For each month of 2023, I’m choosing a single word to inspire action. I did a similar experiment throughout 2020. Having something to focus on helped focus my attention on improving in a single dimension over the course of the month. Even a word can inspire action, calm, comfort, and overall progress in a targeted direction.
Here’s a look at my themes for this year so far:
- January: Depth
- February: Garden
- March: Routine
- April: Passion
- May: Animation
- June: Working on Hardcover
- July: Working on Hardcover
- August: Working on Hardcover
- September: Refine
- October: Continue
- November: Stop
Before jumping into the new theme, I’m going to review how October went first.
Reflect September Theme: Continue
Last month I tried an old exercise that I’ve done a bunch of times before: Start, Stop, Continue. The idea is that you choose a theme (in my case “Routine”) and decide on a few things you want to start, stop and continue related to that theme.
I set a timeline of a month for how long I wanted to focus on these. Now that it’s been a month it’s time to see how I did for each of these.
Routines I Want to Start
- 👎 Understand expenses – I absolutely didn’t organize finances at all this month. My Tiller sheet is still being filled with data though, and just now I made sure all of my accounts are syncing, so there’s that.
- 👍 Evening routine – This hasn’t been perfect, but I have dropped social media at night, stopped any activity by 11pm and done a better job of signing off for the day.
- 👎 Blogging routine – I shot way too high on this one. Maybe instead of saying “an hour a day”, I should say “a post a week?”.
Routines I Want to Continue
- 👍 Morning Routine – I’ve kept a consistent schedule for working out, despite being sick, having a reaction to the COVID booster and having a few other morning things come up.
- 👍 Evening Walks – For a while I was going on a 45 minute walk 5x a week. That ended up being too much. Now I’m aiming for about 2 of those a week and it feels better.
- 👍 Tracking Calories – I’ve been using LoseIt for the last 3 months. It’s become a habit at this point.
Routines I Want to Stop
- 👍 Decluttered Spaces – We’re getting a storage unit in our building, and other parts of our physical life seem more orderly now.
- 👍 Social Media Mornings – I decided to get off social media altogether (well, most of it). That change turned into the theme for November (Stop).
- 👍 Working on Weekends – This hasn’t been an issue! I let those on the Hardcover team know I wouldn’t be around and nothing has caused me to jump back in. It’s given me a bunch more time to explore personal projects.
This was an amazing month from a change standpoint. There were days I went to sleep excited about what I could do the next day and mornings I woke up and wouldn’t wait to start working on a project I’d put down the night before. I missed a few targets, but how I feel about myself and my creative energy is night and day.
November Theme: Stop
Of all the changes I made in October, stopping was the most impactful. And I don’t mean give up, or fail to complete – I mean making the decision to stop doing something.
Over the last few years I’ve intentionally stopped quite a few habits.
Facebook – In 2019 after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and FB suppressing research about social medias impact on kids, I decided to part ways during a digital declutter. I uninstalled the app from my phone and stopped using the site. I’m considering going back to stay in touch with friends and family, but limiting my time to once a week or so and only on my computer (no mobile app).
Twitter – After Elon Musk bought Twitter in 2022 I parted ways. There are still people on there I’d love to follow, but until they move to Mastodon I’ll follow their blogs and newsletters.
TikTok – In September 2023 I uninstalled TikTok on my phone. It wasn’t until I found myself reaching for it when I was winding down at night or during a free moment that I realized how much time I was spending on there. Looking back now I think TikTok is the most addicting app/website I’ve ever experienced.
Reddit – I joined Reddit after the Digg redesign back in ’07 and have spent entirely too much time on there. Last week, around the beginning of November 2023, I decided it wasn’t adding value to my life. It’s entertaining and it’s fun, and it does help me feel connected to the world – but at the cost of an endless scroll of stuff.
All of the above are social media that I reached for in free moments for entertainment. This meant that during those downtime cycles I was often seeking out content to consume rather than creating.
This is a binary problem. It’s OK to consume content. You shouldn’t feel ashamed because you spend some time relaxing and finding fun ways to entertain yourlself.
My problem was that it because the default.
I realized this a few years ago when I first read Digital Minimalism. Unfortunately I let these re-enter my life and the cycle continued.
Social media isn’t bad, per se, but addiction is. That’s how I’d qualify my relationship with these (at times).
It’s ironic then that I’m creating a social media platform (Hardcover). In our case we’ve focused on creating something that has an end. You can still have social media and feel that connection with other humans without intentionally designed applications that want you to stay on there full-time.
Mastodon is another example. I’ve loved spending the last year on Mastodon. As of today, November 12, 2023, I joined my current instance exactly one year ago! It’s a terrific bunch of people. There are many creators who haven’t left Twitter that I continue to follow through their email lists.
Controlling my screen time isn’t the only thing I’m stopping.
Alcohol – I was fortunate to not be surrounded by alcohol in college or thereafter. Sure, I drank socially, but it wasn’t a major part of my life. In my late 20s I started making cocktails, and even made a site to track cool cocktail bars around the world (CocktailFly). Over the last few years I’d have the occasional drink at home. Sometimes that would mean once a week, sometimes 3-4x. Lately I’ve decided to cut this off and not drink at home. The only times I allow myself alcohol now are when I’m hanging out with friends or out of the house.
THC – I didn’t have THC until I was in my 30s. Looking back, I’m soo soooo soooooo glad I was able to use my 20s to the fullest without it. I spent so many evenings creating and learning that would’ve been taken if I was high. In my 30s I started occasionally vaping or taking gummies to relax at the end of the day. Although I never took these before 5pm (unless I was on vacation), it would shut off my mind. I couldn’t do anything that required focus, leading to a downward cycle of social media as one of the only things I felt I could do. This month I decided to stop taking any form of THC altogether. (side note: I’ve been taking Delta 8 gummies, which are legal. Don’t come for me. 🚨)
Between quitting social media and substances, something weird happen: I suddenly had a lot of time.
I’ve had to relearn how to seek out things on the internet rather than have them pushed to me.
I’ve had to relearn how to occupy myself with more time in the day.
This pairing has led to a creative explosion this month. At the beginning of this year I relaunched this blog – migrating it from Middleman to Next.js. Then I put a pin in this blog (and other projects) and got busy with Hardcover. We launched an iOS and an Android app, a librarian program, updated everything to the App Router and launched on ProductHunt.
With those milestones reached, I’ve started journaling again for myself. It was during these weekly checkins that I realized the impact social media, alcohol and THC were having on me.
There’s a lot of creative projects I want to work on. So many that I fall asleep thinking about them. Rather than focusing on these, I want to make sure I build that time to do so – and that means stopping (not pausing) the above habits..
I’m only a week into this new substance/media-free lifestyle, but I hope it sticks. Writing and posting here is one way I can hold myself accountable.
What’s your experience with unhealthy habits as a creator?