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The #instasabbatical

21st July 2017

 

Instagram logo with the words Dopamine posted behind it.

I’m going on an intentional instagram sabbatical from now through to the end of the summer holidays. That means I’m deleting the app, not posting and not checking in. I’ve been putting up posts on instagram for 5 years!!! FIVE. That’s a LONG TIME. I know this because I check my time hop and my little people really were actually really little when I started uploading snapshots, it’s become a bit of a way of life.

My post count to date now comes in at 3500, which is a bit staggering but does in actual fact mean I’ve only averaged a couple of posts a day. For anyone that follows me, you know that I do have an bit of a binge when I finish a crochet project, so most of it is crochet. The rest of what’s up there are photos of the family, friends, Brighton, books and the dog. Really, it’s like a visual diary, something that replaced blogging for me, tiny little filtered and edited highlights in my life.

Anyway time out and here’s why, I had to start to ‘manage’ my time on the app at the start of the year, it started to fall under the same umbrella of Facebook (which I left) and that umbrella name is basically TIMESUCK, so I stopped checking instagram as much. First up I started checking how long I was spending with the app open (settings > battery) and I was horrified by the amount of time it took up in the day. Hours. Something had to change. I didn’t think I had hours. I am a busy person! But the reality was, I was spending hours on there and not reading or coding, or making, the things I really enjoy. Presumably also it’s been thieving time away from my family. On top of that I clearly wasn’t doing all the other boring necessary stuff of life when I was on there so I needed to reclaim my time. Every week I deleted it from my phone and resumed a life for 7 days where I have no social media interaction AT. ALL. And unsurprisingly I got more done.

Those weeks though I noticed, as the week was beginning just how often I had been checking it reflexively, how I’d be standing in a queue and pressing the home button then thoughtlessly reaching for the app. (The solution I have found to this is to move the apps I don’t want to use like this to my last screen so there’s more time for me to realise I’m swiping mindlessly – I recommend it)

I have realised that I’ve recently become too distracted instagram and in turn was seduced by all sorts of irrelevancy as a consequence, I’d ricochet from account to account and then click through links and surf the web. Whilst I love the banter and the dopamine hit from all the liking I can also get swept down the rabbit hole of scrolling. I’ve even started buying stuff from the adverts, so that marketing clearly works! Overall I genuinely feel like it makes me less able to focus on one thing at a time in general. The weeks it is off the table I am able to move from one task to the next in a much more fluid and deliberate way.

It can be a bit of a weird space anyway, throwing up an awful lot of interesting observations too. I’m guilty of it, but it can be such an earnest space. I’ll write an earnest post, similar in scope to a blog post and then I’ll internally cringe wondering why I’m posting something like that. I can’t decide if it’s just self doubt or because I suspect sharing too much is inappropriate, but it can feel so false if you’re not real. Then in turn it can also feel too much when someone’s trying to be intentionally inspirational. There’s a balance somewhere.  I also know people that follow me in real life but don’t ever like my posts and then will refer to things I’ve done and posted about in conversation, I think that’s odd. Stories is a strange one too, I think I might post them purely because there’s the option of posting them, none of mine have ever been that interesting and yet HUNDREDS of people look a them. To be honest I feel I am stealing people’s time, so I might opt out of them in the future. I’ve also not been convinced of my motivation for putting stuff up at this current point in my life. I feel like I might be posting for a bit of self-validation from outside now I’m on my own rather than posting purely to share.

However I will get back into it after I’ve had a break, but I’ll be sharing the snapshots with intention not just share for the sake of it. Then there’s also a community online, the ‘people in my phone’, instagram is definitely self selecting and has in some ways enabled me to ‘find my people’, the people that enjoy doing the same things. I don’t want to say it, but it’s a bit tribal in that respect. There are artists and makers and individuals around the world I never would have connected with in real life if it were not for instagram. I also find other people’s feeds inspirational and it influences things I do and make.

Not posting or interacting does have consequences. It’s an absolutely certainty that an algorithm coded deep in the structure of the app means if you don’t engage you will get less traffic so I might not get seen for a while when I get back to it. What will happen though is I will be more in the present. I’m looking forward to engaging with the kids all over the summer holidays. I’m looking forward to experiences that won’t be observed but treasured. I’m looking forward to focus, I’m looking forward to feeling more in control of my life and less scattered. I’m looking forward to not feeling like I’m putting a front on my life. I’m looking forward to it all.

Thanks to @jamesllewis for letting me use the above image. Another person I wouldn’t have come across were it not for the insta platform.

 

 

 

 

Life

Headspace Meditation

7th April 2017

Image of the headspace app logoAt the start of 2017 I wrote a couple of things on the blog that I was going to try to do with my year. The aim of those things are to put me in a better place by the end of 2017. It’s April and I’ve kept them in mind almost everyday and because of that, everyday try my best to set out to do them. I wanted to set aside time to write code, I know that if I do some everyday I’ll steadily get used to the new syntax. I realise it’s not going to be a skill learned overnight, it needs me to show up for deliberate and regular practice. I have pretty much coded at least 80% of the days in 2017. I haven’t kept proper track but most mornings I am settled in the kitchen at 6 and coding until 7.30 and then I do some later in the day. The other thing I wanted to incorporate into the fabric of my day was meditation. After courses and an intermittent personal practice over the last 5 years I know that when I do manage to ‘sit’ I have a better day. How many times have I meditated this year? Maybe 10 times??? I just wasn’t getting it done. I had it as the practice I was supposed to do after I walked Rocco but there pretty much always seemed like there was something more pressing or attractive to get on with when I got in the door. Part of what I learnt every time I’ve had a meditation ‘binge’ though is that the more consistent you are, the more benefit you get.

The days I meditate I focus better. ALOT better. I’m generally more patient, more productive and much calmer, less anxious and less distracted. I feel like I am a better version of me afterward. Why I don’t then end up doing it everyday just doesn’t make sense. I guess I’m resisting it because I don’t want to be dependent on that one thing. Except that one thing ends up creating more space in my day. It also gives me more ability to do one thing at a time without letting my mind buzz noisily like background static or my thoughts jump chaotically from the past to the future, place to place, never settling on the task at hand.

A few weeks ago over drinks, (I had my first beer of the year – I know – I was supposed to be avoiding drinking, whole other story) headspace came up, the conversation being whether to sign up after the trial or not. It’s been on my radar for ages because it’s constantly referred to on Tim Ferris’ podcast. I’m also wading through Tools of Titans at the moment and I am always reading about another successful person and their meditation practice. So I downloaded it as a way of prompting myself to actually take the time to pause and over the last 9 days I’ve ‘taken 10’ everyday. That’s a record as far as 2017 goes and it feels like a relief for me to have managed to work out a way to practice, this time I’m doing it as soon as I wake up. I also nominated a friend, without his consent (my cousin Tom) to be my accountability. When I’ve sat for a session I drop him a text and for some reason I felt more obligated to do it once I set that up. As it turns out he’s been taking ten too and I get a text back so it’s worked out. I’ve signed up for the year. I know I need this in my life, I like Andy Puddicombe’s voice, I like the vibe and the intention and I see this as a really worthwhile investment in myself. Of course I will let you know if I keep it up.

As for whether I am significantly better as a person, I’ll be honest I did actually explode with fury when I realised I was locked out the house the other day and I’ve just snapped at Ruby for repeating a line from Pokemon for about the twentieth time. I’m not walking round calm and zen, I’m still as highly strung and irritable as before. 9 days have just made me think at least 9 times about what I think about, observe them and let them be with no judgement. I really recommend giving it a try.

Crochet Life Running This week

:: This week ::

29th January 2017

Photograph of a graphic style piece of street art

 

:: Making ::

Still just adding to the babette this week. No further progress to report on that. I’m hooking up a hat, continuing on with my scrap project —

Crochet circle

 

It’s growing slowly, am hoping to find a circular cushion to fit this too… on the list.

Ruby and I also spent Saturday morning knotting up friendship bracelets. I made a couple with 8 strands but they aren’t finished yet and I’ve not got any pictures at the moment. Ruby mastered the chevron and has made a few now, she found the printed patterns for bracelets using any more than 4 strands difficult to understand (as did I, it took me a few hours and some youtube videos to decipher them!) That’s it for makes.

:: Reading ::

I finished Shonda Rime’s “Year of Yes” (3/5) and I’m stuck into “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry now. I’ve also started reading a design book on design systems and user interfaces, largely out of my depth on that, but immersing myself in all things web design and development at the moment. It’s good to read something different.

:: Listening to ::

ABRA

I’ve watched nothing on TV except Homeland, we’re a season behind. Drinking? None. I know you can’t believe it either. I’ve run 17.6 miles this week, including one very muddy trail run with Rocco. I had 4 days off after catching a nasty cold last weekend, I just had to get behind early nights and lots of rest at the start of the week. Really not a huge amount going on, am still enjoying hibernating this winter. The daily coding is happening, I should have hit 100 hours in a couple of weeks, I say this tentatively as there is so much to learn and I am only at the beginning, but I’m finally starting to feel that it’s not so alien to me any more. I’m looking forward to being able to do it with my ‘morning head’ on this week. At the weekends I’m attempting an hour after the kids go to bed and my evening head is dull and sluggish and finds everything hard to grasp. On that, it’s grinding as I type, time to hit the hay.

Life

Lists

11th January 2017

A picture of list making

 

Another week of the New Year!

:: On coding everyday, I have managed to sit down with my computer each day except Monday! I’ve not been especially successful but I have done it. Monday didn’t work, the schedule is tricky at the best of times. I had to fit my run in in the evening, in the dark, which isn’t my favourite but necessary if I want to fit it in at all. I think I’m going to have to get up earlier. I began the usual New Year tax return/sorting paperwork stuff on Monday at least, once that’s out the way I’ll have more time. Yesterday I went to a workshop where I met someone who codes in real life. I think that’s going to keep me going.

:: I read a book. Jarrett Kobek’s “I hate the internet”– it deserves it’s own post. The first book I have ever read with so much redacted material to comply with UK libel laws!

:: Not drinking. No drinking has happened. 11 days. I’ve had this as something I track for the last two years, being wiped and low after drinking a couple of glasses of something that’s supposed to be relaxing and fun (and it is at the time) has bothered me for a while. The last significant length of time without a glass of pinot noir or malbec was 57 days. Nowhere near, I think it’s only worked because I haven’t been out in the evening…

:: Guess what? More running. Any correlation? Nearly 40 miles. I signed up for a virtual challenge to run from Land’s End to John O’Groats to keep me motivated this year.

:: Meditating. This has been the difficult ‘big rock‘, although I’ve only missed two days (yesterday included) which I think isn’t bad because it hasn’t been something I have fitted in at all. I need to make sure I ‘sit’ in the beginning part of my day. I started writing my own rooted productivity page after the suggestion in Cal Newport’s email this week (worth a sign up) and worked out meditation comes most days after I’ve walked Rocco. However on Sunday I just ran out of steam, I didn’t wake before the children, we went to junior park run, then swimming lessons almost immediately after, then got the paper. I fitted in walking the dog between this and going to see my nana, I didn’t feel I had that 10 minutes, what I should have done is accept that and go for five. We always have five minutes. Once I got home both children were so edgy from doing too much it felt like we’d all been run down by a bus by the time they went to bed and it was early nights for everyone. On the days where the kids were at home, I explained I was going up to meditate. They get the general idea of meditation. George has discussion of it at ninja I think, Ruby knows I went to classes and we’ve used the “Enchanted Meditation” before, I seem to remember something about them doing it at school. What my children don’t understand if I am awake is how to be more than 6 foot away from me at any given time. I think it was the 2nd of January where, 6 minutes into a mindfulness of breathing meditation I heard little footsteps coming up the stairs to my room. George came in, I paused the meditation, reminded myself the whole idea is to be more present in life, explained I’d prefer if he’d not do this in future, but if he’d like to sit with me I could finish if he was quiet. He wriggled on my lap, he burped and then counted down to the end of my session looking at the phone app I use. The following day I had Ruby come up the stairs (within TWO minutes!) I heard her stop outside the door and wait, clearly wondering what to do. She needed a hairbrush which she eventually decided was quite important and after deliberating she walked in after about 1 minute (in fairness, all I could focus on were my thoughts about when she would come in.) On the whole though, I’ve made it a priority. Do I feel better? I feel more aware of how antsy and perpetually distracted I am.

:: Some crochet too, a hat and a babette update is on its way.

Life Running

2017

1st January 2017

Paper on the floor

 

Earnest, new year, new intention post – be warned.

I’m the type of person that likes New Year as a marker, it feels fresh and full of possibility, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. I enjoy the reflection part, working out what worked that year and what I’d like to improve on. It’s my kind of time. I had a good think yesterday morning about 2016 and all the good experiences I had. The last 4 or so years on December 31st I try to write my list of 50 “humble brags” for that year. I started off alright, in the few blog posts I actually wrote last year I covered my intentions around running and I completed my 1000km challenge in November, so I can own that one. Done. I had that as my first humble brag, of course I did.

2016 was also the year I started learning how to code, I joined a running club, I read 32 books (not the 50 I set out to, but 32 all the same), I made two huge blankets and 8 baby blankets, I learnt how to make hats, I did a lot of crochet. I put all these things down. However, be under no illusion I struggled to get to 32 and even then stretching the list out to 38 over the rest of the day was hard!

In any case I had had two things at the start of last year I knew would pick me up and set my 2016 in the right direction: running and reading, I genuinely believe both feed into me being more productive and creative. This year I’m building and adjusting on those two: I’m going to run 1000 miles in 2017, including a marathon and an ultra distance. I’ll include in my Sunday “This Week” round up the distance I’ve covered that week and my overall distance for the year. As far as books go, my goodreads challenge for 2017 will be for a more realistic 35 titles.

I have two other intentions:

:: to code everyday.

:: to meditate for at least ten minutes per day.

These are my new big rocks, my new daily priorities. They’re in this crochet blog because I think both will make me more productive and more creative. I’ve dipped in and out of meditating in 2016 and for many years but with no consistency. I alternate between both metta bhavana and mindfulness of breathing buddhist meditations for no other reason than that’s what I was taught to practice at the buddhist centre and I like them! I also maintained a good coding streak up until Christmas time and have clocked in 50 hours overall. However Christmas coding was woefully intermittent. The meditating allows me to focus better in the day and you can’t code without focus, so they both feed into each other.

The next thing that will define 2017 that I’m genuinely slightly worried about throwing out there is that I won’t be consuming any alcohol. For the whole year. This is my public declaration and my digital place of accountability. Those that know me will find this reasonably amusing (I can hear “good luck with THAT!” from you all – cheers!) There are so many reasons for this, I think it’s another post entirely but it genuinely comes down to curiosity. What would change? Will I make more, will I read more, will I run more, will I be happier?  So I’m writing it off for 2017 as a personal experiment just so I can see.

(Pip Lincolne pretty much sums up all my reasons here)

Right 2017. Let’s do this.