The Additional 30

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What would you do if you were given thirty to sixty minutes extra to your day? First of all, would you need them? And second, how would you spend those minutes?

On Monday, like a fairy godmother, I gifted myself those extra minutes.

You see, after a few days of thinking, I decided to take a break from social media. Facebook but especially Instagram, to be specific.

For a few years now, I’ve lived my life consuming a minimal amount of time on social media and without sitting down to catch up on the daily news. Of course, in the society we live in today it’s almost impossible to live without some news coming in one’s attention or altogether without any information related to social media, but in my opinion, I’ve done pretty well.

However, when I started writing this blog in July last year, I decided to create an Instagram account to go with it. After all, many bloggers use Instagram as an additional media to share more details about their lives through photos and short captions, and it seemed to be a part of the whole thing.

Also, many writers are active on Instagram, sharing their writing related tips and experiences and in that way creating a community for writers, something I had been longing for. As I was on my own with the hushed mission to write my very first real novel, Instagram seemed like the perfect place to share and care about writing without having to keep the first draft as a complete secret.

Help, Tips and Inspiration

Being a writer on Instagram has many positive aspects. The community of writers on this platform is huge and many of the writers share actively their writing journey, describing the ups and downs, the achievements and the setbacks. In this way, I got support and perspective to the whole writing process. There is also a number of writing experts who are there to help you, answer your writing-related questions and cheer you on – for free!

In addition to this, Instagram has worked as a place for inspiration and especially motivation to keep on writing every day. It has also been a place where I’ve found many tips for fictional books, books about writing and helpful Youtube and Instagram accounts to follow.

In addition to that, I’ve used Instagram to get ideas for different meals and ways to do self-care. The platform really is great. I spent a good deal of time posting my own photos, writing captions, liking and commenting the photos of other users – and getting that warm and cozy feeling of a community.

But still, something with Instagram made me doubt if my efforts there were worth my time, thoughts and energy.

Time, Action, Trouble

When it comes to following people on social media, I’m quite picky. Especially on Instagram, I didn’t want to follow anyone whose content didn’t feel natural or similar to my own style and preferences. Therefore, I only followed approximately 90 different people on Instagram.

Although this isn’t that much (as many tend to follow up to 500 people), for me the feed very often felt like an information overload. There was so much to see, so much to reflect upon and maybe comment upon that after my morning scroll through Instagram, my brain felt fuzzy. And this was right before I was supposed to dive into writing a new blog post or continue writing Yellow Tails.

Also the amount of inspirational and motivations quotes, writing tips, book recommendations and thought-provoking questions became too much. Almost daily I took several screenshots of things I wanted to check up on later but that I always forgot until I every few days scrolled through my photos and wondered what all the screenshots were about. There was too much information, too many ideas that eventually led to more passive consuming rather than active creating of new thoughts and ideas. And stress because when was I supposed to find the time to go through all those books to read and videos to watch and skills to learn?

Instagram counts the minutes you spend on the app and tells you how much time on average you spend on scrolling, liking and commenting photos. For me, that number was somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes every day. On days when I published something the minutes ticked away quickly and especially after the New Year when I decided to put some effort into my Instagram Stories, I really started to spend time on the platform.

However, I saw few if any returns for the additional time I invested on spending on Instagram. Only a few more clicks to the blog, only one-tenth of my followers actually saw those Stories and I got no more followers, no matter how I tweaked and turned the content.

In addition to this, many of the principles behind creating a successful Instagram account don’t fall into my personal and beliefs which made it hard for me to get motivated to ”do the right things to get more successful”.

It felt as if I was wasting my time when I could have invested those minutes into doing something off-screen or learning new things. And this made me think if it was time to quit Instagram.

Peaceful and Productive

With these gut feelings and thoughts (what did I give to the platform – and what did I receive?), I decided to dig a little deeper into the social media detox and what the talk around it was about. I watched two videos, this and this, and read this post by Seth Godin. And in a nutshell, this is what I ended up with:

Social media is one form of entertainment but the platforms are made as addictive as possible, making them into some sort of personal slot machines you carry with you in your back pocket or your bag. The platforms invite you to check them every now and then, as often as possible, which leads to your attention becoming fragmented. And this attention fragmenting aspect of social media can permanently reduce your capacity to concentrate.

These facts sounded convincing to me. My attention span is one of the most important things to me as a writer and I certainly didn’t want to have it fragmented. And I wasn’t too excited about the thought of personal slot machines, either.

However, one of the reasons I got on Instagram as a writer (and a future author) was to create a platform through which I could market my book and share my journey. And I thought this: if I quit Instagram, will it have a negative effect on my future success? If I quit, will anyone find my book? After all, word of mouth is one of the most effective ways for a book to find its readers.

After a few days of thinking, I would like to answer my own question:

1) If I put my time and attention to post things on Instagram instead of investing that time in working on my book, I won’t have a book to talk about, and

2) I already have this blog which is month after month showing me that you people are interested in what I talk about (hi every 58 of you!) so why not invest more time on writing these entries instead of putting my energy in writing short captions few seem to read and react to anyway?

In other words: if you chase two rabbits at the same time, you’ll probably end up with nothing.

So, my worries of not having a Instagram account when I become an author are completely irrational and unnecessary. At the moment, at least.

Instead of spending time on these energy and time-consuming platforms, I can focus on doing things that I like and love (and get deeper into something called deep work which I hope to be able to get back into later on) and let the other things follow. Living without tiny but constant interruptions can help me be more productive and more peaceful. I have fewer things to divide my focus between, to check, to keep up with.

The additional 30 to 60 minutes per day I gain to my day when I’m not on Instagram or Facebook can be invested into learning new things, writing, learning to meditate… anything I can think of!

I mean, those minutes add up to 3,5–7 hours a week and 14–28 hours a month – that’s a good deal of time. It’s a huge amount of time. And I just gave those minutes, those hours to myself, like a true fairy godmother.

What would you do with those additional hours in your week or month?

You Are What You Focus On

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On Tuesday, I wondered why people never have all the time that they need so I observed how they use the time they have on their hands. From what I saw, people tend to use their time for window-shopping (both in shopping malls and online), playing games on their phone, checking their social media feeds or talking about other people or events that have happened or are happening in the near future.

I am not saying any of this is bad. It isn’t – at least when it’s done in small amounts. However, these activities tend to take over everything else. Especially our smart devices are excellent Time Turners… although they work in a counter-productive way, that is, they make the time go faster.

What I’m trying to say is this: by using our time on things that aren’t really productive we are wasting our time.

(Because, honestly, can you remember all the photos you saw on Instagram this morning when you scrolled through your feed? Or what was on the news yesterday? Of all the minutes or even hours you invest on doing these things – how much of that Time would you say was time well spent?)

But wait, what? What do I do with my Time? Let’s start with what I don’t do:

I don’t really use my phone for reading news or checking my social media feed several times a day. I don’t have any games on my computer or on my phone (and even though we have a Wii console at home we aren’t really tempted to use it), I seldom have a need for window-shopping, and I use my bike instead of driving a car everywhere – and spare the time I would otherwise spend sitting in traffic.

The Time On My Side

Because of what I don’t do I seem to have a great deal of Time on my hands. Actually, every few days I realize I have too much of that Time. You ever heard of that – having too much time? It’s a real thing. And let me tell you, it’s a challenge.

For the past eight months or so, I’ve been managing my Time more than usual. First of all, I decided to check my social media only once a day (that’s Instagram, mostly) and for the second, I haven’t really been deep-diving into news on a daily or even on a weekly basis for the past one and a half years. This saves me hours every week.

I prefer meeting friends in real life instead of spending hours on Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, chatting away on recent events or other stuff. I have my habits, which save me a ton of time. I prefer single-tasking instead of multitasking which means I get things done more effectively than if I would be checking for e-mails, social media and chat messages every now and then while doing my writing. I don’t binge-watch tv-series that much anymore and have become more selective when it comes to Netflix and TV-programs.

All these things give me Time.

How We Spend Our Time

With the time I have, I’m able to write much more than I had before. I have more energy for playing chess, going for walks, reading books, do some research for different projects I’m interested in.

It hasn’t been all too easy to get where I am. And there is still so much I would like to do with all the Time I have on my hands: read even more books, try mediation, dedicate more time for researching, write a journal, work on my book, become a better photographer and filmmaker.

So I’m in the middle of a process here. I think it’ll never end – these self-development things rarely do.

It has required a great deal of self-discipline to get where I am today. Acquiring all this time has demanded several moments of hands-caught-in-movement-towards-the-phone and forefinger-reaching-for-the-app-that-takes-you-to-Instagram. It has also required many conscious decisions such as leaving the phone in another room for the night so that the first thing I check when I wake up isn’t my phone but the weather or, better yet, how I’m feeling that morning.

There are many quotes out there that are about how we consume our time. One of the first ones that stuck in my head a year ago or so, was the quote by Annie Dillard:

”How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

It made me think of how I spent my days: I was constantly on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Youtube. I read up to twenty different blogs on an almost-daily basis. I read books, watched movies and tv-series (mostly Gilmore Girls and Friends), and looked up food recipes that I might someday want to prepare. I was a hard-core consumer. The only thing I produced was the food I cooked, which I then ate, i.e. consumed.

I asked myself: is this how I want to spend my days and, the pattern extended, my life? I wasn’t all too dissatisfied with my way of spending my days, but still, the quote and the thought in it got stuck in my head. How did I wish to spend my days and my life?

Today, I feel like I’m more on the right path than I was one and a half years ago. I am more of a producer than a consumer – I create sentences that build entire worlds. I create photos and videos.

I am, of course, also a consumer. We can never cease to consume – but we can choose what we consume and how much.

What I Don’t Have

But why am I writing all this? What’s the idea behind this blog post?

The thing is – I have too much Time on my hands. And having all this Time is a challenge because even if I have all the Time I wish for, I’m not able to do everything I want to do.

I’ve realized there are many things I’d like to do with the extra time that I have. I would love to go hiking much more than I do at the moment. I enjoy working with my hands and would love to use these hands for cooking and baking, building things and painting (just a side note: I’m not a painter or a carpenter but a writer, so no great expectations on my building and painting skills. It’s just something I enjoy doing).

However, these wishes come with restraints: the nearest deep-in-the-woods hiking trails are at least one-hour drive away. If I’d bake all the cookies and cheesecakes I’d want to, me and my partner would probably gain 20 kilograms weight neither of us needs.

(And as a side note: I wish to bake and cook food only when I feel like it, instead of making it an obligatory daily task because that tends to take out all the fun in it. So what I’m searching for here is some kind of balance)

Also, for the past two years I’ve been getting rid of things I don’t need anymore so by creating paintings and things out of wood and screws I’m creating more things that I basically don’t need. How to create without adding to the amount of things you already own?

Since I’ve realized the limits of what I can do with my Time in my current situation, I’ve also realized what I wish to change in my life (so I guess you can call it in one way a positive problem). This is how far I’ve come in my realizations:

  • I want to live in a house. Not in an apartment in the city, but in my own house a small distance away from the city.
  • I want to live near the nature and the sea. Switch the noise pollution of the city to the sounds of waves, wind and birds.
  • I want to have a studio for working, writing, painting and all the other creative things I aim to do.

The part about the food I haven’t figured out quite yet. But I have a strong belief in that a solution will find it’s way into my head.

By making more Time into your days, i.e. having more control over what you do with your time, you have more time to think what you’d like to do with that time and how you can do it.

More time on your hands also gives you the opportunity to think more clearly where you want to be in the next five years or so. And that’s a way of living a more meaningful life, if you ask me.