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Stop wasting your time ⌛ [on the shortness of life & other weekly brain tools]

Jan 23, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters

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The text below was sent in October 2018 to our newsletter subscribers. If you enjoy it and want more, join us.

Life’s short.

Three years ago, 65 people were killed (including 6 I knew and worked with) and 146 were injured because of a fire in a nightclub called Colectiv, that was based in Bucharest, my home city.

It was one of those turning points. There’s life before that moment, and then there’s life after that – and nothing will ever be the same as it was before.

Deaths happening in a different corner of the world? That’s statistics. Deaths in a place that was an emotional anchor, a club where you used to go all the time because of the nature of your job, that took away so many people you personally knew and worked with? It’s a heartless unequalness (psychologists termed it “collapse of compassion“), but it really puts things into perspective.

However, three years later, the society hasn’t changed much.

The country is just as corrupted as it was before. There were some laws passed afterwards, but they’re useless if the local authorities don’t do anything to enforce them. Hospitals are still incapable of treating burn injuries and you risk dying from an acquired infection. Schools, subway system, grocery stores and many more go on without their agenda and function without fire safety permits.

The independent artists still don’t have decent venues to organize events – yes, that nightclub was one of the few safe places where you could do that. It might seem crazy that I’m calling it “safe”, but it really was safe when compared to what’s going on in the rest of the country, and nowhere else were independent artists as supported and promoted as they were there.

Those of us who knew someone who died in Colectiv are now paying attention to the emergency exit doors everywhere we go. We’ve installed fire alarm systems in our homes or at least bought fire extinguishers. We’re afraid of spending time in crowded places, so we avoid them, unless it’s really important to be there (and sometimes get panic attacks). But there’s only so much we can do on an individual level, and we surely feel hopeless when it comes to seeing some real changes. That’s why most of the people in my social circles have given up and decided to move out of the country.

I vividly remember what I felt in the days that immediately followed that fire. I remember walking down the street and taking it all in, appreciating everything that was going on around me. I was grateful that I could live another day, just to see the sky’s blue color, admire the autumn leaves falling and listen to the birds chirping. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my friends and family. Grateful for every little thing, grateful for being alive. I want to try to hold on to those feelings for as long as possible, but even I will sometimes forget. I’m sorry.

Life’s too short to waste it doing things that we don’t enjoy or in the presence of mediocre people. Life’s too short to stay at a job we dislike. Life’s too short for attending boring, useless meetings or conferences. Life’s too short for bad books, TV series or podcasts. Life’s too short to mindlessly refresh the feed of a social network or news website. Life’s too short not to take that crazy vacation you’ve been dreaming about or start practicing an adrenaline-pumping sport.

Life’s too short. Never forget this, as cliché as it may sound.

In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most extravagant.” (Seneca, On the Shortness of Life)

Now on to our usual…


1. Robert Katai: How to simplify your 31

Robert’s a visual marketer and also a dear old friend of mine. Inspired by Ryan Holiday’s series of articles about the lessons learned as he grew older, Robert wrote about three main ways that he simplified his life as he turned 31.

One of the lessons he talks about is how he simplified his life by stopping side projects and deciding to focus on the main things. Easy to say, but really hard to let go, especially when you’ve put a lot of time, effort and money into building those. Here are the rest of the lessons learned by Robert.

By the way, if you haven’t read our interview from one year ago, check it out here – especially if you’re working in marketing and looking for some book recommendations on the subject.

And here’s Ryan Holiday’s series of inspiring articles about what he learned as he turned 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31.

2. Robert Glazer: Practicing Distraction

This one’s from Friday Forward, a newsletter written by Robert Glazer, founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. Robert talks about how he started using Screen Time, Apple’s new feature for phone usage tracking, in order to become more aware and in control of how we waste our time.

Robert talks about how he feels after a week into the experiment. Here’s a sneak peek from his article:

We are training our brains to be distracted in the same way that meditation trains our brains to be focused. And that has a toll. It changes the way our brain develops, hurts our concentration, impacts our relationships and strips us of the ability to be with our own thoughts or appreciate silence and quiet. We begin to crave technology stimulation like a drug; the dopamine in our brain responds in a similar manner.

3. On a related note, last evening I was invited to speak at SO Meetups, an event organized by an old friend of mine, where I talked about the distraction economy, information and opinion overload in the age of social media. I shared a lot of insights from my personal experience, how miserable was social media making me feel, and why/how I chose to shut down my personal Facebook account, despite the fact that it’s been a vital part of my job for 10 years.

Well, this happened after 3 or 4 years of becoming increasingly aware of its impact, so it wasn’t an overnight decision, and it also might not be a permanent one – I try to avoid making statements that involve the words “never” or “always“. The truth is I don’t know how I’ll feel in the future or if I’ll change my mind. But, for now, the benefits of NOT using Facebook (and cutting off all other social media inputs) greatly outweigh what I was getting out of it before.

While I might have come across as an extremist to some people who attended last evening, because of my seemingly radical measures when it comes to handling social media networks, I’m hoping that people went home questioning their assumptions about how they should consume digital media. I hope they became more aware of the mental health toll of their current habits.

Here are a few of the questions that I recommended folks to ask themselves before going on social media – perhaps you’ll find them useful as well:

  • Is this the BEST use of my time?” (Cal Newport has the best book on the subject: Deep Work)
  • If I could only work 2 hours per week, what would I do?” (learned from Tim Ferriss)
    How can I outsource or automatize it?” (a few tools that might be useful: Buffer, IFTT, Zapier, CoSchedule)

  • How am I going to measure the impact of my social media actions?” (what gets measured, gets managed, as Peter Drucker says)
  • What will happen if I don’t do that?” (what’s the worst thing that could happen if you just ignore that?)

And here’s an inspiring quote from a recent article written by Seth Godin – “Social media is a symptom, not a tactic“:

The Mona Lisa has a huge social media presence. Her picture is everywhere. But she doesn’t tweet. She’s big on social media because she’s an icon, but she’s not an icon because she’s big on social media.

Thanks for reading. Sorry for the darker tone.

P.S. What great book did you get lost into this weekend? Here’s what I read.

– Cristina

The text above was sent in October 2018 to our newsletter subscribers. If you enjoyed it and want more, join us.

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