#80: What is Your Do Not Disturb Strategy?

In this article I share ways I try to find balance between being very online and telling the world to Do Not Disturb, mixed in with some meditative photos of homes from across my projects.

#80: What is Your Do Not Disturb Strategy?
Northampton, Massachusetts, 2019 

Several months ago I started storing my phone in the kitchen while I slept so I wouldn't pick it up immediately upon waking which is a terribly unproductive way to start the day.

On the first night, I put it in the kitchen and within 5 minutes there was a random ping from the phone. So I got up and turned on the Do Not Disturb function. It was a peaceful night of sleep afterward.  

As I got into my routine, I completely forgot to turn off Do Not Disturb. I missed a few calls. That was no fun. So I turned it off during working hours. Naturally, when I went back to sleep one night, the phone started to ping again. So I got up again, and turned Do Not Disturb back on. I am sure this is starting to sound familiar for most of you.

Saint Cloud, Minnesota, 2021

I started building a routine. Do Not Disturb at night.

Fine. Disturb me during the day.

Now I am at the point where I flip back and forth, with the occasional day of forgetfulness.  

Before going out for a long walk, the first thing I do is to make sure Do Not Disturb is turned on. When I am out walking, one of the major goals is to be 'very offline' and away from the messages and the flow of information. The walking time creates a counter to the online time.

The last few weeks my equilibrium has been shattered by a "disturbance in the force," which I attribute to the rise of web3 into our collective consciousness. Web3 has mostly manifested in the crypto subculture the last decade which most of us have been aware but few have probably done more to engage with except throw a few moonbag dollars at Bitcoin.

Then something happened in the last year. We were introduced to Non-fungible Tokens. NFT mania ensued. Some artists got rich, others recoiled in horror, while a large swath has taken a wait and see approach.

NFTs have been polarizing, at least on Twitter. And I know there are a lot of  photographers and other knowledge workers that don't fully understand why they are important.  

This will not be an NFT explainer, you are safe. But if you do have questions, please feel free to send me an email and I will do my best to articulate why I think they are important.

Within my orbit, the rise of web3 in the public consciousness has acted as a catalyst for a re-imagining the economics of the art world, and broader digital economy. This catalyst has also illuminated the rising importance of collaboration and community, both of which are built into the fabric of web3.

Next thing I knew, I found myself in a new Discord server sharing links and ideas at a higher frequency than I typically find productive. As an editor, I am always trying to gauge what to share and what to keep private because there's just too much, and nobody has time to read it all.  

St. Cloud, Minnesota, 2021

This new activity on Discord and Twitter has reminded me of the Flickr days. During that wave, you could jump into your forum of choice at any time of day and  confidently assume there would be others around chatting and discussing photography.

It's been one of those periods in time where I have been doing more research and reading than creating. Sometimes it's not possible to find a balance and you just need to go with the flow so to speak. So I've been reading and researching, and maybe Tweeting too much.

In a two week spasm, I've spun out several threads, got into a few arguments, and much to my embarrassment, behaved like a know it all jerk more than usual, which is not a wise choice in the midst of a technological disruption.

The balance between my walking time and online time has been disrupted as well.  As with most periods in time, there are positive and negative aspects that we need to analyze about these new developments.

I have found myself retreating for the moment back into more long walks which has disrupted my typical work schedule, but I feel like am getting back on track now after a few weeks. September is traditionally a slow period as we all ramp up for the last quarter of the year which tends to be incredibly busy with the holidays.

Long Island, NY, 2015

Almost every person I've spoken to recently has communicated a sense that something big is about to occur. Is it a black swan event? Is it the great reset? Is it an alien invasion? We don't know.  

But I sense that Do Not Disturb is going to become even more important, so I have been thinking about developing my strategy. This might be a lost cause before I even start. I have been ruminating on productivity and process for as long as I have been writing this newsletter, and I still have no definitive strategies. So perhaps embracing the uncertainty and emergence is the best strategy. Gravitate to what feels right, and where your intuition pushes you. At some point, the ideas will converge and you'll know the next step.  

For me, all of this had made me wonder if it might be more sensible to embrace more of an asynchronous approach to creative production. You release or drop when you are ready, not because of a defined schedule. The weekly schedule of a newsletter or a podcast is starting to feel like a relic of the web2 world we're trying to leave.

In the new web3 world, the hope is that we'll be able to gain more control and ownership of our work, and most importantly for me, greater control of our most precious resource: our time.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, 2021

The the media-tech-entertainment industrial attention complex wants to steal as much of our time as possible because that's how they make money. It's not good or bad, it's just how it is for a species that demands a constant stream of information and amusement.

We are reaching full optimization. At any time, we can go online or enter the metaverse and discover an endless supply of education, entertainment and amusement. It's information all the way down to infinity.  

The lines between artist, creator and audience will continue to blur even further as our activities become more collaborative in the web3 world. I suspect for older generations, it'll be too much and some of us will choose the safety of our old web2 neighborhoods, living out our lives perfectly happy not knowing about the narratives unfolding in the metaverse.

Through my time spent on long walks, I have learned that every time I go out, it's a new event, and anything can happen. That's why I enjoy it so immensely.

Our physical reality is relatively stable. Of course, there are weather events, and other unknowns that go with inhabiting a planet with billions of other organisms.

However, I am confident when I walk to the park that there will be trees, and paths and other animals and humans enjoying the space.

But nothing is certain in the new emerging metaverse. It's still very much being built, and there will be rules, customs and behaviors that will likely evolve at such a rapid pace that it'll be hard for non-residents to understand it.

And of course, I am intrigued by it! It's definitely a virtual walk I want to take, but I know for certain it will not be rewarding if I am not able to put up the Do Not Disturb notification and find my balance in the material world.

Finding the balance and the connection between the two will be one of the greatest challenges we face.

I am hopeful because I think there's a general recognition that the metaverse cannot thrive if it's treated like the current attention economy. It simply takes up too much of our time.  

I am most optimistic when I sense our collective desire to build a new internet that will allow us to spend far less time online. This is the goal of maintaining ownership of your digital assets, and life. You are no longer paying the large tech companies with your attention or time. It's going to be a big change because we have become addicted to our online habits.

I am here to enthusiastically remind you that you are free to put up the Do Not Disturb sign for any reason, at any moment. You own your time, and I hope we are building a new world where no other human being, organization or government has the right to coerce us into using our time primarily for their financial benefit.

This for me, is the core fight we are facing in the next decade. Every human should be free to use their precious time on earth to follow their own desire path, free of the economic coercion built into the fabric of capitalism.  

Let me know what you think! I am learning every day and would love to hear about your Do Not Disturb strategies.  

Arches National Park, Utah, 2018

News Roundup

  • Robert Moor and Isaac Fitzgerald went for a walk and wrote complimentary articles about the experience. Here's Moor in Curbed: "Strayed describes a phenomenon she calls “life at foot speed.” It is the act of moving slowly enough that chance entanglements can occur with people and places. Walking, seen in this light, feels at once freeing and communal, two qualities that have been in short supply of late.
  • And here's a nice quote from Moor from Fitzgerald's newsletter: "A long walk forces you into a prolonged state of contemplation. You're alone. You're walking. You have no distractions, save the wilderness—or the city—around you. So you have a lot of time to think."
  • On The Carat, Noah Kalina shares some insights on his work and building an online media business: "Well, it’s like, what's the better goal? To be a commercial photographer or an artist? The answer is obviously an artist. I want to just make my own work on my own time. And the newsletter is ... I wouldn't say it's my art, but it's my own self-assigned project that is almost always built around a series of photographs."
  • Lenscratch featured a beautiful new project by James Prochnik about Shore Road Park in Brooklyn called Far Away: "More than anything, being in these spaces, particularly after viewing the world as presented by internet news or social media, felt just incredibly reassuringly normal.  Families played with their children and held outdoor birthday parties.  Kids played soccer and baseball.  People flew kites.  The apocalyptic world being so vividly fed to us on our phone screens evaporated, and a real word of normalcy, of life going on, of children growing up, reasserted itself."
  • My pal Alex Wolfe shares some insights about his long walk in the Early Majority: "It goes without saying, but the infrastructure we’ve built in order to accommodate the automobile is incredibly violent. Walking for at least six hours for multiple days in a row tends to heighten your senses. The fumes of gasoline are more potent."

I’m a photographer and consultant from Saint Cloud, Minnesota. This is my newsletter on art, walking, and mindfulness. Each issue, I share new work from my projects and try to make connections between ideas, articles and people that fascinate me.

My consulting services focus on helping photographers with project development, editorial strategy and building a walking practice. I offer FREE 30 minute introductory calls to chat about your projects, and learn if I can help.

You can email me at info@bryanformhals.com or follow me on Instagram & Twitter