I saw an interesting article on Inc.com a few weeks ago. The author claimed that successful people, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey, all employ a simple technique that contributes to their winning ways. They spend at least one hour a day learning something new. At the end of the typical workweek they have spent five hours reading about a new topic, reflecting on life’s recent events, or experimenting with a new idea. Together, these three things helps them to improve at their craft.
I shared the article on Facebook along with a comment: “If I can break (or at least curb) my TV addiction, I would have plenty of time for reading and deliberate learning.” I knew I had an hour a day to learn and grow, especially since I had not returned to work. But most days, I couldn’t figure out where that 60 minutes could be. I was too busy staying up-to-date with “Greenleaf,” “Mistresses” and “Survivor’s Remorse” (three of my favorite TV shows this summer).
A friend—a married mother of three children with a fourth one due any day—commented on my post: “What do you like about television? I seriously don't understand it. I didn't have one for two years…” My guess is that her high-powered job and family commitments leave precious time for solitary pursuits. I imagine she would rather spend quality time with her husband, visit with family and friends, and spend a little time writing whenever she can (yes, she is also a writer).
But I have no husband or children. I do not work outside the home and do not have to spend an hour each day getting to work, only to repeat it at the end of the day. I have far more free time on my hands than ever before. At times this summer, it felt like too much free time, so I tried to fill it as best as I could. TV watching is always a low-risk, low-commitment option. But I began to worry it was keeping me from the success I desire.
So, I turned off the television and its close cousins—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr—last week. I even turned off the radio in the car while driving. For seven days, I decided to disconnect from all the things I typically use to distract and entertain.
I dreaded this “digital detox” plan. I worried about what to do with all that free time, how to fill it up. On Sunday, I took a yoga class and then cooked a vegetable from scratch. It took quite a while to cut up all the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and red peppers that I included. Then I let it cook on a low heat for over an hour. While the stew cooked, I cleaned up the mess I had made in my kitchen with dirty measuring spoons and cups and mixing bowls. When I finished, I got in the car and dropped some off to my friend with the four kids under four years old and another batch to a friend laid up after knee surgery. I also sat and did absolutely nothing for a little while—and I survived.
That’s when I decided to pick up the writing project I had abandoned earlier this summer. I had broken it up into 12 sections, and had finished 8 in June and July. I only had four more to go. If I worked on one a day, I could easily finish by Friday with a little extra time to spare (which I did). I also finished reading my book club selection, and then started a new book. It was one I had purchased last school year but never made the time to read. Once I got started, it was hard to put down. In one workweek, I easily spent 10 hours reading and reflecting (more than the super successful folks in the article).
Last week, I didn’t log onto Facebook or Twitter to check my feed. I didn’t look to see what photos friends had posted to Instagram. While I was at the gym, I noticed several of the monitors were reporting a train derailment in Hoboken, NJ (where I used to spend every Sunday during my Jersey City years). That day, I turned on NPR in the car ride home hoping for more details. Since there weren’t any, I turned on the news to hear what was going on. After 10 minutes, I got the gist of the situation, and turned the television back off.
I ended my digital detox on Saturday with a bit of an overdose. I watched five episodes of hour-long programs between Saturday and Sunday. But I made a commitment to myself on Sunday night: I will restrict my television watching to 7 hours a week (or one a day on average). I have decided which of the numerous television shows I will watch, and record the rest to view later. I also have committed to limiting my time on social media. I turn it on for 5-10 minutes (15 when I am tired or bored), and then turn it off to do something more productive. Writing is really important to me, and it only happens when I make time for it. I also want to continue learning and growing, which are the first steps to transforming.
Oprah Winfrey receives 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom
By Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.