What is your cigarette?

Note: Please don’t smoke. Yes we are all going to die, but lung cancer is a bitch. Plus, you will NEVER have as much swag smoking as this 2-year-old.

When I ask “What is your cigarette?” I am not asking what your favorite brand is. It’s just another clever way of asking how do you relax. Or really, how you de-stress.

Is “de-stress” a word? Eh I don’t care I like it more than relax.

I don’t smoke, but I do have “de-stressing activities.” My biggest one is TV shows. I’m pretty sure my mom had cable in her womb because I’ve watched TV more than I’ve done anything else. And with the rise of Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, and Xfinity streaming my mind is like

One year my sister and I had a discussion about which one was watching the most current TV shows. I think I won 25–23.

Like millions of other Americans, I am pretty damn good at multitasking, so doing work while watching X-Files, or House of Cards, or Parks & Recreation, or The Walking Dead (or… well you get the point) is doable.

However, it is a very thin line. When you work in a startup, there is a lot of stress. And when you live in America, there is a lot of TV.

Since there is a lot of stress… and a lot of TV… eventually you get here…


Don’t get here. It’s a bad place.

So what do you do?

  1. Limit your outside activity. If the fun activity gets to a point where you have 2-day old plates and bills all over your bed (or coach), you need to limit that shit. For me, I’ll only watch a TV show when I’m cooking or eating. For breakfast I can watch a 60-minute show (since I’m making breakfast), and for lunch I can watch a 30-minute show.
  2. Find a motivating background activity. Instead of a TV show where you have to focus, I’ll put on a long movie that I know by heart in the background. Since I know it so well I don’t have to focus on it and it just bleeds into my environment, giving me a calm to get my work done. Another one that works for me is music. I have my headphones on every day so music (or fantasy football podcasts) help pass the time and motivate me to get big tasks done.
  3. Don’t cancel out your activity. Going “cold turkey” is a bold move. It can work, but it can also cause some bad side effects. When your priorities get hard you’ll start to crave your distraction more. But you’ve gone cold turkey, you can’t indulge! However, can’t work on the task you’re pushing off either!

Nothing is bad.

My cigarette is watching TV shows, but yours could be cooking, exercising, reading Game of Thrones books, etc. Just remember that no matter how positive or negative your “cigarette” is, it’s not a substitute for your priorities. The work does not go away when you take a break, it only gets bigger.

If you can learn to tackle your work straight on, or find a motivating background activity to get you through it, DO IT. When you complete your priorities, your “de-stressing” activity can actually just be a fun activity! Crazy, I know.