The one productivity tip that broke my heart and left me weeping for days

I looked at my phone, and she looked back at me, in black and white. So delicate and beautiful. Like a ghost.

It was the beginning of summer, and we’d been trying to take a little time away. At the last minute we’d found a reasonable AirBnB on one of the lesser visited islands off the coast of Brisbane. My wife, toddler and I had piled into the car and were waiting in the ferry parking lot for the boat that would take us away. And we were all coming down with something.

Through my eyes in the full colour of young life, through the screen like a picture from an obituary

I was preparing to travel overseas and was in the midst of a turbulent period at work. To help me disconnect from it all I took a suggestion from my coach and switched the screen on my phone from colour to grayscale.

The idea was that since many of the apps we use every day were designed to be addictive, and proactively used colour to keep us looking at them, removing colour would also remove the compulsion to scroll.

This change interacted with my sleep deprivation and stress in a way that meant I couldn’t stick with it long enough to find out what effect it might have had on my phone usage

It made me consider the mortality of my child

As we unpacked our crap from the car, sweating in the summer heat and humidity, seemingly from nowhere I was crushed by the weight of the potential of youth. So much to do and be: on this trip she would swim in the ocean under her own steam for the first time despite her sniffles and the clothes she had on.

The unfortunate thing about potential is our instinct to measure in terms of our own hopes and expectations. A productivity hack designed to keep me more in the present instead made me grieve for a future that wasn’t even lost.

Be there for the people you love when you can. Also sleep more. 

I wanted to be less distracted by my phone. What I got instead was a reminder of why.

We spent the next couple of days in an AirBnB that looked nothing like the pictures in the ad nursing each through unfortunate colds and managing our groceries through a bar fridge and microwave on an island that wound up having very little to do on it. Potential of the trip collapsed into reality in just the way we needed it to.

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