Day 31. Just listen, the 4th

I have no idea why, but I remembered this song yesterday. Have been listening to little else since. Strange, how time passes. I remember seeing them live in my hometown.

On this final day of the Spring Clean I shall live intentionally and intentionally binge-watch as much 13 Reasons Why on Netflix as I can get in before 9pm. Tune back in tomorrow for the enlightened summary of all the great wisdom I accumulated over the past month. Or something. Not sure yet.


Day 30. The missing bit

There’s one thing I never concerned myself with throughout this entire month, and yesterday I realised what it is: my phone at work.

Do you ever have one of these days where you seem to be stuck in a social dead zone? All your communications have gone quiet, and nobody is replying to your messages?

And certainly it’s just a coincidence that everybody is busy, or not feeling up to talking right now for one of 200 possible reasons, but still you sit there with your anxiety welling up and try and fail to convince yourself that it’s fine, it’s not you, and this is definitely not the day the world as a collective has realised you’re not worth talking to or being friends with and has just silently dropped you??

…well that last bit might just be me, but I hope the first bit is somewhat relatable.

Anyway, yesterday was one of these days. And as I got more and more nervous, no matter how much I tried telling myself everything was fine, I picked up my phone more and more, hoping for some kind of relief. Not even necessarily one of the messages I was waiting for, just… anything to calm me down. I was even close to re-installing the Buzzfeed app.

When I made these rules about internet consumption during the week, I never bothered to put any restrictions on my time at work. It’s perfectly acceptable to have our phones on our desks at work, and I often use mine to listen to podcasts or for the occasional important messaging. So it’s incredibly easy just to pick it up when the busy mind needs a pacifier. At the end of the day, I felt so gross and unhappy I really regretted not thinking about this aspect of media consumption earlier.

Today, I tried to make a conscious effort to stay away from my phone. I didn’t quite manage to hide it away completely (that’s a work in progress), but I looked at it a lot less. One day I hope I can just put it away for hours. I kinda miss those days when I didn’t even know where my phone was sometimes.

Well, there’s always something to work on.

Day 29. A reminder

Yesterday I decided to turn to Anthony Ongaro’s channel for my one Youtube video a day, and found this little gem:

In this video, he talks about minimalism as a “filter” to live one’s life: It’s about asking the questions “Does this add value to my life?” and “How can I add value to this?”, to find a better way to spend your time and energy that is maybe not the most obvious one.

The example in this video is a conference, but those questions can be applied to pretty much anything. The point is to stop following the obvious and look for what fits instead.

Over the past two years, being busy was my thing. Saying yes to everything was my thing. Then I spread myself too thin with two theatre groups, a dance class and choir (in addition to working full time), and came out tired, lacking energy and half-arsing the things I’d committed to work on outside of hours.

Some time ago I dropped my second theatre company, and although I miss them, and I’m reasonably good at acting, I don’t regret it. I dropped out of my dance class, which I miss and was reasonably good at, and I don’t regret it. I’d started them both to try something new, but also, in a way, to get more busy, without reflecting on whether doing these things was the best use of my time.

In the end, I realised I wasn’t adding value to anyone’s life by going to dance class (and I only got moderate enjoyment out of it). I can do much better work in the theatre company I’m still part of than I could in the other one (“work” going beyond performance and into actual help with production, promoting the company, being part of a community etc). Choir I will never leave because singing makes me feel fulfilled, and I like to think I’m a good addition to the group.

Cutting out the things that didn’t fully serve me or others have allowed me to look into other ways of doing something useful. I now have time to properly contribute to the projects I’ve fully committed to. I have time to explore new things. And I have time for a social life; I can hang out with people I care about, and I can talk to my parents on Skype without feeling like I should be doing something else. And I’m getting more sleep.

Time is such a precious commodity, and over the past month I’ve really found that it helps to put that filter of “How does this add value to anyone’s life?” to the way I spend my time. It’s not like I never waster mine, I still do; but I like to think I’ve become better at using it.

Day 28. A moment of honesty

I have to be very honest about something for a moment:

I am really, really looking forward to this month being over.

Not because I want my spending habits back, or my internet addiction – I’m just really tired of blogging every day, and I cannot wait to remove this activity from my life. It’s been nothing but painful for the last week or two.

I have a fairly busy life (I live in London, of course I do!), so the only time I get around to writing is in the early morning. So each morning I wake up at 5.15am or so, and my first thought is “Oh god. I don’t wanna blog.”

I can’t even remember what I’ve written about most of this month. I just plonk them down early in the morning, schedule them for publication and stop thinking until the next morning at 5.15. I do love writing, but writing daily for publication when it’s not really a priority in my life… nah. I’m not doing that again.

So here it is. Writing for publication is not a priority for me, and I’d much rather do any of these other things:

  • journal
  • write for myself, i.e. poetry or fiction
  • read

I’ll do my very best to make the following couple of days more interesting than just typing “uuuurrrgggghhhh”, though. We can do this.

Day 27. Sleeeeeep

Isn’t it strange how not sleeping has become some sort of measurement as to how productive someone is? As if it’s impressive to have slept only four hours, because someone is soooo busy and look, they’re still standing!

Last year I watched nearly every one of Casey Neistat’s videos, and one thing I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around is the fact that he used to edit at night (for 2-7hrs), losing sleep in order to be able to create his high-quality daily vlog. It might’ve worked for him (it looks like it; I don’t know the man), but I don’t think it’s a great example to set for others. There are tons of studies on what sleep deprivation does to you and your performance, and even if your job does not involve saving lives, it’s nice not to make mistakes.

I used to stay up for reasons that didn’t even have anything to do with work. I’d come home after 10pm and feel this strange need to have a wander around Youtube, where I’d be until about 11.30pm, at which point I’d finally be able to pry myself away from the screen and go to sleep feeling guilty, waking up at 5.30 in the morning.

One of the best things this month has given me is more sleep. I turn off my screen at 9pm (sometimes earlier) and get ready for bed slowly, maybe with a bit of reading. If I come home after 10, turning on the computer again isn’t even an option. But most days it’s lights off before 10pm, so I get 7, sometimes even 8 hours instead of the 6 that used to be the norm.

I’m still working on my sleep quality, but we have the basics at least: time to get better sleep.

Day 26. In which I window shop

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 19.42.45
Note: Nothing I say in this blog entry applies to these shoes, which will be mine one day. Miiine.

A lot of my internet time these past few days has been taken up by browsing online stores. It’s largely been about running gear, which I don’t need right now, but will need more of down the line (to paraphrase Alexandra Heminsley: what is a new hobby if not an opportunity to shop?) SO WHY NOT. But I’ve also felt the desire to have a look around bookstores again, and the occasional clothing store.

Interestingly, it doesn’t make me want to buy anything. I happened to be in Oxford Street yesterday, calmly browsing the shops in the sunshine, without any desire whatsoever to take anything home. The same thing happens when I’m online.

I’ve tried to find out what it is about window shopping that excites me so much. But either my Google skills are failing, or there isn’t much science on window shopping in particular. It’s easy to find an article on dopamine and how it makes us go shopping until we get the high of buying something, but what if I’m not making the purchase? Is my “reward” simply that I could make one, if I wanted to?

The Minimalists have a really good podcast on stuff, including a segment on impulse buying. I don’t remember all of it, but one thought that stuck with me is that the buyer’s high doesn’t last far beyond the checkout line –  if we buy something, it won’t make us happy for very long. (I rarely order anything online that gives me the same thrill unpacking it as it did when I decided to order it.) I keep thinking about that whenever I see something I might like: Is it going to add actual value to my life? Do I want to spend the money on it? Do I want to have to find a place for it?

At the shops yesterday, just the thought of buying new clothes made me feel queasy. There’s not a lot of space in my room, and I’ve just gotten into the habit of getting rid of things on a regular basis. I don’t want to have to find space for this new thing! I can barely fit the clothes I have!

So today I had another go at my drawers, and I now find myself with maybe two t-shirts to my name. Sooner or later I’ll have to get new ones. But until then, I’ll enjoy my mysterious window shopping “hobby” without the added pressure of having to make a decision on whether I want to buy anything. It’ll only be another week.

Day 25. I almost forgot to blog today…

… because I was reading this book. It’s been my world since I grabbed a proof copy a few days ago, and it’s been keeping me from doing pretty much anything.
I won’t get into the story (that’s what Google is for, and proper book blogs), but I’ve found it spellbinding. The writing takes a bit getting used to, but in the end it works. I rarely see this much power in a story, and this much raw humanity in just very small moments.

Also, if you’re into good female characters – here is one.

It’s out at the end of August.