How a Week Without TV, News & Social Media Made Me More Creative, Productive and Happy.

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What would it be like to go for a week without watching any TV, taking in any news, and being completely off social media?

A month ago, I gave myself that challenge.

As a result, some of my core behaviours changed to the point where friends, family, and colleagues noticed a significant, positive shift.

During the experiment, I kept a log of thoughts, habits, and energy in a pocket notebook. You can listen to the full experience with daily summaries on episode 44 of Art Of Meaningful Work.

Here are the 5 main, actionable takeaways:

1. Eliminate Negative News.

Most of the news we are exposed to is negative. It’s a tactic used by networks in order to exploit our negativity bias — an unfortunate evolutionary trait that kept us safe from danger, and that now keeps us glued to the news.

Going a week without news had a significant impact on my mood and energy levels. This has now become a daily (non)practice.

2. Replace TV and Netflix.

It’s easy to get sucked into a show or a newscast, as they are seamlessly engineered to keep you entertained and glued to the screen.

On social media, we have autoplaying and pop-out videos. On Netflix, a series will automatically play the next episode. On TV, news and shows are structured to leave you hanging.

Leaving TV and Netflix off created space for reading, writing, and journaling, which I find incredibly rewarding. In addition, keeping media off in the evenings allowed my wife and me to reconnect on a deeper level every day.

3. Pay yourself first.

As part of this experiment, I scheduled creative time in the mornings. Since I have control over my schedule most days, this meant starting the day with breakfast, a 10-minute meditation, and then a 2-hour time block for creative work.

I found doing creative work as the first task of the day built momentum with writing, research and project work.

Just like the financial concept of paying yourself first, depositing an hour or two of creative work into your brand or projects begins to pay dividends and they only increase over time.

4. Be a positive force on social.

Lately, social media has become more links than conversations. So when you actually start a conversation, it’s a novel experience. Like a modern day version of receiving a handwritten letter.

On top of that, recent studies have found a negative correlation between mental well-being and social media usage.

So instead, my approach became to ask questions, start actual conversations, and promote the work of interesting people. The idea is to create a positive moment in someone’s day.

5. Schedule checking times.

The urge to keep “checking” things is strong. We’ve built it over years of conditioning though social media, apps, and devices.

And each of these “checks” can result in a 15–20 minute distraction, taking away from your creative and productive output.

To make a middle ground, I schedule checking times when all e-mail and social media activity happens. That usually means mid-morning after the creative time block and mid-afternoon after lunch.

This allowed me to create two intense, deep work sessions on most days.

If the idea of unplugging sounds interesting, check out Analog Camp.
 Wilderness retreat for professionals and entrepreneurs. Launching in fall of 2017.

It’s a strange luxury to go offline in a connected world, especially for people like us.

This experience illuminated the impacts of social media, news-exposure and screen time on creativity, productivity and overall well-being. It brought to light my own ingrained behaviours and habits, which I am now working on improving.

After coming back online, I asked other professionals in my network about their thoughts on doing a digital detox. And I was surprised by so many responses from CEOs, Directors, Entrepreneurs, and other professionals from a variety of industries.

You can have a look at some of these on LinkedIn. To get their take on unplugging, I interviewed 5 or 6 of these folks and will cut together a podcast episode.

I’d recommend giving it a try. If a week seems too long, try turning your phone and laptop off for a Sunday. It might just make you more creative, productive, and happy.


Originally published at ernestbarbaric.com on July 22, 2017.