Views on digital declutter

20th of September, 2021

I'm very prone for procrastination. While I wouldn't say that I have focus issues, I have noticed that I can easily spend hours on non-essential sites that don't bring anything to my life. Social media has been one of them. I have always had a pretty weird relationship with social media. I joined Facebook and Instagram a long time ago because many of my friends and family were already there. While I never did post stuff actively, I always noticed that I just ended up mindlessly surfing these, especially on Instagram.

A couple of years back, I became conscious about this and decided to delete my accounts on these platforms without giving too much thought about it. While leaving these platforms were pretty easy for me, I noticed that I had just replaced these with some other platform, YouTube in my case. After which, I started spending countless hours on that platform instead. Back then, I didn't consider this habit as bad as mindlessly browsing Instagram or Facebook despite it being the same thing. I think I just rationalized it to myself being educational or informative in a better way than other platforms.

Year or two passes without Instagram or Facebook completely fine, but then I wanted to start using them again for some reason. Maybe I thought to myself that I had already been cured of this disease so I could have a healthy relationship with them from now on. I also had professional reasons behind this since I thought that these platforms offer a great way of marketing your art to others, which is true in some cases. However, very quickly, I started noticing similar behaviour when I last was on these platforms. So after a couple of months of trying to get back in, I just felt repulsed by them and decided to leave them again. When it comes to marketing, that is not for me. I understand the benefits of being an artist in social media. Still, since I mainly enjoy that as a passionate hobby, I don't see the need for being on social media.

So at the time of writing this, I think it has been about six months or so of living without these. Still, I'm very conscious about my unnecessarily large usage of YouTube, News etc. While comparing my use with Instagram, I still wouldn't consider watching YouTube or regularly checking news as bad as mindlessly scrolling through your feeds. I still noticed similar behaviour on those I struggled with, for example, with Instagram. I became conscious about randomly picking up my phone and scrolling through news even though I had just read them or just letting YouTube's autoplay roll for long periods without giving too much thought about it. So I wanted to tackle these habits.

I have noticed that the most extreme methods work the best when fixing some bad habit, at least in my case. So I didn't want to ease when trying to have a healthy relationship with these applications but instead went cold turkey immediately. Also, to help me in this, I wrote a simple application that allows blocking distracting sites "completely".

So how has this worked for me? I think great! In the beginning, I noticed how much free time I have when I don't spend it on useless things. Also, in the beginning, I occasionally picked up my phone by instinct. I quickly realized that I didn't have any applications to spend mindlessly surfing, so I quickly grew out of this habit. First, I felt slight boredom when I couldn't spend time on these apps, but thankfully I realized that this spare time needed to be used elsewhere. Before this, I was already reading relatively a lot, about three to four books per month, but I have almost doubled that number nowadays. I also wrote about time management between multiple passions a while ago where I pondered how I manage time between, for example, programming and music. After ditching distractive sites entirely, I have felt that the time management between these activities and my work life hasn't been an issue. It's straightforward to find time for various pet projects and serious work outside my work life since I don't spend my time on useless stuff anymore.

Do I see myself using these applications in the future? Well, I want to read the news and continue to do so, not just constantly. I usually catch up with recent events in the morning, but I don't desire to install any news apps on my telephone. When it comes to these streaming platforms, YouTube, Netflix, etc., I could live without them. There are lots of good information on these platforms, so if I need to watch some video, I can allow myself to do so. However, I don't want them to control my life in a way that I'm uncomfortable with.

Tags: minimalism, procrastination, productivity, social media


Passions and time management

10th of August, 2021

I have always enjoyed reading about other people's productivity hacks and their workflows, in general, regarding whatever they might be doing. However, I often stumble upon reading how people maintain an extravagant lifestyle with dozens of different hobbies, interests, and passions with ease. So it makes me wonder how they manage their time to maintain a healthy level of participation in their interests without burning out.

I don't have dozens of different passions or interests in my life, but my passions tend to be quite large on their own, so when combining those with 40 hour work week, I need to think about my time management thoroughly. These passions I would consider to be writing, music and programming. Fortunately, I currently work in the tech industry, so I can make a good living by doing one of my passions. Writing on its own isn't necessarily a huge topic/interest, as it only consumes time, but the practice itself is pretty straightforward. On the other hand, music is time-consuming, and it involves many different activities in my case. Sure, you could argue that writing includes other practices, too, like planning what to write, but music is on another level. I play multiple instruments, which I record for myself and others in my home studio. I enjoy composing tunes, add some mixing and mastering to this, and you need to sacrifice a lot of time for this. Programming is also something that I enjoy spending my time on. While I do it for a living, what makes me truly like it are the projects I work on in my free time, whether it's my pet projects of various sizes or some open-source projects.

Finding the time and focusing on the task at hand isn't necessarily an issue on its own for me, but it's more about maintaining a healthy balance between all these passions that I hold dear to me. Although that being said, I would consider being a very gifted procrastinator, so focusing on the task at hand can often be difficult for me. However, focusing becomes no more an issue once I've gotten into the flow. A more significant issue here is often finishing projects rather than starting a new one (which I feel is entirely another issue to improve).

When I work on my passions, I tend to focus for days or weeks on one passion, e.g. programming, neglecting my other passions like writing and music. This on its own isn't necessarily a bad thing since I don't feel that I'm wasting my time when I'm doing something that I enjoy and something where I'm able to get rewarded in multiple different ways. But I would like to maintain an equal balance between my passions.

Tools to the rescue

A while ago, I started reading about how other people have managed their time with multiple passions/hobbies, and almost unanimously, everybody used various schedules for this. So I have already used a "life management" system for a long time to handle all my to-do lists and schedules related to my home and work life (insert praising words about Emacs' org-mode here).

I'm not going into details about how I manage my life with org-mode, but if you're interested in the tool, I would recommend going through articles found at Org for GTD and other Task management systems and from Rainer K├Ânig's OrgMode tutorial

I realise that I have been missing for a long time in my current setup because I haven't scheduled when to work on what project. While I've split my free-time projects into sub-tasks and occasionally schedule and deadline when to work/finish those, the work has always been very sporadic on this front. The result has often been that I work for an X period on one project then move on to another, so I often just forget what I was supposed to do on the earlier project. For me, this often leads to unnecessary postponing of tasks or cancelling/removing them completely. I also quickly start saying, "I'll do it tomorrow", which everyone knows won't happen.

Starting light

So I started to approach the whole concept of time management between multiple different interests was to make dedicated timeslots and days for whatever I might be working on. I maintain numerous ongoing projects that don't necessarily have deadlines but are just larger projects that I want to work on from time to time. Then these projects have sub-projects which are usually scheduled with deadlines. These projects and sub-projects might include something related to work, home, open-source work, recording or simply just writing something.

I nowadays approach working these by dedicating timeslots for something on a specific day. My work life and day-to-day home stuff take a good portion of my days, but I try to use it as efficiently as possible the rest of the time. So on Monday, I might work on some programming related endeavours based on my backlog, Tuesday something else and so on. The way I still approach tasks haven't been changed in any way, as in I still manage my tasks and TODOs and keep track of them, but nowadays, I just dedicate specific days for specific interest/passion.

Conclusion

This way, I don't feel that I'm neglecting the stuff I want to work on. Issues with this kind of approach are the context switching almost daily. However, this kind of switching isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't want to think about work-related topics after I've "clocked in the hours", but I want to do something either to relax or move my thoughts elsewhere. Issues that I've mainly stumbled with are that when you might focus on programming one day, you focus on music. While this switch on its own hasn't been too bad in my case, but when I get back to, for example, programming after doing something else for several days, it always takes a while to get back to the flow. But I do believe that this is just missing practice in the world of managing multiple different passions.

I have now split my time between multiple passions for several weeks, and this is an excellent way to go. It has also taught me about the stuff that I genuinely want to work with, since when you write down what you want to do and when it's easy to spot the stuff that you don't want to work on or just don't have an interest about it. So this also works in my case to find the topics that genuinely interest me. Will I continue to manage my time like this for long? Well hopefully. I feel that this way, I can contribute to all the stuff that makes my life interesting, so obviously, I wouldn't want to miss that.

Tags: procrastination, productivity