Slaying the Digital Dragon…
No, I’m not getting into computer games. I’m not turning into a World of Warcraft nerd. What I am doing is making a stand against the “non-Paleo-ness” of the modern world. I can’t stand it anymore and I’m leaving the building…
On an evolutionary note, you could think of it this way: Our world has changed dramatically and permanently with the proliferation of digital devices, communication and social media. It will never be like it was and we have no idea what it will be like in 3, 5 or 10 years. If you buy into the whole evolution thing, it makes sense that there will be those of us who learn, grow and adapt to the changing environment and those of us who don’t. We’re talking survival of the fittest and adaptation to environment here – and you can argue that the stakes have never been higher. (For a fascinating look at what the technological revolution and evolution we’re living in means, check out the book “What Technology Wants” by Kevin Kelly.)
The Age of Digital Distraction…
I’ve been losing my mind lately. I’ve been working harder and harder and stressing more and more – and getting less done than ever. Over the past few weeks, I finally got some perspective – thanks to Leo Babauta and Steven Pressfield – and could finally see that my constant “busy-ness” was producing virtually nothing of any real value to me or anyone else.
Worse, I wasn’t really progressing toward my goals and the lifestyle I wanted. And, even worse than that, my physical and emotional health was beginning to backslide just a bit. Not the direction I want things to be going in and definitely the “canary in the coal mine” as far as the future my current actions and habits were creating.
“If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?”
– Douglas Adams
I talked a lot about digital distraction and the mess we’re in in my post “You Can’t Have it All – And You Don’t Want It All Anyway…” In that post, I laid out the fallacy we’re sold in the modern world about “having it all” and how we’re trying to have it all and having less and less of what we want the more we try.
My current goal is to have only a very few things that I’m engaged in – but very important, meaningful and compelling things.
I talked in depth about my goals for the coming year in “You Can’t Have it All – And You Wouldn’t Want It All Anyway…” and “Time’s Up! Are You a Professional or an Amateur?” The rest of this post explains the way I’m going to accomplish those goals…
Experiments in (Paleo) Lifestyle Design…
Tim Ferris’ tagline on his blog is: “Experiments in Lifestyle Design.” (http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/). What I’m focusing on here are “Experiments in Paleo Lifestyle Design.”
Just like our bodies didn’t evolve to thrive on technologically produced and molested food and hour-long treadmill workouts while watching a TV, our body, mind and spirit didn’t evolve to be inundated by information, requests, emails, tweets, texts and updates 24/7 across multiple digital devices.
Trying to create outstanding health while under this barrage of digital information is likely just as ignorant as trying to build outstanding health while eating McDonald’s or walking on a treadmill and watching a TV…
Intellectual understanding is nice, but nothing really happens until you put things into practice. My blog is Practical Paleolithic after all, so actually making this all work in the real world is important.
Intellectualizing is nice, but mental masturbation can only take you so far – then you have to actually ACT. This is where 99.9% of people miss the boat…
So this is where the “experiments” part of “Experiments in Paleo Lifestyle Design” comes from and it’s where the “practical” in “Practical Paleolithic” comes from.
Here’s what I’m going to do…
I’m going on a serious Social Media and Digital fast. That’s right. A fast. I’m prioritizing my writing and my training. My health and my work come first. The rest comes second or not at all.
(BTW, this absolutely does NOT mean I won’t ever be online again – or that I don’t love and value EVERY SINGLE person who I’m connected to online. It’s just that the constant pointing and clicking and tweeting and chatting is beginning to erode my health and sanity :-))
Slaying the Email Monster…
I’ll attempt to check my email every day, but that won’t always happen. I’ll check it every other day at a minimum – and I mean ONCE in that period. ONCE…
I’ll reply to the important emails as soon as I can and I’ll que up the others to be responded to as I’m able. That’s it. I’m going to shoot for an hour every day or two for email and THAT’S IT. I’ll have to work on being OK with letting some of them slide.
If you think I’m nuts, think about this:
There was a resent study done by the University of California Irvine and The US Army on the effects of email “vacations” that showed email caused workers to change screens twice as often as those who didn’t have access to email. Those with access to email were in a “steady state of high alert” with constantly elevated heart rates. Those removed from email access for 5 days experienced a more natural and variable heart rate.
Can you say CORTISOL?
And, while you’re at it, think about this:
If your email program checks for new email every 5 minutes – and you haven’t turned off the “new email alert” option – you’re getting interrupted about 96 times in an 8 hour day. That’s NOT including interruptions by text message, Facebook, Twitter, etc. ON TOP of that number.
(Both of the above are from an article in the August 2012 Macworld. There’s a revolution going on currently where highly innovative companies are focusing on seriously minimizing or entirely avoiding email. You can read about what’s going on with this topic in the August 2012 Macworld issue.)
You’re getting beeped and bleeped at by an electronic device a few hundred times a day most likely… How Paleo is THAT?!?!?!?!
While most of this new and expanding thinking about avoiding email is aimed toward improving productivity, my purpose is really toward improving my health, mental state and thinking quality. Yes, I want to become more productive at producing work that matters, but the real aim for me is to improve my health, healing and training. (And,further, I believe that producing more work that matters will improve my health as well…)
Paleo Internet and Social Media – Web 0.0
I’m a huge fan of social media. I love what the social web has done for the world in general and me in particular. But enough is enough.
For quite a while now, I’ve been experiencing worse and worse anxiety, lack of focus and distraction. And I’ve been getting very little of my important life’s purpose-level work done. Yes, I had seen the latest boob-centric hilarity posted by my dear old friend Wild Gorillaman and I’ve seen about 30 of the newest “You Can Do It! Rah! Rah! Rah!” motivational slogan pictures that were circulating this past hour on Facebook, but as for truly important WORK, I was accomplishing very little and seriously spiking my cortisol while I was doing it. Or, not doing it as the case may have been…
Where this All Came From…
Last week this all reached a peak when I got up, sat with my fresh-ground organic coffee, did some reading, listened to the birds, felt the sun coming in on the porch… And proceeded to turn on the computer and start checking email and Facebooking and feel my calm focus fade. My heart started beating more rapidly, my thoughts started racing and, next thing I knew, I had 50 browser windows open and an absolute glut of things I just “had to” read and “had to” do and “had to” reply to.
Within about a half an hour, I was stressed, overwhelmed, had added about 80 things to my to-do list for the day, felt hopeless and out of control and had ZERO desire to write and create. Oh, and my stomach had started bothering me…
I’ll still be on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but I’ll be sharing my own content a lot more and making more infrequent – but more meaningful – contributions on there. I’ll be engaging in a lot less time wasting.
It’s Not Just Me…
Yeah, I might just be some crazy anomaly. But I’m not. In the past few years there’s been a massive increase in books and programs and blogs and whatever else related to dealing with this incredible digital stimulation and information glut that’s exploding around us.
There’s more opportunity to create and learn and grow and explore and contribute in this new age of ours, but there’s also more opportunity than ever to get buried under an avalanche of to-do lists, irrelevant nonsense and requests for your time and attention that you could never, ever complete no matter what you did.
Taking a New Path…
My personal approach is going to be dual approach. On the one hand, I’ll practice “selective ignorance” as Tim Ferris calls it in “The Four Hour Work Week” and I’ll work to focus on the absolute minimum of things. But those things will be those that are the most important – as Leo Babauta talks about in “The Power of Less.”
At the same time, I’ll leverage technology and use “systems and software” as advocated by guys like David Allen (“Getting Things Done”), Michael Linenberger (Master Your Workday Now!) and David Sparks (macsparky.com).
What I WON’T do – anymore – is point and click and stress and check and tweet and run in circles endlessly like a douchebag and get almost nothing done after 12 hours on the computer. Those days are now over.
My goal is that all my online friends will see more focused, meaningful, relevant and ground-breaking new work from me. That alone will make me happier. And the lower stress lifestyle I’m experimenting with will likely help as well.
Stay tuned. There’s some cool new stuff coming!
Here’s a really funny post about how silly us Paleo types are at times…
Bonus Number 2…
If the stuff I’m talking about in this post are interesting to you and you’d like to pursue more on them, here are the books I’d highly recommend you check out:
“The Power of Less” – Leo Babauta
“The Four Hour Work Week” – Tim Ferriss
“Getting Things Done” – David Allen
“Control Your Workday Now” – Michael Linenberger
“The War of Art” – Steven Pressfield
“Turning Pro” – Steven Pressfield