So I just finished Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Work Week… and it kinda blew my mind.
Contrary to what the title implies, it’s not a book about laziness. It’s pretty much the opposite. The book challenges much of what we’ve come to accept as the norm: spending the best years of our lives over-working and putting off living until we retire. But in order to to live the life we desire for ourselves (in the present), it takes focus, tenacity and a new commitment to productivity.
One thing he proposes is that if you can free your mind of much of the mental clutter we often allow, without question, you can be more productive, do more in less time and free yourself up to do what you’re passionate about.
I took Mr. Ferriss up on one of the many challenges he gave in his book: go one week without consuming any media or news of any kind.
No idle television viewing.
No news websites or news television.
Pretty much anything that was not an intentional use of your time. Music and fiction books were ok.
So I gave this media fast a shot and here’s what I learned:
1. It’s not as scary as it sounds
This exercise forced me to come to grips with the fact that I was technically addicted to these forms of information. How could I give them up? Facebook and sites like Mashable.com were MADE for mental breaks during a busy work day, right? What would I do instead? I was nervous about that. But as I resolved to write those vices off from my typical day, it became quite easy to avoid them. And it felt good. Do I really need to know what Taylor Swift said this week, or who’s on vacation? I really don’t. I ended up focusing my time on more creative ideas for things I was working on at work and at home.
2. If something happens in the world, you’ll hear about it
I realized that I had a certain level of pride in knowing as much as I could about what’s going on in the world. Whether it be pop-culture, political or just news-worthy. I HAD to know. So when I gave that up for a week I wondered what it would be like not knowing. How would I stumble around in such darkness and ignorance?!?! Well, to Tim Ferriss’ point, if something worth knowing does happen, you will hear about it. People will be talking about it. It’s kind of a nice filter really. Instead of idly checking CNN.com or watching the news, only the most important things bubble up to the top of the office chatter, and you catch wind of it. I had no idea that the Supreme Court voted in support of same-sex marriage until I was in a meeting and people were talking about it. I wasn’t the first to know, but I soon knew. And thats ok.
3. It’s ok to talk to humans
Piggy-backing on #2, I learned that if you’re not reading/viewing news all the time, you have to talk to people. Instead of isolating myself in media consumption, a sense of community is fostered. I can easily find out what’s going on in the world by just asking someone, “So, what’s going on in the world?” Who knew?! It’s kind of a nice by-product of the exercise. It forces you to talk to people and engage with them. And you learn more about people by listening to what they deem as important.
4. My productivity soared
I learned how interruptive reading the news is to my daily work-flow. I thought I needed the mental breaks to be productive, but the opposite was true. I took some of Tim Ferriss’ other advice and made small task lists in the morning, hid my email from view while I was working, said no to more meetings and then knocked out several projects in about 2 days (I would have probably dragged them out for 5 days before). It felt amazing to look back at my day and see all the work I’d done. I felt accomplished and so productive. You really can do so much more in so much less time, just by intentionally focussing on what’s important to get done. I even came up with creative ideas for problems I didn’t even realize I had. I became proactive at work, going above and beyond.
My New Mindset
Now that the week-long challenge of fasting media is over, I’ve found that my need to check-in constantly with what’s going on externally to my own world, has much less power over me. I do read the news from time to time. But hardly. I try to go on Facebook only if I have a task to do there. I’ve become more focused at work and on my personal projects at home. And I’ve found that I worry a lot less, because my mind isn’t filled with all the problems of the world. Just my own. But now I have more of the mental capacity and freedom to creatively solve them. And in less time!
So, I encourage you to give it a shot. Just one week and see how you feel. You can always go back at the end of the week. Will you take up the challenge?