Sunday, September 27, 2009

Media Fast

This last week, you may [not] have noticed little - actually, zero - online activity from me. That's because I've been on a media fast.

What is a media fast? Well, it when you don't consume any form of media. This is typically when legalistic friends would start to clarify what counts as "media". Basically, I took a break of news (Google Reader), videos (Youtube), social media (Facebook, Twitter & Friendfeed), talk radio, TV, video games, movies and books. If it was entertainment related, I ignored it. The only thing I allowed myself to have was music since it was mostly just background filler only.

I got the idea from a book I was listening to: "The 4-Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferris. In the book he talks about eliminating distractions and batching activities (and sooo much more. I HIGHLY recommend this book). In one part he challenges readers to go on a media fast for a week. It sounded like a fun challenge and I took it.

Here are a few things I observed:

The first day was REALLY boring because I didn't have anything to fill the time. At one point I was sitting on the couch staring off into space. Jessi walked by and ask if I'm OK. I replied feebly, "Yeah, I'm on a media fast for a week. This about all I can think to do right now. I don't know how I'm going to make it."

When work started on Monday I actually really started to enjoy zero distractions. I don't know about you, but my main mode of operation is to have open Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed in addition to whatever I'm working on which might be 1-3 things at once. Throughout the day I jump between all of these. With only one project open at a time, I found I got more work done - shocker! Seriously, the surprise came on Tuesday when I was working at my desk and a co-worker came over to ask about something. Normally this is not a big deal, I'm half doing everything anyways. However, is was exceptionally weird this time because it really disrupted my flow. It was at that point that I noticed how "hard" I was actually working.

Speaking of work. I got more done last week than I normally accomplish. The really impressive part is that I put in less time than normal from a time-sheet standpoint. In terms of actual work, I actually put in more time and the quality of that work was better. So, I accomplished more in less time. Media fast = good.

Oh yeah! I forgot to mention perhaps the hardest part of this weekly challenge. I only checked my email twice a day for at most an hour each time. As an email addict, this was particularly tough. Ferris suggested that we never get email that is so critical that we need to check it once every 10 minutes. I can say, after a week of only checking work and personal email twice a day (I even missed some check-ins on my personal email) - I get absolutely zero critical emails. If I did get something critical, like from my real estate agent for the property we're trying to buy, it was followed up by a call or text.

The most surprising part was my in box. When I started, I had about 40 emails in my inbox. By Monday, it was empty. Now there have been many times I've had an empty inbox, but this is the first time I easily maintained it an entire week. Here's the secret: I allocated an hour to read and respond to each email. Previously, I would check my email when I had somewhere between 30 seconds and 10 minutes of dead time. That wasn't enough to respond to longer requests and so they would just get piled up. Since I had a dedicated hour to respond, I easily got through all of them.

So, my week of fasting is over. As I re-integrate back to normal here are a couple of things I hope to improve:

I'm going through my Google Reader and applying the 80/20 rule. I'm going to find the top 20% of news sources that give me 80% of the news I care about. I'll depend on David Parry and my brother for the rest.

I'm also going to be more purposeful about email. I probably won't be able to stick with twice a day, but it might turn into three 40-minute chunks. I still need to experiment more to find the right balance. I might also batch all my Internet communications together. So, in that 40-minute time frame, check email, Facebook, Twitter and the news. That way I get my "fix" and can maintain relationships while keeping it separate from when I'm working.

Feel free to ask more about it. I even suggest giving it a try. I realize for some of you this won't be a big deal at all, but for others I think it'll be a great learning experience.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Celebrating Summer Successes

On Saturday Jessi and I headed over to Newport to hang out on the beach. We set personal goals for each other at the beginning of summer and the reward, if we met our goals, would be a trip to the beach. We try to follow the SMART method when setting goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely - though I think A & R are the same...) and it worked this summer. One goal for Jessi, for example, was to set up and hold a woman's health night once a month during summer. She did that, and it was a blast (so I hear).

As you can tell, I'm a firm believer in goal setting, visualizing and rewarding. I felt this was going to be especially helpful for Jessi this summer because without work (teaching)... summer... can... quickly... slip... away and... you wonder... what...happened... to... all those... plans. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

So, we headed out to Newport after doing our weekly team Univera call. I tend to try and fit as many activities as possible into a day so here's what we did:

  • We started out with a picnic on the beach. The weather was still cool and the waves were crashing hard. I kind of (kind of!) wished I had brought my swimming suit.
  • We tried flying Jessi's kite. The experience was OK. The wind was blowing, but not really hard enough to just stand there and let the kite do it's thing. As a result, I did a lot of running...
  • Afterward we took a break. I half napped while Jessi read out loud. She's currently reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. I must say, it's an entertaining book and packed with a lots of great information about trends in the nutrition industry.
  • With enough sand in our pants we headed over to Newport's Bay to hunt for Salt Water Taffy. We found a great shop called Doodle Bugs that supplied us with more than enough candy for the night.
  • We then watched the sea lions and did some superficial window shopping. My favorite part was guessing how much this one tiny house for sale was selling for. If you can cobble together $495,000, this tiny house that almost has a view could be yours.
  • Next, we walked around the piers and checked out all the fishing boats. Since it was a Saturday evening by now 90% of the ships were docked. We spend time guessing how they worked and what type of fish they caught. I decided it would be fun to work on a fishing boat for a week or so, but realized it might be a while before I realize that dream.
  • We finished up the night eating at a restaurant called Pier 839. It's a relatively new place and definitely worth checking out. We ate in the place called the living room. We literally sat on a couch near a fireplace with a view of the bay. I know. For the first half of dinner we had the place all to ourselves - very romantic. :) I was determined to get some seafood and they came through on that promise. The best part was that their prices were great. While walking around earlier I had downloaded Yelp's iPhone app and that's how we found this place. This experience has certainly made me a Yelp believer.
So that was our day of celebrating summer successes. We took 15,700 steps and each one was a total blast.

Looking forward, our next checkpoint will be the end of the year. So far I have mixed results on my yearly goals, but there's still time. ha ha. I highly encourage everyone to set, accomplish and reward a couple goals in these next three and a half months.