For background on my monthly habits + experience thing that I’m doing for 2015, check out this post. You can also read about the habits and experience that I did in January. I wrote this post about a month ago, but am just now publishing due to other things going on
Fresh off the success of my meditation and not drinking any alcohol for January, I decided that for February, I’d do the following:
Positive habit: Write something substantial every day
Negative habit: Media fast (except books)
New experience: Go ice fishing in Vermont
Summary: this month did not go as well as January did
Positive habit: Write something every day!
For years, I blogged basically every day. But two or three years ago, I just got too busy and stopped cold turkey. I always found it easier to blog every day than to do it occasionally. Same with working out, actually. At any rate, anytime I start writing every day, I find it very difficult for the first few days, but then it gets easier. And then after a few weeks, I start thinking of things that would make for interesting posts all the time.
So I wanted to get back to that level of mental creativity, but one thing that I’ve always disliked about my blogging is that writing great content every day is almost impossible, so I end up with a bunch of mediocre posts with the occasional gem. So instead of making my goal to publish every day, I wanted to do one of the following:
- Publish a blog post
- Write 1000 words
- Write for an hour
My thinking was that I could spend more time really going deep on a topic, or maybe just spend an hour editing a post, etc. Also, I didn’t restrict it to blog posts, as I have a mountain of other things that need writing for various projects and initiatives.
Well, it didn’t go that well. I did post a few blog posts, and I spent a bunch more days editing those posts or others, and still more days working on other writing projects that have yet to see the light of day. But I probably hit my target fewer than 50% of the days of the month. Pretty dismal. It got worse towards the end of the month, as I got more demoralized about how poorly things were going.
I think the only good news here is that it did get me to write a few posts and I’m thinking more about writing somewhat frequently and how I can make that happen.
So, giving myself a C- on this one.
Negative habit: Media fast
Like a lot of people, I consume a metric ton of media. I follow a couple dozen TV shows, regularly listen to 10+ podcasts (mostly weekly), and spend too much time reading Reddit, Hacker News, Google News, Quora, etc.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with entertainment…and some of these things (the podcasts and some of the web surfing) is generally educational and mentally enriching. But I find that I crave it all so much, and I think it often impacts my ability to focus and enjoy slower things. At any given time, I have roughly 11 billion media choices available to me 24/7.
One of my goals this year is to read 100 books (lost some ground this last week, but generally on track so far), which means I need to be reading two books per week, finishing a book every 3.5 days. That’s very time-consuming, even if you’re using Kindle + Audible to get reading time in everywhere possible.
Combine that with wanting to spend a lot of time writing every day and I knew it was going to be almost impossible to keep up with everything if I kept my media consumption levels where they were previously. So I decided that doing a media fast this month would be a good idea.
The rules were simple: absolutely NO media other than books (paper, kindle, and audio) or instrumental music. No TV shows, no movies, no web surfing for entertainment, no news media, no podcasts, and no non-instrumental music.
My goal was to really clear my mind and be able to stretch my attention span to be able to read for a couple hours every day without feeling bored or restless.
When I’ve done media fasts in the past, it’s always been really hard for the first week or so, and then it gets easier, once my brain adjusts.
For whatever reason, this time it was basically easy from day one. I don’t think I “cheated” at all, though there were a couple times when I opened a website before remembering the fast and closing it.
I really can’t express the clarity and peacefulness that doing a media fast like this brings. There were a few times, mostly towards the end of the month when I wanted to watch a TV show, particularly while preparing food, but overall, I felt like I had a tremendous amount of time and mental attention available.
I will say that this is so much easier to do successfully if you have a really good book that you’re reading that’s fun and entertaining, not a slog that you’re reading because you feel like you should. That’s fine too, but for moments of high willpower, not low willpower.
So I’ll give myself an A for this one.
Side note: after March 1st, I returned to consuming all these forms of media and I have very mixed feelings about it. A big part of me wants to continue the fast, particularly with 90% of the tv shows, podcasts, and web surfing. They’re entertaining, but in a fairly shallow way. I just don’t think my well being is being improved by them.
And in some cases, just the opposite.
I can remember a couple of distinct times when I watched something that made me envious or feel guilty about something I should be doing, and thinking: “Wow, I haven’t felt like that in a long time.”
The stuff we put in our brains influences us more than we think it does, and I think we could all stand to be a bit more conscientious about it. But enough rambling about that.
New experience: Ice fishing
I didn’t do this one. We went to Vermont (the trip was a total disaster, but that’s another post), but we decided that ice fishing wasn’t in the budget. I resolved to come up with another experience to replace it, but I ran out of month before I came up with anything.
However, I’ve already done TWO new experiences in March to make up for it.
So to summarize, I had a very successful media fast, but did poorly on writing every day, and didn’t do my new experience at all.
Looking back at past years when I’ve resolved to do something new for the year, February is often the time when life intrudes to the point that it drops off, so I think this slump was expected, but I’m happy that I didn’t give up totally, and things are going much better in March.
More about that in a few weeks!