As you can probably tell from reading my emails lately, I’ve been taking a bit of a different approach to my business and life. I spoke about this in detail in my new lecture series.
I’m streamlining things. I’m shrinking the amount of available space I have for distracting, disheartening or otherwise annoying messages to get through to me.
Here are a few ways I’m making meaningful changes to the way I spend my time:
1. Making social media inconvenient for myself
I’ve uninstalled Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat from my phone. I’ve never been so relieved and annoyed at the same time.
To be clear, I still “allow” myself to post if I want to. I enjoy connecting with friends and family in these spaces. But I make it inconvenient on myself because I have to re-install the app just to upload a picture or express a quick idea.
Every time you see a post from me on one of these platforms, just know that I’ve downloaded the app again specifically to share that thought.
That 90 second wait while the little crescent is loading downloading Instagram from the app store makes me pause and think, “Is this really necessary? Is it adding value or contributing to the noise? Is there something better I could be doing with my time?”
I think we all know the answers to these questions.
This little hack has greatly reduced my likelihood of posting, which I already know has saved me hours and hours of time.
Here’s the thing about social media: it’s not just the posting that takes time. That’s the easy part. That’s the fun part.
It’s the continuous checking and re-checking to see how the post is doing for hours (or days!) afterwards that causes anxiety and wastes the most time.
Is it getting enough likes? Is it getting the feedback I’d hoped? Is it bringing in more business?
That constant conversation was running in the back of my mind nonstop like a nefarious little computer program, sapping me of creative energy and at times making me physically sick.
Literally, ill. I could feel my stomach churning and my temples pulsing.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeed on a given platform at a time when I had more important things to do, when I should be sleeping, or spending time with Sara, or writing. Hating that I was doing it, blue light burning my eyes, resenting the fact that I was on it, not being amused by any of the content, but unable to stop.
This is the literal definition of addiction.
Wanna know how I know? Because I’m getting tremors. I feel like a smoker. Even without the apps, I find myself fumbling for the phone, opening and closing the screen, swiping over the place where the apps would normally be. My brain is hoping there’s an update, another share, an interesting comment, or at least some validation to tell me that my ideas are worthy or that I’m useful.
I’ve gotten millions upon millions of likes, comments and shares over the past few years, and yet I can’t be satisfied. There’s no end to the need gratification. It’s a black hole.
I think on a deeper level, social media often just makes me sad for no particular reason. So why am I doing it so much?
I’d still like to have some vices in my life, but this is one that simply has no place for somebody who wants to do deeply thoughtful, creative work.
Maybe you feel the same?
2. Culling years of accumulated email newsletter subscriptions
I mentioned earlier that at the beginning of the month, I cut over 100,000 people off our email list. If you’re reading this, you made the cut. And I love you. Thank you for being here.
I did that because I wanted to focus my attention on the people who actually care about my work, not those who came for the memes.
I hope that every member of my tribe has the opportunity to read what I write. But I realized that my own inbox was more cluttered than ever. How could I expect readers to filter through their inboxes and find my work if I wasn’t even diligent enough to cull my own?
I had so many subscriptions in there from things I’d tried once.
Free reports that led to years of emails from people I didn’t care about (or even remember). Product updates from software I no longer used. Notifications from 1800-CASTING from my acting days, Under Armour summer specials for back-to-school uniforms (perfect for the kids I don’t have yet) and Wells Fargo updates from the local branch (I haven’t had a WF account in 5 years).
So this morning, I unsubscribed from 300+ newsletter subscriptions using Unroll.me. From hundreds, down to only 19. I’d like to think that if you did the same, my newsletter would make the cut. I certainly write it every day with that intention.
I already feel lighter. And a bit happier.
Now I have space for the people and companies that I actually want to hear from.
Now I have more space to hear from you.
Maybe it’s worth spending some time on Sunday rethinking the conversations you’re having, who you’re engaging with and how you’re actually spending your time, as opposed to the idealized version of how you think it’s being spent.
Everybody needs room to breathe.