Do You Need A Digital Declutter?

Hand reach out from laptop screen, isolated on black background

The other day I got an email from Cal Newport. He’s proposing to his email list the idea of doing a “digital declutter” in the month of January. It’s part of a study for his next book.

Here’s how he defines a digital declutter:

…you take a 30-day break from optional technologies in your personal life (social media, web browsing, etc). During this period, you clarify what you really value and experiment with how best to serve these values. At the end of the 30 days, you then add back technologies to your life in an intentional way with the goal of supporting these values.”

I signed up for it.

I don’t know all the fine print yet, but there goes Facebook, Twitter, and  Instagram for sure.

I don’t know about online newspapers, or podcasts yet either, but for sure he’ll paint bright lines around “constant email-checking”.

I am a little terrified of this.

That’s because I am currently under the zombie spell of media. Particularly political stuff.

I read my Twitter feed first thing.

I scroll Instagram.

I’m on Facebook.

I read the online versions of both the New York Times and the The Washington Post daily. I don’t watch Morning Joe, but I listen to the show’s 30-40 minute podcast every day.

 

And what do I get out of this?

Thousands and thousands of micro-hits of dopamine. All. Day. Long.

And I’m totally addicted. Rage and indignation are powerful and exciting drugs. A dark force inside me eats this stuff. And this force is hungry.

So I’m going cold-turkey for a month. The month of January.

It’s gonna be hard.  That kind of “giving up sugar” hard.

But the hope is by month’s end I’ll  have learned how to align my values to my social media habits, and not just use them to distract or enrage me. I want to learn how to be conscious in my use of it, not just get dopamine hits all day long.

I don’t want to get riled up, either good or bad, by media. I want to use it to support, collaborate, or connect with other people– not do whatever it is I’m doing with it now.

It’s very clear I need to take charge of my own eyeballs again. And also full responsibility for how I spend my time. I can’t let Twitter and Facebook, and Morning Joe hijack my attention, which is to say, my life, anymore.

I think this will be a good way to start the new year.

G says she want to do this, too. I’ll  be nice having a fellow sufferer. But even if she doesn’t do it, she understands why I need to, and will be there to root me on.

And this is not just me. From what I’m picking up from the people I talk to in real life, and follow on Facebook (hah), I’m not the only one feeling the need for this.

A lot of people struggle with social media..  If this “digital declutter” in January sounds interesting to you, here’s what you do: just follow this blog, and I’ll pass along any instructions and tips Cal passes on to me. We can do  this together if you want.

We can share stories and struggles in the comments.

(Now I just hope writing and reading blogs is allowed.)

Hm.

Stay tuned.

The Sugar Project

Sugar

Yesterday G and I decided to give up sugar for the rest of the month of February.
Good god, WHY???
The answer:
Just to see if we can do it AND,
if we will die doing it AND
how we will do it (rules, etc.).
AND, for me, how it will hack my biology.
Another personal reason  I want to do this is because I’ve been without a project for about 3 months.
Ever since I published my book, The Project-Driven Life I’ve been looking for a new project, but haven’t had any luck. I had hoped I would hit on something long-term and juicy, but nothing has occurred to me yet, so until that big, juicy thing arrives, this short bio-hack will do. It still fits all my “project” criteria:
  1. I’m excited about it. (Actually, I’m more curious
    than excited.)
  2. It has an end date: February 29th.
  3. I know what counts as done: No sugar for 19 days.
 
And, just to keep myself accountable (because I’m an Obliger) I’m going to blog about it every day.
The first thing we did was identify all the sugary stuff we currently eat on a regular basis. Here’s my list:
Honey and maple syrup. I like sweet oatmeal and I like syrup on pancakes and waffles. If I can’t have honey on my oatmeal or syrup on my waffles, I won’t eat those foods.
Mi-del Ginger Snaps. I’m kind of addicted to these at the moment. I like to eat them when I’m watching TV and sipping wine after class.
Ghiradelli Squares. When I want chocolate, these are what I want. I like the Milk and Caramel ones.
Talenti Gelato. Oh god. The Mediterranean Mint is crack. I could eat the whole pint by myself. With a spoon.
If I am craving sweets but want a “healthier” alternative I eat raisins or dates and congratulate myself on my virtue.
G’s list includes:
Her morning mocha, or if she makes coffee at home, her flavored creamer. (She likes sweet coffee.)
Mid-morning or mid-afternoon she goes for some kind of a “bar.” A Kind bar or other granola-y, faux-heathy snack. (She has a big stash of these bars in her office for pre-practice snacking.)
She also likes muffins.
We have identified these as our “Daily Dangers.”
So here’s how we did yesterday:
Neither of us caved. Go us!
I made myself a Bulletproof coffee for breakfast and then fasted until 2Pm when I got a salad to-go from Night and Day and an Americano, which I Bulletproofed when I got home.
I made this 40 Garlic Chicken Recipe for dinner (oh god, so good! Thanks for the recommendation, Em!) and had some before class.
After class, I had a glass of wine, and I did want some Ginger Snaps, but resisted. (win!)
G’s biggest danger is running out of fuel before practice. She had to find something to eat other than a bar.  She really needs a boost around 2PM, so yesterday she tried an apple and cashews. She came home starving though,  and dove into the 40 Garlic Chicken even before changing.
As we sat on the couch at the end of the evening and shared our respective days, she looked kind of sad and stricken.
She had a much harder first day than I did.
Onward.