As January closes, I know you’ve been working hard to get your year started off right. Many have taken social media moratoriums after becoming exhausted by politics in their timelines (here is a quick FB fix for that by the way: http://www.abc10.com/news/how-to-stop-seeing-politics-on-facebook/394170339) and the time has never seemed better for metering your exposure as rage farmers dominate every information platform.
This month, I challenged friends and coworkers to monitor and time block social media to keep from getting lost in the shallows. Social is undoubtedly important. I don’t subscribe fully to Cal Newport’s view that we should all quit social media. Newport is a millennial computer scientists who calls social media, “…A collection of trivial entertainment services that are currently having a good run”. Social has its place, however, I do agree that our economy is more likely to reward work that is rare and valuable over the kind of half -thought out fragments of ideas that scroll through our timelines, the #solidarityselfies, the snark and gotcha quotes the “alternative facts” and news sources I’ve never heard of before. To me, social is a great way to stay connected to the consciousness of society, share ideas and find motivation, even if you have to hack your way through a jungle of crap some days.
So far, my own experiment to limit social media is purposeful and specific. My phones stay in another room as I sleep each night and I have to say, I sleep better. Yes, there is a small temptation to retrieve them when I happen to wake up at 3am but I’ve resisted and its getting easier. I no longer bring my devices into our afternoon editorial meetings and, as a result, am more engaged in the story pitches and discussion. Using a paper agenda instead of a digital calendar has also been a positive change. I like being able to see the month in total and the crossed out sections showing how much I’ve already accomplished in this young year.
The one area I’ve not wrangled sufficiently is my off time. I’ve found it difficult upon waking, not to get lost in the shallows. Coffee and catching up on news is extending too far into my morning and I’m not taking the time I need most days to write. Activity should not be confused with accomplishment. Writing resets my brain for the day and relaxes me as well as meditation and physical exercise. A word on exercise (and another reason to keep up with that new years resolution to get more). Did you know your brain solves problems best while under stress, outside and moving 1.8 mph? (John Medina, Brain Rules). We evolved on the move, and “Exercise acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself. It increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress.”
As a kick start to motivate and help me focus during my off time, I’ve resolved to read 50 books this year. I do my best reading via audio while I’m running or walking the dog. Up first, an old friend. Stephen King, the prolific horror writer, penned a small non-fiction book in 2000 called, “On Writing”. Every few years, I download it and read or listen to it again. Its part autobiographical and part professorial but it never fails to push the reset button on my thinking about the craft of writing. Brain Rules by John Medina is on deck (quoted him earlier in this article) and a small book called, “Hustle” by Jesse Tevelow is also loaded and ready in my audible cue.
As we enter into February with “A Fresh Agenda”, I am still looking for good interviews to share from thought leaders and life hackers on the topics of metering social media and productivity. So far, I’ve chatted with Jay Leno (uploaded interview on my FB page) and I’m working my way down a list of others who can bring value to the topics. This month will no doubt bring more political news and one investigative story I’m working on, in particular, may bring clarity to a scary medical issue. While I will never shy away from sharing the facts of any story with viewers…I’m no rage farmer. Rage doesn’t tap the most creative parts of you or motivate your best work…nor mine. Let’s use February to inspire each other to do the things that inspire us to our deepest and most valuable work.