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7 Days Without Recreational Media

If I didn’t write this today—right now even—I’d never do it.

Over that last 7 days I’ve been going on a “recreational media hiatus”—meaning not reading, listening to, or watching anything that is not directly applicable to the work at hand.

While there is a current trend to ignore specific social networks for a while, this included every single leisurely used0 information source, such as:

The only two exceptions I allowed myself was using the Calm app's sleep stories, and the Pema Chödrön meditations collection. I anticipated that I wouldn’t want to spent every minute alone doing work or nothing at all, so getting deeper into meditation seemed like a worthwhile endeavor, one that would hopefully further unclutter and calm my mind.

I made the decision to try this for a week, while sitting on a train and skipping into the third audiobook on 1 hour ride. I somehow felt that something must be wrong when I couldn’t even keep my attention on an audiobook that I chose myself and wanted to, or at least aspired to, listen to.

Similarly I noticed that while taking a break during work (🍅), I would often get lost on a tangent like some interesting but obscure technology or some new open source project, which would then far exceed the 5 minute goal time.
While getting input from outside my immediate area of work and interest is generally an inspiring source, oftentimes nothing sticks out and I wouldn’t have been able to recite half of the topics I scratched that day when asked about it before bedtime.

Here are some unordered observations I made throughout the week:

If I ever get to do this again (who knows, maybe by this time tomorrow I am so exhausted from my “cheat day”, that I'll plan doing this regularly), I will definitely prepare myself to not fall into the next trap, i.e. stock up on healthy, boring food.

Other than that I appreciated the change this week, and how it allowed me to reevaluate my day-to-day behavior and see this media consumption in a more honest light: it's primarily distractions and rewards, which I was voluntarily seeking out–craving even. Only secondarily were they are source of information, often neither actionable or acted upon.

0 This is an important distinction to make. While often those media are deeply technical in some field, aspirational, or otherwise of importance to some, I often would just read them for recreational purposes: satisfaction and distraction.

1 Yep, it’s not enough these days to ignore specific apps and not visiting specific sites, somehow I justified for a while now to clutter my inbox with non-critical information. If some site only offers e-mail updates, I will not subscribe to them anymore. The overall downside just outweighs any single of those sources. Side-note: Feedbin has a great service where you can have newsletters/mails shown alongside your RSS subscriptions.

2 I think this stems from a mix of the longer time spent doing meditation as well as the different style used on the above mentioned audio collection. It’s meditation practices framed by teachings into hour-long sessions. This additional time compared to the short 5-15 minute sessions others offer might’ve been a major contributor to this.