- The rules. No social networking, Internet surfing, music or alcohol and less caffeine.
- Day 1 - music is a big distraction can work is easier without it.
- Day 2 - Success and failure.
- Day 3 - Rule changes regarding music and caffeine. A discussion of caffeine leading to alcohol.
Lessons from Day 4
It was a good day yesterday. I skipped the afternoon shot of caffeine, so I'm down to one cup of coffee in the morning. There was a hint of the withdrawal headache, but nothing unmanageable. As I suspected, not having the afternoon Diet Coke led to no anxiety in the evening. I had a couple of beers last night, but they were atypically unsatisfying, probably because there was no caffeine crash to overcome. Illuminating.
Driving around with tunes made things more enjoyable until I realized I needed to think about what I was going to do with the rest of the day. For months now, I have had many more things I need to accomplish than I can actually do, so while it seems trivial to think about what to do next, in my current situation, it's really a triage of potential crises. This experiment has shown me that when I need to ponder something, I need to ditch all distractions and music is one of them.
Why Am I Doing This?
I'm getting old. That's it.
I'm approaching retirement which means I will be changing careers. That change is going to require concentrated effort and thought. In the last year, due to changes in my family and work, my days have become almost spasmic. A pile of forms to complete, ailing parents to visit, multiple jobs to cover at work - it's a frenzy of tiny tasks. I could tell that it was affecting my thought processes and ability to concentrate. Add to that the intellectual junk food I was feeding myself in the form of social media and political rants and then pile on the caffeine and alcohol and you had hundreds of anxiety-filled days strung together where nothing of significant substance was being done.
On top of all that, the frenzy of tasks made exercise impossible, outside of lunchtime walks and walking the dogs. It's a cliche, but it's true that as you age you need more exercise, not less. I still have delusions of diving more often, but to be honest, I'm afraid of it. I'm not worried about sharks, I'm worried about lifting the gear. With each trip, it gets harder and harder.
Finally, there are the chemical addictions - caffeine and alcohol. An aging body doesn't need these piled on top of all of the other stresses and changes. But how to get rid of them? The caffeine helped me fight my way through each day's impossible list of tasks and the alcohol was a sweet release in the evening.
In the back of my mind, I knew much of this was self-inflicted. I knew full well what my social media, Internet, caffeine, alcohol and smartphone game habits were doing to me. I'd read enough about the human brain and achieving goals and willpower to realize that all of these things were not helping me. It was just a pile of greasy snacks for my psyche and it was making me sick.
How sick? That's what the experiment is revealing. How much do I really need to surrender? All of it? Some of it? All the time? Only during those times I need to concentrate? Do you need mental cool-down periods to transition from cheap stimulants to serious effort? Do I really enjoy all of this mental junk food or is life better without it?
Finally, I really do want to be able to do more than take walks when I retire. From where is that time to work out going to come? It seems like a hopeless cause right now as my list of things that have to be done is still unmanageable, but can I find a combination of things to change or give up that will get me close enough to start?
Hence, the Digital Fast.