Do you spend your time on things that nourish you, or things that simply fill time?
John Green started thinking about this for himself this fall. After watching his video, I decided to ask that about my own time.
And I realized that, probably like many of you, I do some of both. But also, I did more of the “filling” than I’d like.
Filling – or maybe killing – time
The internet provides vast opportunities for filling time. Not that you can’t also use it to nourish yourself, but that takes a bit more effort.
I think one of the problems is FOMO – the fear of missing out. With so many things available for us to watch, read, or listen to, you might feel like you have to keep up on all of it.
I’ve experienced this with some of the video services like Netflix and Hulu, and to a lesser extent YouTube. They’re always suggesting new things for me to watch, and I sometimes feel like I used to at buffets: if I’m paying for it, I want to consume as much as I can to get my money’s worth.
Then I play the opposite game with YouTube. It’s free (if you don’t mind commercials), so why not take full advantage of it?
And of course, the more you watch, the better job the systems do of predicting what else you might want to watch. When it all looks so interesting, it becomes even harder to take the step of pushing stop or shutting things off. It’s easier to just let it keep playing.
But I’ve also realized that, like at a buffet, if I stuff myself simply for the sake of getting in as much as I can, I don’t actually experience or enjoy it as much. And afterward, I’m left feeling unsatisfied and disappointed with myself.
Pushing out time for nourishment
The other problem is that this leaves less time for actual nourishing activities. Those things that help refill and refuel you. That leave you feeling energized, connected, inspired, and motivated.
Can you find those things online? Yes, sometimes. TED Talks can be great for some inspiration and motivation. I find the On Being podcasts to be thoughtful and soulful, and Stuff You Should Know episodes can be both humorous and thought-provoking.
And don’t get me wrong. I do consider humor to be a good thing, and sometimes worthwhile just for itself. So I’ve had fun watching old episodes of Seinfeld on Hulu. And I find The Great British Baking Show somehow soothing and relaxing – maybe it’s the accents.
But I was also squeezing out some other things I deeply enjoy, like music. I felt so pressured not to miss out on all the other content that I didn’t have room left for that.
For example, I used to sing along to music while washing dishes or cooking, but I’ve gotten in the habit of watching a show during those times. Well, I say “watching,” but it was only half-watching. It meant I paid less attention to both the show and what I was doing.
The most ironic instance of this was cooking while watching cooking competitions. The judges might criticize the show’s chefs for poor knife cuts while my own chopping suffered due to my split attention.
In a similar way, I was reading less. Instead of picking up a book, or even reading good articles online, while relaxing with Salem on the couch in the evening, I’d put on a video.
Finding the balance between fun and nourishing
So I’ve decided to approach this in a way similar to mindful eating. Sometimes my activities will simply be for fun. But most of the time, I want to hold off on the “sugary” fun until I’ve had the nourishment I need.
And as with food, the nourishing things can also be enjoyable. In fact, most of the time that’s the goal. These are things I want to do, after all.
I’ve already made a start by getting back to music. I now have a morning playlist, and I also listen to music more often while cooking or doing dishes. I do still listen to podcasts when cleaning, and sometimes during commutes, which I find is a pretty good balance.
Along with that, I’ve been picking up my flute more often, so I can get back to where I was a year or so ago.
Playing carols for Christmas 2018
On the reading front, I’ll now often do that in the evening instead of watching shows. Or some days it’s a mix. I might watch something for 20 minutes or so, and then switch to reading or writing.
So while I don’t really do resolutions, I am setting my intention for the New Year to be more focused on this balance, and staying nourished in all ways.
How about you? Do you want to take a look at how you’re spending your time? Or do you have other goals for the coming year?
Whatever you decide, with or without resolutions, I hope you have a happy start to the New Year!