How we start our days is how we spend our days

If we pay attention, love is everywhere.

And, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Too long, won’t read version: Add an offline activity to the start of your day for better days.

The long version: I paid attention and realized something yesterday. #storytime

I left my Airpods at home yesterday after my phone kindly warned me I’ve exceeded the recommended level for audio exposure. Got me wondering, how else is one supposed to listen to So Mi Like It? I digress…

Anyway, I wanted to give my ear a break, and didn’t want any temptation, so I brought a book instead for my commute. Usually, I’d read an e-book on my phone, while listening to music, switching between this app then that app, skipping this song then that song, you know the usual. On this particular commute, however, it was just my book and I, and my phone stayed in my purse.

Then, the magic happened.

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In praise of taking tiny digital breaks

The digital world can be all-consuming.

There’s a good reason for that: attention = profit. The more Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube can harvest our attention, the more profit they make from digital advertisers marketing their products and services to us.

That constant itch to glance at your phone incessantly? It is a natural reaction to apps and websites engineered to capture our attention. The more big tech learns about the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our psychology, the easier they can keep us glued to our screens.

One way to resist the attention economy is to take tiny digital breaks.

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Spotify and the paradox of choice

Six months ago, I deleted my Spotify account as part of my digital declutter to minimize digital noise.

The result? Less skipping, more listening.

Having access to millions of songs on Spotify led me to excessively skip songs in the pursuit of finding the perfect song, but rarely satisfied with what I picked anyway. I felt I could no longer enjoy a song or an album in its entirety— an increasingly rare but lovely experience I enjoy indulging in.

Spotify was robbing me of the satisfaction of enjoying music.

I’m not alone in this, and Spotify isn’t the only offender either; Netflix and Tinder are also some of the other popular platforms providing abundance without much satisfaction.

What can explain such phenomenon?

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How to fill our days

Busyness is a badge of honour in a capitalist society that constantly nudges us to be productivity machines.

The result is “the burdensome, expectation-freighted nature of free time.

Every moment in the day is expected to be filled with endless tasks, no matter how meaningless, so we can justify our value to a capitalist economy. Busyness, with a never-ending responsibilities and tasks to accomplish, has been turned to a thing that signals to others how important we are.

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Cultivating high-quality leisure

Once upon a time, a high school student tells a group of peers and adults that she has deleted all her social media accounts for an unspecified period of time.

The reason? She’s spending too much time on social media and comparing herself to her peers online.

Everyone nods in agreement, relating to the reasons she listed for her decision.

‘What do you do instead?!’ one peer asks, ludicrously.

We all laugh.

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Going analog in a digital world

There is a prevailing idea in the digital wellness realm that seems the most convincing— quit the digital world all together.

Quit social media.

Quit the Internet.

Quit your smartphone.

And my most recent favourite, Donald Knuth, a famous computer scientist who “have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address.” What a luxury!

Yet, such drastic measures for life-tech balance isn’t always realistic nor desirable for everyone. Nor, does it need to be so extreme.

For the past few weeks, I have implemented two simple changes to my days that have resulted in less time spent online: cooking intuitively and paper journaling. Best part? Without sacrificing the convenience, ease, and connection the digital world provides me.

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Read a book instead

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions hoping to spark positive change in their lives. Reading is one of the most popular resolutions for many people, including myself. And, for very good reasons.

Reading is an excellent hobby with many benefits.

It puts our brain to work.

It involves several brain functions, including visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and more. Reading increases our attention spans, focus and concentration. Reading also stimulates mental processes, and that helps preserve memory skills as we grow older.

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