July Digital Declutter Complete

Hello, all. I’m still alive.

I set out to (mostly) eliminate digital media, including all forms of social media, from my life last month using an ultimate digital declutter process. Why? I felt like my time was wasted with Netflix or Amazon programming binges, Twitter and Pinterest scrolling, and Facebook’s ongoing attempts to give me heartburn. Last September, I wrote in my journal: I need to think about disengaging from social media. There’s far too much negativity swirling about and flooding my feeds. I don’t want that in my life. I’ve felt this way countless times since social media became the next big thing, and I know I’m not the only one. So, I decided to cut it out completely to give myself a break and to reassess how I will use social media in the future. So did I succeed or did I fail?

I did succeed. Fairly well, I suppose. I succeeded in refraining from digital/social media, and I honestly don’t think I’ll return to using it, or allowing social media to manipulate me, in the same way again.

The declutter was not without its challenges. Although I removed the minute number of apps available for my outdated Windows phone and any social media apps on my kindle, I quickly discovered I had developed a habit of opening a new tab to check out the news or any “important” updates on FB. Wouldn’t want to miss out on anything, would I?

In the first few days of my declutter, I caught myself using muscle memory to open a new tab when I “thought” my brain needed a break from work. I would close the tab immediately, dumbfounded that I had developed this terrible habit to the point that I didn’t consciously choose to seek out a momentary distraction, but I had essentially wired my brain to make my fingers reflexively click on whatever would distract me from any sort of deep focus on work. I would pick up my phone, again reflexively, to check out the news (no news – app deleted), and instantly set my phone back down again when I realized what my physical body was doing out of habit.

After the first week, the impulsive clicking evaporated. Every now and then I would almost open a tab but catch myself before I clicked. Then I stopped clicking altogether. As you can imagine, Facebook quickly takes notice of your absence and starts to send emails to you. Many emails, daily. Notifications of “all you’ve been missing” lately. I don’t open any of the emails. Twitter starts to send emails to check out the notifications as well. I ignore all. I’m not missing out on anything.

Part of journal entries pertaining to digital declutter (the first few days were the impulsive clicking described above):

July 3: Briefly thought about something on Netflix but remembered my digital declutter. Read instead.

July 6: I’ve been reading more. Using my brain instead of letting it float around, wasting away in social media. Feels good.

July 9: Feel calmer. I have fewer distractions. Reading more. I miss having Google on my phone, I will admit that. Don’t miss the news. It’s all depressing stuff anyway. Will need to find a better way. NPR?

July 12: Still no social media. No Netflix. No Amazon. Although, I am regularly tempted to watch old Grey’s or Doctor Who, especially when I’m stressed and really tired after work. I just want to veg out.

July 16: I hardly pick up my phone now. Kindle is for reading and the battery lasts forever now.

July 22: Still no social/digital media. Almost done with the book by David Goggins. The man is a beast.*

July 27: No social media and I’m just fine, although I do miss Netflix/Amazon. Sometimes I take a pic or think about taking a pic to share and I think, “really?” There’s nothing new to show. I don’t need to share the same pics over and over. Boring. Coming up on the end of my digital declutter. Right now I’m yearning for a Doctor Who or Grey’s marathon, but they won’t help me reach my goals. Okay with not scrambling back onto FB. Keen to check out Twitter, but definitely feel more relaxed without all the drama.

 July 31: Last day of digital declutter. I’m alive. This whole month has been bleh, less than desirable in so many ways. The worst month I’ve had at work for sure. (Work crap and financial stresses listed, won’t go into that business.) It would have been far worse for me if I had all the bs from social media on top of my ridiculous work stress. I wouldn’t have gotten any billing done at home, either.    

So, what did I do with my digital media-free time? I read 12 books. I wrote in my journal. I worked on my novel and dug out my old screenplay to revise. I thought about a lot of stuff without the input from outside noise. It was like I ventured into the forest for clarity except I didn’t have the redwoods, rain, trees, and utmost quiet at my disposal. I thought I would fill my spare time with exercise as well, but July had me burdened with a high amount of stress and I’m mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. After a year and half of struggling, this past month almost broke me more than anyone knows, because I’m ridiculously private. I actually tried to work out somewhat regularly knowing it usually gives me extra energy, but I could barely complete 20 min walks. I look worn down. I feel worn down. However, things will get better. There is a glimmer of hope. Finally.

I think.

And now it’s August 1st. I haven’t checked out anything online yet, despite working from home all day. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me to break focus to browse FB or Twitter. I’ve killed the impulse to click for distractions when what I need is to concentrate, so my productivity level has increased significantly. It’s a game-changer, and I’ve been on my laptop for the majority of the day. I’ve had to work from home a number of times this past month due to construction, and I’ve not lost myself in social medialand (ideal timing for my digital declutter, eh?). When I needed a break today, I stretched, talked to the bird (who is now starting to say her name, Lexi), and had a snack, as I’ve done the previous times this month during home billing days. Even as I write this blog entry right now, I don’t click on anything but my music selection. I’ll likely post this entry onto FB and Twitter sometime tonight, but that’s about all I have planned for interaction today.

That’s the key now: planned interaction. It’s unlikely I’ll return to FB as much. There’s so much drama. It’s exhausting. Twitter is becoming the same way, but I prefer it over FB at the moment. Pinterest is a beautiful black hole time suck. I look at every country I want to travel, every home I love, projects I can do, food I can consume, clothes I want, books to read, funny memes, everything. It’s the best thing ever if you want to be distracted for hours on end. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with scrolling through FB, Twitter, or Pinterest every now and then, but I know that unless I’m vigilant with the time I spend on social media, I’ll get sucked into the vortex. I must be mindful of the time I spend on Netflix and Amazon as well. I don’t want to spend my “day within a day” (and my apologies – I can’t recall which book I read that in, but it stuck) mindlessly watching television. I want more.

I know an ultimate digital declutter won’t work for everyone. Some people work in social media and can’t control much of it. My son (I just went to link to Twitter & it’s changed again, and I like the old look at this point but it’s new, so again I adjust) who works online constantly, said this of this his process: “…I just try to focus on digital wellness, minimizing distractions, and only checking social media when I take a break or I’m idling and waiting on something else (like a pot of coffee to brew).” 

Damn. I raise good kids, eh? 😉

I think digital wellness is an appropriate term. We want physical, emotional, and mental wellness in our lives. We should aim for digital wellness as well. I think we all know this but implementing a digital wellness program is just as challenging as starting an exercise program. Where is the right place to begin? Which sort of digital declutter process will work best? How long does one need to declutter? One week, one month, longer? I don’t have the ultimate answer for any of this. All I know is 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. The rest of it I gleaned from Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism.

The declutter worked for me. It might not for you, and that’s okay. It brought me back into focus. I can sit and write, uninterrupted by social media, for a long time. I can work on stuff that’s tedious for a substantial amount of time without drifting off into Lalaland. I can dive deep into work like I once did prior to the social media revolution. I’m in my mid-40’s, so half of my life was spent without cell phones, and more than that without social media as a distraction. The ability to focus is ingrained in me, unless I’m sitting at a desk and want to pass a note to the person diagonal from me, without anyone noticing. Then the focus increases five-fold. No one must see the note. (Although everyone does, but usually pretends not to notice. Or if you’re Tim Kirkman, you collect the note, read it, snicker, and then pass it on to its intended recipient. Usually. But Tim would have a mostly-focused me to contend with now. However, he probably still has his freakish ninja skills. So I’d still be screwed. But I digress.)

I feel free. Social media doesn’t have the same control over me; I have more control over it. Or so I think at this point. Should I realize the opposite a week from now or a month from now, I’ll start the declutter over again. It honestly doesn’t hold the same attraction, but like an old bad boyfriend, things that once looked promising and then turned bad can look good once again due to delicate whispers and lovely promises. Social media is exactly the same. Must keep sharp.

This has been an exceptionally long post, and for that I thank you if you’re still here.

Please comment below if you’ve ever tried a digital declutter and if it’s worked for you. Or what worked for you. Methods, time frames, rules. It’s interesting to see what works for people. It’s also great for giving other people ideas on how to declutter their digital lives.

I hope you all have a wonderful, mostly digital-free weekend.

*This book is exceptional, this man is beyond exceptional, yet he proves anyone can (almost) do what he does by training their thoughts. Please, please read it or purchase the audio version and listen to it. If you can’t afford it, request it from your library as I did. (Although, I will now buy it and read it again and again, and I’m buying the audio version for members of my family.) If you have no idea who David Goggins is and why you should spend your time listening to him, check out these two videos (they are WORTH your time, trust me), here and here, amongst a dozen others on YouTube. He’s the real deal. Fucking Goggins, man. I need to listen to him every single day.

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Every day.

Until I’m Fucking Stodden.

Bits

I blinked and January became May. Crazy how that happens. However, since I have a habit of wishing away my work week for my weekend, I shouldn’t be surprised when time slips through my fingers.

The girl is at her first camping trip with the Girl Scouts, so I would be remiss if I did not take full advantage of the rare quiet time to write. Create. Immerse myself in my fictional world without feeling guilty. Right now I’m sitting on my patio, fighting my urges to go inside and clean instead of tap away at my keyboard.

Right now I’m winning.

Bits:

Pigs, chickens, and a kid holding a kid, oh my.

Mesquite Motor Mania classic car weekend with my dad. Even though I wasn’t always fond of being dragged around to car shows as a child, a love and appreciation for the classic cars did eventually settle in. Now Maya and I never miss a show. It had been 4 1/2 years since I last saw my dad when we went to Iowa. He finally took me up on my offer to visit and stay with us. It was a good time. (Check out the wood car in the photos. It’s pretty cool.)

Hot air balloon festival. I took a million pictures. I’ll keep it to a few here. Last year we spent the morning watching the balloons from the launch area, per Maya’s request. This year we decided to get up early and head to the top of the hill. Fantastic spot.

SNOW! I know, whoop-dee-doo. I grew up with the white stuff in Iowa, but you just don’t see it often here in the desert. This year we had measurable snow. In town. Twice. It was kinda cool to wake up to a semi-winter wonderland. The last of the snow just melted off the mountains last weekend.

/squints eyes to get better look at the summit

There might be a *little* bit up there.

Flu. It hit our area hard this year and Maya absolutely refused to get the flu shot. Not that it would have necessarily covered her strain, but it might have helped her symptoms. To top it off, she was unable to tolerate the Tamiflu. It was pretty rough and scary for a while, I’m not gonna lie. But she pulled through, thank goodness. And I didn’t get it, even with her sleeping with me every night. I get a flu shot every year and I honestly cannot remember the last time I had the flu. Maybe I’m lucky. Who knows. Next year could be different.

Paco. He’s my mom’s dog. An old guy who still runs around like a pup. Everyone likes a dog photo, amirite?

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Sunsets. Desert sunsets are truly phenomenal. It was one thing I missed while living in Portland because all I saw there were trees, unless I was on the coast. Pictures never do justice. But here are a couple anyway. I get to see this almost every night. Can’t complain.

Patio. I finally caved and bought some patio furniture. I had a small bistro set, but it wasn’t comfortable enough for sitting for long periods of time. I spent less than $350 for the chair set with the small table, the portable (and extremely comfortable) hammock, and my rugs. Worth every single penny. I wish I would have bought them sooner. The girl lives in the hammock and I spend every single morning and night on my patio, and I’ll continue to until the heat kicks in. Then I’ll hibernate until the brutal sun begins to simmer down in September.

I also planted a small patio garden. My flowers still haven’t bloomed, but my herbs are doing well. I’ve already had a few salads made with my mixed greens, and the onions and tomatoes will be ready soon. Everything will die off in about a month due to the heat, so I’ll enjoy it all while I can and replant in September for a second go.

Ah, I love outdoor living.

**The hammock is honestly a steal and you can find it here on amazon.**

Hospital. I was in the hospital, but I’m okay. I had severe chest pains that wouldn’t go away. Chest pains that would make me stop whatever I was doing and gasp for air. Coupled with shoulder pain, dizziness, fatigue, and my (ahem) age, I thought it would be best not to mess around and end up one of those people who have an MI in the middle of the night and never wake up to see my kid again. I’ll likely have a ridiculous medical bill that I’ll spend the next few years paying off, but it is what it is. Turns out my heart is okay (yay!) but I’m terribly anemic, which can cause the aforementioned symptoms. I don’t eat a lot of meat and I’ve been lax about making sure I consume enough beans, legumes, and spinach to make up for it. I’m on the go all the time between work and Maya’s activities and I don’t always take care of myself the way I should. Take care of yourself! Anyway, Maya drew pictures on my phone for me.

We’re both slightly down about our lack of travel this year. We both got bit by the travel bug during our trip overseas last year. So many places to visit, so little time and money when you’re a single parent. However, maybe next year we’ll hit one of our dream destinations. Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain… Oh, the list goes on and on. Plus, I need to return to Finland to retrieve my heart. I left it there.

But more on that later…

Hello, 2019

Greetings and salutations, all. I hope this bright and shiny New Year’s Evening finds you happy and well. And hopefully not too hungover.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve found myself on this side of a blog – the writer’s side, that is. The break was intentional as I found myself with scant desire to do much of anything useful, let alone write blog posts that no more than a dozen people might read on a regular basis. The last time I wrote a post was in July of 2017 when I was in the middle of a weight-loss challenge. I lost a significant amount of weight, but then gained it back. My mental and emotional states were not functioning at a high level (or even mediocre level) of well-being. I was terribly stressed and unhappy.

Some people can lose and maintain weight-loss or write novels and screenplays and be creative little bad-asses while they are mentally and emotionally fucked.

I can’t.

At least, not for long periods of time.

I decided that 2018 would be the year I would focus on my inner well-being. Inner only. I wouldn’t obsess about my fat rolls or amble backside. I wouldn’t constantly berate myself for not writing as much as I *should.* I would drop the blog for a while and simply focus on being mentally and emotionally healthy for myself and for my daughter.

Man, what a difference a year can make.

Here’s something I caught today during my “years past” review that I didn’t catch a year ago, despite my initial goal of inner change for 2018: I write in journals on a fairly regular basis, and on January 1st of 2017, I wrote this, “Here we go! New Year, same me, bright new shiny goals!” The problem with the latter sentence is there is no way I would meet my upgraded goals under the management of the same me. I didn’t realize it at the time.

You don’t make significant changes in your life as the same person you’ve always been. You must change. You must evolve. You must step out of your comfort zone, embrace and move beyond your fears, and try to act as the ideal you would act if you want to make your goals and dreams your reality. Period.

I made significant strides in increasing my overall well-being this past year.

  • I read many books – books by Tim Ferriss, Mel Robbins, Marianne Williamson, Brendon Burchard, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many others, from which I gleaned so much useful information that helped changed my life in the small moments from day-to-day.
  • I blew through my fear of applying for a passport (who knew that sort of fear was a thing? more on that in another post) and traveled to Finland and Estonia with my kid. Just wow.
  •  After 4 1/2 years, I saw my son, Josh, who lives in Finland. We stayed with him and his wife Sonja, and I was able meet her family. It was an incredible experience.
  •  I let go of a bunch of garbage that was holding me back, and I stopped chasing down and giving a crap about certain people who constantly lied to me and verbally abused me.
  • I created a solid morning routine to help install a positive mental and emotional framework for each day and I practiced gratitude on a regular basis.
  • I listened to informative, uplifting, and motivational podcasts and youtube videos, such as those by Tim Ferriss, Tom Bilyeu, Lewis Howes, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mel Robbins, and channels such as Be Inspired, Success Archive, Video Advice, and daily Motivation.
  • I stepped out of my comfort zone and had tremendous inner growth.

I don’t make grand resolutions for the New Year per se, but I certainly don’t look down upon people who do make resolutions. Here’s the thing about the New Year: it’s a reminder to all that every single one of us has a reset button. We can pause, take stock of who we are vs. who we need to be to make our visions a reality, and then set ourselves on a path to make it all happen.

Now, some will say that we should do this reset on a daily basis, and I tend to agree; however, we’re all human and we fail. Inevitably. Life gets in the way and that’s okay. Press that reset button any damn time you feel like it. Press it now. Press it again in twenty minutes or in twenty days. If you press it in twenty years, so be it. At least you’re making an attempt to move forward, and I think that’s wonderful. I like to make goals and try to re-evaluate every quarter. I frequently (and I do mean frequently) fail to meet my goals, but I inch closer toward that goal line with small wins than if I refuse to try at all.

trust the process

This past year was a huge win for me in many ways and less so in others. That’s the way it goes. My morning routine is a vital part of my life now and I’ll continue with my inner growth until the day I stop breathing. I’ll always want to be a better human being and the best role model I can be for my impressionable daughter (I’m afraid I might be a little late for my 25 yr old son). I made some fun goals for 2019 like trying a new recipe and reading a book each week. I also made some slightly more serious goals with regard to improving my physical health, figuring out a new budget for the next year, and setting myself back on the writing path. One day at a time.

I trust you’re all shaking off the debris that was 2018 and moving forward into the future with hope, love, and a greater vision for your life and for the lives of others.

You’re going to see much more of me in the future. I look forward to re-connecting with you.

Much love and happiness.

Michelle