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 Although I removed the minute number of apps available for my outdated Windows phone and any social media apps on my kindle, I quickly discovered I had developed a habit of opening a new tab to check out the news or any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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shifting

Two weeks of Shift Shop done. I feel stronger and somewhat leaner but slightly irritable. I suppose weeks of no carbs (except small amounts of starchy veggies) can do that to a person. This last week of the program cuts out the starchy veggies, so I’m trying to mentally prepare for that nonsense. I’ve been dedicated and on-point (not even sneaking a bite of mac-n-cheese from Maya’s plate) except for eating one mini-cupcake with no frosting today. So freaking good. Anywho, I’ll post a light run-down of the program and meal plan along with my (hopeful) weight loss and inches lost sometime next week in case anyone is interested. I have zero plans to post my before/after pics. Trust me, you don’t want that until I look like this again:

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Summer 2015 and soon-to-be Winter 2017

I can already tell you right now that my next round will have a modified eating plan that allows for some carbs. My kid doesn’t need Ms. Grumpy Pants for a mom.

Three weeks of zero alcohol as well. A few weeks ago, right before my bbq/pool party for some Portland friends, I decided that after said pool party I would cut alcohol out of my life until 1) I lost all the weight I gained while living in Portland and 2) I finished writing the first draft of my novel, Stupid Cupid.

Why did I decide on the alcohol exclusion, you ask?

Well, here’s a tidbit about myself: I love IPA. I mean, I like red wine as well (and that’s it for me for alcohol), but IPA is my thang.

me swami ipa
yum yum Pizza Port’s Swami’s IPA 

Hoppy, cold, high-calorie IPA. I’ve enjoyed it for a long time, but the past few years of the IPA explosion have been like Christmas to me. Couple that with moving to the craft brewery heaven of the US (breweries within walking distance of my old apartment) and an extended period of outright laziness thanks to the calm comfort of cool, rainy PNW weather (and perhaps a slight bout of depression) and you have a significant weight gain.

Ugh.

The weight gain not only made me physically unhealthy, it murdered my mojo. I am simply not comfortable with my body at this size, even if a potential partner is cool with my ample curves. I feel like a gelatinous blob. I don’t need to have rock-hard abs and a backside you can bounce a quarter off of, but I need to feel like myself again. I’m the only one who can change it, so change it is. I can already feel a shift in the way I carry myself again, so I know I’m s-l-o-w-l-y on my way.

The second part of my alcohol-free period is because I am not a spectacular or profound writer during/after drinking. I can brainstorm while kicking back a cold one, but the actual process of writing is different beast altogether. There are many writers who can pound out fantastic literature while intoxicated. I do not fall into that category. My drunken scribbles are disjointed and only moderately humorous at best. When I can understand them.

My brain has a tendency to wander far too much if I partake in adult beverages. I muse on life and love and what my life will be like five years from now, browse animal shelters looking for a dog to adopt, watch some Grey’s, post stupid stuff to FB, get lost in the Pinterest black hole and imagine all the cool stuff I’m *going* to create, and basically waste a buttload of time. My journaling is pretty damn interesting, I must admit. But journaling won’t pay the bills unless you’re Sedaris.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am not Sedaris.

So, I needed a huge reset, and that’s exactly what I have right now.

reset

Here’s the thing: I don’t miss it much at all. I don’t have a special someone around who also loves IPA, so it wasn’t difficult to drop. It’s not something I need and my life runs perfectly fine without it. It was all about breaking a not-so-great habit and (re)creating a few old good habits. Thus, I’m writing more, exercising, and working toward the future I want.

Cheers to that.