Recently, I wrote about being busy and how to avoid unnecessary time suck by getting that busy time under control.
I was pretty happy with myself because I believe I have it under control. I examine my time frequently and make sure I know where it goes.
But How Can It Not Be Social Media?
My primary time suck culprit used to be…you guessed it, Social Media. In this lengthy blog post where I poured everything I had on the topic, I described how I took control of my social media consumption and the value it still brings to my life.
But, recently, I noticed there is still so much more of my unstructured, free time that goes somewhere, and I have nothing to show for it.
I Tracked My Week in 30 Minute Intervals
I went back to my good old time tracker, where I tracked my time in 30 minutes intervals using a simple excel spreadsheet. I did this for seven days and was shocked at what I discovered.
I was spending upwards of two hours a day reading various newsletters and subscriptions that come directly into my inbox.
My time suck was my email! And for over two decades now (no kidding) I take pride in my Inbox Zero.
Help, help, what have I done. And how? I choose carefully, like most of us do, what goes into my precious inbox.
But, each newsletter I subscribe to comes with more links, and each link leads to another link. So whether I am reading on my phone or my laptop, I am getting sucked into the black hole of the internet. You may think you don’t have 2-3 extra hours to spend on that anyway. I didn’t think I did.
But as they say, you always find time for those easy and passive consumption activities like browsing and watching Netflix.
And there seems to be an increasing trend of curated newsletters all over the internet.
Everyone wants to have a growing mailing list. That includes every online newspaper and magazine, an online or a brick and mortar business, a reputable website, a small, one-person blog like mine. Just google “email list,” and you will find article after article telling you why you need to create your email list now and how to lure in your subscribers.
My subscriptions include blogs that interest me and literary magazines (reputable and obscure) I love to read. But they all lead to more links, and because I like to keep inbox zero at all times, I tend to open and read them all.
But since I examined my time in honest 30 minutes intervals, I can now take this head-on.
So Did I Unsubscribe?
Unsubscribing would be the easy thing to do, but I love all those newsletters. I have followed some for years and do still find something of value to me.
Although, using the word value is always questionable. Plus I tend to suffer from FOMO.
I saved this quote from Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism as a reminder.
Let’s not forget what Thoreau said: “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
But I was not ready to kiss them all goodbye yet.
So What Did I Do Instead?
When my son was a baby, I subscribed to at least a dozen websites for mothers, parenting, etc. At some point, I cleaned up my email and unsubscribed from them all. I cannot tell you what a relief that was. I used this handy little tool, called Unroll Me to do it. I figured I would just start with a clean slate.
I never looked back.
So I may end up doing that eventually, but as I wasn’t ready to let go yet, I went to the good old email filter.
As the newsletters kept coming, I went to my Yahoo Mail Filter and created two new folders for my subscriptions (Sub Literary and Blogs), and directed my emails automatically there.
This still allows me to keep my Inbox Zero. And like Newport advises, I can now schedule my low-quality leisure time by going directly to these folders.
In the last five days since I established this folder, over 30 newsletters went in there. Some are from the same sender, some not. But I would have, on a typical week, probably opened and read (most probably skimmed, but still) every single one of them.
I believe I will end up unsubscribing from many of them after all.
This practice of temporarily removing ourselves from a source of time suck (honestly, I haven’t opened them yet, just because they come to a folder that is not immediately visible to me) is what Cal Newport refers to in this quote.
A Pledge to Myself
- I want to spend more time doing things in the physical world rather than passively consuming.
- More physical creativity (hey, Creativity is my guiding word for 2021) and more face-to-face meaningful social interactions.
- More high-impact but demanding activities like yoga, hiking, writing, engaging in various social activities and quality time spent with my family.
- Less of everything else.
How about you? Do you regularly examine your time? Have you found anything surprising?