ones not to use — to help us accomplish it.
I’ll be publishing a lot more about this in the coming weeks and months as the book launch looms.