Your Well-Being in Mind

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Welcome to First Year Seminar! This may or may not be your first semester at Appalachian, but either way I predict you’re already sensing the mountain of work you’ll have this semester and also learning of the many compelling opportunities–social, academic, travel, etc–that will require your time and energy.

If you’re a person who needs no sleep or who’s good at multitasking, this won’t be overwhelming. But most students need to find an approach to all the activities asking for their attention.

When I was in college, going to hear a band or watching Cheers on television Thursday nights was always a tempting distraction from my work. Talking to roommates was also a potential distraction. But there were easy ways to control these distractions. If I went to the library or a study room somewhere, my friends were not there to talk to. If it wasn’t Thursday night, there was no band playing and Cheers wasn’t on TV.

How different it is today! In your quiet study room you might text, call, or Skype with your friends. On the very laptop you’re using to look up sources for a research paper you’ve got to write you can watch any episode of Cheers (or Big Bang Theory or Arrested Development) you want. Even the music you want to hear can come through the device you’re using for homework. Shutting out distractions is far more challenging for students in the wired world.

Prof. David M. Levy, author of Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives (2016, Yale University Press), argues that most people have allowed their online activities to be controlled by unconscious habits and unexamined rules. If you’ve found yourself “on” your computer for hours on end without actually accomplishing what you set out to do, or surfing along mindlessly in a sort of Internet blackout, you might find Levy’s suggestions useful. He suggests the following exercise to help you bring greater attention to your activities:

• Practice your ability to maintain focus on one task.
• Notice what typically distracts you from the task you want to focus on.
• Notice what actions or environmental conditions help you stay focused.
• Decide how you want to adopt a more focused approach to the task.

Ultimately, approaching tasks with careful attention will help you “waste” less time and enable you to find time for socializing, for exercising, and for eating and sleeping.

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