Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Digital Fast - Day 1

Yesterday surprised me.

To recap, I'm giving up my smartphone and the Interweb Tubes for a week, except as necessary to communicate and learn. I threw in alcohol and music and vowed to cut my caffeine consumption from 3 drinks to 2. The plan is to discover how it changes me.

Without Music, Work Got Done

Over the past several months, drowning in a tsunami of impossible tasks from all sides, I've taken to setting three goals every day and if I can get those done, I consider it a good day. Yesterday, I took a day off of work and set myself to:
  1. Clean the garage which had become a storage site for everything I didn't have time to put away,
  2. Replace the front brake calipers on my MGB where the brake lines feeding the calieprs had been frozen on from rust and had resisted all removal attempts and
  3. Learn how to solder properly.
I went 3 for 3.

Usually, I'm listening to music and podcasts all day. Not just listening, but singing along or talking back or otherwise interacting with the sounds. When I'm working in the garage, if it's a good song, I'll go over to my phone and hit pause if I need to go inside for a minute. It's active listening that changes what I'm doing and, it turns out, slows me down. 

No music and no podcasts meant I was able to focus 100% on what I was doing. The garage wasn't just tidied up, it was vacuumed as well. Tools and parts found new homes and the place is in excellent shape. I now have a soldering station in the third bay with a new, 40W, Weller soldering iron. Yesterday, I discovered that I had been trying to do my electrical work with a hobbyist's toy, the Easy-Bake Oven of soldering irons. $60 later, I'm ready to work for real.

Without The Internet, I Was Happier

Just like music, I react all day to what I read. I formulate blog posts making arguments in response to tweets and articles designed to make me do just that. I know I don't have any real effect on the "national conversation," but most days I can't resist throwing in my two cents. I didn't and the world didn't end.

Caffeine and Alcohol - Who Needs 'Em?

I do. Well, the morning coffee, that's for sure. Giving that up, at least now, would be suicidal. I discovered that the afternoon Diet Coke was extraneous, but I had it anyway just to prevent a possible caffeine-withdrawal headache, to which I am prone. I could see myself getting down to one cup of coffee a day.

As for beer, that was really, really tough. From 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, my body craves brewskis like nobody's business. It's a dopamine release in anticipation of the daily suds. Like a dog going crazy because they know it's feeding time even before the food bowls are taken out, I get excited about the prospect of a really good IPA. That's not good, particularly when your life is full of stress. Enough said about that. I skipped it yesterday and I'm glad. 22 hours of happiness more than offset those 2 hours of unrequited craving.

Day 2

I'm going back in to work today. I typically wear my headphones as much as possible and sneak in a YouTube rant video every couple of hours to spice things up as I toil. No music and no rants? It should make quite a change in how I experience the day.


Timothy Eisele said...

Yes, I've noticed the same thing with music. The distraction is worst for actual songs with words because of the temptation to sing along (even in my head), but even purely instrumental music is more distracting than nothing at all. I had a radio/tape deck in my office for a brief time, but found that it didn't actually improve things in any material way, so I stored it away and eventually gave it to my kids. Who were gobsmacked by the idea of cassette tapes.

tom said...

When working at home, I work in silence. There's little prospect of that in the office, even though it's relatively quiet. The deaf seed-cracker drives me nuts, and I need something to drown him out so I can focus without random chewing noises.

I get my two cups of coffee from my Saeco automatic machine at 0600, but I usually don't finish it until around noon. I don't eat breakfast, so I guess I need something. Maybe time to buy some juice bottles?

ligneus said...

I've weaned myself off music a bit lately, I found sometimes, specially with headphones, there was this noise going on that I wasn't really listening to. I looked up the play list a while ago from the radio station to check the name of a piece and found I didn't remember hearing most of what was listed there! It's bad from a musical point of view too, worse than listening to a piece too often and a bit of an insult to the composer and the performers. One thing I like to do sometimes, in the concert hall too, is to listen with my eyes shut, you have this pure music inside your head. Sight takes up a large part of the brain and just as doing something else while listening detracts from the music, so too does just seeing.

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Mostly Nothing said...

I typically always have sports talk or spotify running at work. I'm in a room by myself and things are too quiet otherwise.

I don't drink coffee, can't stand the smell, especially the sludge you used to make. But drink way too much Diet Coke. I had a glass of wine last night, anniversary, but otherwise, maybe 1 beer a month. When living in New York, I was well on the way to becoming an alcoholic. Leaving there was the cure.

The only political stuff I read on twitter, et Al, is you, No Pasaran, and my nephew. I make a habit to not respond, in print.