Today, I don’t want to talk about freelancing, or copywriting, or marketing. Instead, I want to talk about living with intention. It’s something I’m working on in my own life, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
I don’t think I know anyone who works 40 hours per week. I’d be willing to guess that 50 is closer to the mark, with plenty of 60s and 70s sprinkled in for good measure. We’re working all the time. How can we avoid it, when we’re constantly connected through email, text, and Slack?
And then when we complete all that work…we shut down entirely.
We’ve become a society of lazy workaholics.
We scroll through Instagram ad nauseum or watch shows on Netflix that we’ve seen a dozen times. And a disturbing number of us do both at the same time. (Guilty!)
We’re self-medicating with Facebook, Twitter, and until recently, Game of Thrones. In this era of instant entertainment, we have a massive amount of content at our disposal. And I think it’s to our detriment.
There’s that old saying “Time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.” But my question is, are we really enjoying that time? I’d argue that we’re not.
We’re losing our free time in hours of passive entertainment, rather than making deliberate choices about how to spend it. If you pick up a book, you’re making a conscious effort to spend your time reading it. Even watching a movie is a choice, as long as you’re actually watching it, rather than putting it on in the background to prevent that horrible, oppressive, silence while you check in on Facebook.
But re-watching old episodes of The Office every night or scrolling through Instagram is a mindless and banal way to spend night after night after night.
It’s a default response to boredom. We have absolutely forgotten how to be bored.
Boredom is vital
Boredom creates a space where our brains have a chance to work. It’s where we find inspiration. How often have you had a great idea (or at least an interesting one) when you’re in the shower? It’s because that’s the only 10 minutes of the day when our brains are just allowed to go.
When we’re constantly entertained and distracted, we lose that spark of imagination and problem-solving. We’re robbing ourselves of our own creative potential.
Do you ever look around when you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store. We can’t even wait to check out without burying ourselves in our phones.
Now, I’m not an ascetic. I don’t believe that there’s no place in our lives for social media, tv, or movies. All I’m saying is that too many of us have two modes: work and off.
I think we should have a third mode. Call it “more”.
The third mode of “more”
We’ve become so wrapped up in working and earning and owning that we’ve forgotten to create more and learn more.
What I’m really trying to get at here is that we should spend our time with intention. If you decide to turn “off” for a night, that’s fine. But if every night is “off”, it has become the default.
Read a book for the evening. Not the 20 minutes before you fall asleep, but for the whole evening. Or play a board game with your family.
Start a hobby. Play an instrument. Build models. Draw a picture. Set up a weekly D&D game with like-minded nerds. Listen to music. Just lay on your bed and listen. There is an infinite number of ways you could spend your time. Pick one!
Consider divorcing these hobbies from any concept of money. If you love to knit, you could knit blankets to sell. But then this fun activity becomes work. Could you knit blankets to donate instead?
I played the violin as a kid, but I took it up again about 18 months ago. Now, I’m in a volunteer orchestra. I will never make a single penny off the violin because I am not very good at it. That ship sailed about 20 years ago.
But I love to play. I love to get together with these musicians ranging from very good allllll the way down to me, and making music. It adds value to my life.
I don’t know if anyone else’s life will be substantially improved by listening to us play. But I do know that no one’s life will be improved if I instead choose to spend my time on Instagram. So participating in the orchestra is one step that I am taking towards a more intentional life.
Let’s stop asking people what they “do”, and instead ask them what they get excited about. Why should the way I spend my work hours define me more than the way I spend my leisure hours? We are more than our work, even if we enjoy it — but especially if we don’t.
I challenge you to spend tonight doing something with intention. Put your phone in a different room and turn off the TV.
Read a book. Write a story. Paint a picture. Play a game.
Make a choice, and decide to be more.