Metaphorical Fridge Cleaning, Part II
Steps 3 & 4
Welcome to round two of your metaphorical fridge cleanout. We’ve pulled everything out of our “fridge,” have lined it up on the counter, and are taking inventory.
IRL, we’re examining where our time goes every day and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. For those of you just joining us, here is the first step. You’ll need to tap into a little diligence to pay attention to what you’re doing all day, every day. I’m not talking about observing at a distance, but rather, keeping a solid log of what, precisely, you’re doing with this limited number of hours you’re given every day.
Great, so we’ve spent a week keeping track, taking notes and writing down where our time goes. Now what?
Extrapolate the data
Now that you’ve gathered information for how you’re spending your minutes, hours and days, take a good hard look at what you’ve got. This is the math and science part of the exercise. Focus on numbers here.
Over the course of a week, what is your aggregate scrolling time? You’re going to need to be a wee bit harsh/realistic with yourself on this one. You say you spent three hours on Tuesday night doing “research,” but really, you were looking up every extra on Friends to see which actors went on to eventual stardom. Is your “before bed reading” a book, like reading reading or a 2-hour instagram scroll? Are you losing big chunks of time—either waiting for people or transportation, looking for things, trying to figure out what to do? Do you have some amazing streamlined parts to your day?
I know most of our devices can tell us how much screen time we’ve had, but those figures can’t discern between constructive and crap use of time. Only you know. On iOS, you can see a breakdown of all of your phone time. Go to settings > screen time. It will display a daily average of all screen time. Just below that number, tap “see all activity” and you’ll get a breakdown of how many minutes you devote to each app or website. Want to know more? Just below that, you can see how many times you’ve picked up your phone. (Remember, no feelings in this portion of the exercise.)
Do a little predictive math. If you invest X amount of time on a certain activity every day, project how much time per week (X*7), month (X*31), year (X*365). What about 5 years (X*1826)? 10 years (X*3653)?
Avoid at all costs involving any shame mechanism here. Triggering sheepish feelings or judgements at this stage may cause you to shrink away from the data or abandon the process. Shame is powerful and unhelpful.
Ok, your feelings can come back into the room.
As in: how do you feel about these numbers, about the amount of time you’re dedicating to various activities?
Ask yourself some difficult questions. If the trends of the week you examined continued throughout your life, how do you feel at the thought of spending 2,737.5 hours over the next five years aimlessly scrolling through news stories, other people’s vacation photos or food porn videos for 90 minutes a day? (It’s really not that much—think 15 minutes when you wake up, 30 minutes while you’re stuffing a lunch sandwich in your gob, 10 minutes here and there by accident when you pick up your phone to check the score of the game, 15 minutes before bed. It adds up, fast.) Perhaps watching a daily 30 minute dose of puppy videos brings you joy, and you're willing to devote the equivalent to 114 days over 10 years. Make that choice knowingly.
If you spend a mere 15 minutes per day searching for misplaced things (keys, wallet, your shopping list, an earring back, etc) over five years, you’ll have spent 456 hours in looking limbo. That’s pretty solid motivation to arrange a key bowl or hook by your front door.
There will also be parts that excite you. A mere ten minutes of daily mediation grants you over an hour of mindfulness per week, and over 60 hours per year. (I’m a huge fan of ten minute activities--or practices that constitute 1% of your waking day. ) Fifteen minutes every day of practice towards learning (language, music, technique, etc) is almost one solid month over a ten year period.
You get the idea. Everything adds up. You’ve a finite, but unknown, amount of time.
How does that make you feel?
Live in these feelings.
Now that you know the value of your everyday activities, spend a few days in awareness of what it means to you.
At this point, allow all of the data and feelings in. Let it all stew, simmer, and steep. Really absorb your understanding of your time.
I’ll be back in a few days with your final step.
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