To all News Junkies, Read the News that Never makes the Headlines

Consider these facts:

Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30

Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8

Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7

(Source: CSUN)

How much time do we devote to the news that never makes the headlines?

Dear all news junkies, read the news that NEVER makes the headlines, instead.

You’re probably wondering:

What’s wrong with consuming news daily?

And that’s what I wanna talk with you today.

I. The Types of News I’m Talking about

  • Any type of news programs on TV (weather forecasts, local news, global news, crime reports, stock market/political updates, morning/afternoon/late night news, etc.)
  • and on Radio
  • Any type of daily newspapers (USA Today, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, etc.)
  • Any type of magazines (Money, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, People, Cosmopolitan, etc.)
  • Any news on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)

You get it. I have a low opinion for almost all types of reading/listening/watching news, if I don’t see any direct link to my well-being.

That means:

  • I don’t watch TV, unless it’s already on during family dinner time
  • I don’t subscribe to any type of newspapers or magazines (the last subscriptions I got were with Forbes and Success magazines, both ended 2013)
  • I don’t read any daily newspapers
  • I quit surfing YouTube, unless I want to check out something specific
  • I quit scrolling Facebook mindlessly. In fact, I now follow under 10 pages on Facebook and I check Facebook less than 5 times a day
  • I do spend 15 minutes max daily on Mon-Sat checking out Flipboard app for articles about my interests

Perhaps you’re wondering:

Why make such a big deal? What’s wrong with consuming news daily?

It’s because:

  1. Consuming news is NOT a cure for our ignorance.
  2. Consuming news is another type of entertainment, and if we get hooked, may wreak havoc to our minds.

My friend, below I’d like you to consider these 2 points,

and if you agree with my logic, you can save at least 8 hours a week, in addition to many other benefits, by trying the steps that I set for myself.

II. Consuming News is NOT a Cure for our Ignorance

An argument I often get regarding reading news is that, we need news to educate ourselves about what’s happening around us.

We need news to stay informed,

to get full knowledge before making a stand on a subject,

to know both sides of a story, not merely the one we are told by friends or relatives,

and to acquire full evidence to prove/disprove our beliefs or faiths.

And I agree.

I firmly believe that lifelong learning helps us avoid being ignorant, and is the key to personal success,

if what we read conveys the truth that will benefit our lives.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

The news that we consume daily, more often than not, presents only one snapshot of the whole picture,

or worse,

a twisted view that serves hidden agendas.

What do I mean by that?

News only gives you one side of the story, the side that the journalist focuses on.

And what do journalists focus on?

The contents that are dramatic, bizarre, and personal.

In other words, the things that catch readers’ attention.

Why our attention?

Because our attention (and trust also) is an asset that news corporations capitalize to make profit via ads, promotion, and affiliate marketing.

And under this formula of making money, a question always left unanswered is that, whether what we read is what the reporters actually saw, or what they wanted us to see.

This leads me to my main argument. I’m suggesting that, consuming news daily is not the cure for our ignorance, because it weakens our ability to think critically.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to process available data to form our own conclusion.

The purpose of reporting an event, however, is not to present the audience with objective data. Information is provided bit by bit, conditioned to make us think in a certain way. Opinions and assumptions dominate facts.

What’s worse?

The limited facts supplied are too often interrupted by scandalous and flashy features, the wow factors, that are individualized, and story-driven, rather than conveying the big picture.

So, the result is that we’re left with insufficient and distorted information, with a lot of noise. This hinders our ability to think clearly,

if we do think at all (another question mark, right?).

Thus,

We hope that daily news comes to the rescue for our fear of ignorance, while the reality is that, to me, consuming them daily acts more like a “fix” for our endless curiosity.  

Now, there’s nothing wrong with curiosity, provided we intensify its power by fixating on very few things,

the few things that directly benefit us.

Suppose you’re searching YouTube for that famous Stanford speech by Steve Jobs, you’ve found it, and just before closing the browser, you see something about Elon Musk making incredible speech, you may think: “I’ll just watch a bit, it doesn’t hurt!”, and then after a short while, you wonder: “Let see if there’s something else”…

Sound familiar?

Isn’t that how we keep getting lost in the rabbit hole of online surfing?

Curiosity, once spread over multiple directions, leads to the incurable disease of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out). Those who catch it believe they don’t know enough, and are afraid of being caught off-guard by the things that they’re missing out, and so consuming news makes them whole, complete.

Thus, admitting our ignorance makes us want to know more.

But if left unchecked, an eternal desire of wanting to know more, which stems from the misguided curiosity, may eventually become even stronger than the desire to seek the truth.

And that’s why I believe that consuming news daily is NOT a cure for our ignorance, but merely a “fix” for our endless curiosity.

Yep, you heard me right!

Daily news is a kind of mental candy that once you get hooked, may wreak havoc to your mind.

III. An Addictive Entertainment & its Negative Effects

Remember the last time you read news?

How did you actually read the news?

Did you read the article slowly, sentence by sentence, trying to understand what the author wanted to say?

Or,

Did you scan the text, paragraph by paragraph, looking for sensationalized facts, surprises, twists and turns of the story,

and pause occasionally to glance at a photo in the article,

perhaps you might go through the text before or after the picture, if it’s really cool, but hard to see why the writer put it there?

I’m no different.

We don’t read news.

We scan the headlines, sub-headlines, and the text for highlights,

for drama,

for anything that seems unconventional,

anything to shake the minds out of their constant states of lethargy and boredom.

In fact, scientific research on television (1) finds that boredom drives people to the media to seek sensational and arousing content.

We say we need news for self-education.

Yet we treat news, like Rolf Dobelli suggested, as “candies for the mind”, nothing more than another type of entertainment.

And what do you expect reporters will give us?

You get it.

Less education. More entertainment.

Journalism is straying into entertainment. The lines between serious news segments, news entertainment, and news comedy are blurring ~ Drew Curtis

I’ve been working on a subject recently, and it’s about identifying the detrimental effects of consuming news daily. Here are a few of them:

1. News induces fear & negative thinking

The rule of thumb in journalism is that “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Open any daily newspaper, look at the headlines of any category, and you’ll see what I mean.

Just the headlines, please, save you the possibility of ruining a beautiful day of yours.

How can we remain confident about our well-being, and trust that the safety of our relatives and children are placed in the right hand, when talks about the Florida shooting and gun debates dominate most news columns?

It’s hard to remain positive and optimistic, right?

By the way, only one shooting is enough to flood all the news.

So, it seems almost impossible not to be aware of such horrible event.

One might argue that we can’t read only the positive, feel-good stuff, nor stay forever in the holy, happy land. We must face the “reality” out there and be informed of problems our society has.

Question:

  • How many problems out there have you solved already?

None!

  • How many are you solving right now?

None!

  • Are you lazy or just incompetent?*

!!!!

Well, my answer for the last one is “None of my business!”

More questions:

  • How many of the reported problems are happening to you right now?

For me, none!

  • If something bad did happen to you, what good would you get by reading more reports about it?

None!

You see.

We’re not trying to attain world peace, prevent nuclear war, stop global warming, end school shooting, nor win the war on drugs,

NOT because we don’t give a damn,

But because we have very little control (or nothing at all) over such issues, so our concerns make no difference.

The most practical thing we can do is to find ways to ensure our safety, and the safety of our loved ones, should another shooting occur.

Besides, news reporters spend 90% of their time on describing these problems with vivid details, without giving us proper solutions.

Question:

  • Are they paranoid or just incompetent?

Well, that’s why we call them reporters, not problem-solvers. What else do you expect them to do?

Solving problem is “none of their business”.

And why do they keep dumbing garbage (and I think the word “garbage” isn’t too strong here) into our heads?

Because they know we always welcome sensationalized facts to entertain our minds,

and thrilling stories to fulfill our endless cravings to seek an answer for evil actions,

no matter how rare they are, as long as they make sense.

Again, once left unchecked,

curiosity always ignites a burning desire to know more,

to demand an explanation for anything,

especially the “unthinkables”.

2. News is addictive 

Like other kinds of entertainment, news is addictive, especially for those suffering from the disease of FoMO. These people always feel there’s a lack inside of them, and news gives them precisely that, something to fill in the void.

And, unlike other entertainment, it’s easy to convince people that they need news daily to stay informed. Nobody wants to be labeled ignorant.

To make matters worse, news is available, and accessible everywhere,

online or offline,

on hand or over the air,

in writing, audio, or visual,

for a fee or for free.

Free!

How do you resist something free?

Really hard, indeed.

Until we learn its hidden costs – our attention, our time,

our misconception, for taking a piece of truth to be the truth,

our mental energy, for adding one. more. thing. into the already long list of things that we worry about.

3. News distracts us & distorts reality 

If news does little to help us solve direct problems we face in our lives, then more news would distract us from pursuing what really matters to us.

One advice from productive experts we often get is keeping our office desk 100% clutter-free.

But what about having a mind full of junks?

We live in a time when everything is reaching out for our attention. News is just another form of attention vampire, who sucks ours away from what’s truly important.

Even worse, consuming news daily pushes readers further into a reality distortion field, in which disasters, murders, rapes, lies…are the common themes.

People say that they read news but don’t give much thought about it, and before long, most will be tossed out of their brains anyway.

Yeah right!

Do you know what’s remained after the news is gone?

The details gone. Sure! But the drama stays.

The stories forgotten. But the fear lingers on.

Old scandals replaced by newer ones. But the trust’s lost and remains broken.

The lone-wolf shooters detained and faced justice. But their followers magically appear everywhere.

The mass murderers immobilized. But not their modi operandi, which have already become mainstream.

IV. How to Get Rid of the Habit

I’ve learned that consuming news daily is an expensive (in terms of what it costs me to consume it) and unhealthy (for the mind) habit.

For over a year, I’ve taken proactive steps to replace the habit for more conscious reading.

This might sound contradicting to what I’ve said so far, but yes, I do read news. I appreciate high-quality writings, as well as investigative journalism. The world needs more passionate journalists, who care and want to contribute to humanity.

I spend about 15 minutes daily on Mon-Sat (1 hour on Sunday) on Flipboard, which tailors to my interests.

You can save at least 8 hours a week by following ANY of the below steps:

1. Plan your week

Planning ahead avoids falling into the trap of mindless consumption.

Open your calendar, mark the times when your favorite TV shows broadcast during the week, so that you can turn the TV on to watch only those shows, and turn it off the moment they are over.

Do that, and you’ll get ahead of the pack, who spends about 2 hours and 22 minutes daily watching just local news, according to Nielsen’s Local Watch Report (2) in 2017.

2. Be mindful of the habit

Record the amount of time you’re spending to consume news each day. Realizing how much time you’ve wasted will ignite the desire to stop consuming news mindlessly.

3. Consume news deliberately

Before dwelling on any news, ask yourself this question:

“Does what’s being reported here allow me to make better informed decision(s) regarding my life, my career/business, not in the future, but now?”

If the answer is “No” or “Maybe”, skip the trash. Like Jim Rohn said, you might find something valuable by going over the trash, but I wouldn’t do it.

4. Consume news proactively     

Stop getting news from TV & radio.

Why?

Because you don’t have control over what being broadcast.

All you can do is switching channels, and more often than not, end up consuming something else that adds little real value to your life.

And that save you roughly 3 hours from 8-11 pm, so you’d better plan alternative activities for the time freed up.

Perhaps a more healthy hobby of yours;

use it as study time, developing your skills;

or build a part-time business.

5. Control online media consumption

Ditch the TV, use social online media instead. But consume it intelligently.

  • Use a personalized news reader app that provides only topics that you care about (I use Flipboard, available both on iOS & Android; or you may try News on iOS or Google Play Newsstand on Android).
  • Schedule 15 minutes each workday for “news” time.

Don’t say “Well, I’ll just read whenever I have time to kill”. We have a lot more time to kill than we’re aware of. 15’ is enough to cover the real “new” issues, more time just make you read the repetitive.

Besides, the filtering question in step iii. will cut off 90% of the irrelevant stuff already.

  • For long articles that seem to take longer than 15 minutes to read, save them using Read-it-later apps (Instapaper, Pocket), or the Reading List feature on Safari for iOS and Chrome for Android.

Then, you’ll have 1 hour on Sat/Sun to finish them.

6. Focus on self-education, instead

So what about those waiting times, travel times, etc.?

These periods are reserved for real educational reading.

You know what I mean:

books,

audiobooks,

professional articles,

personal development stuff (like this site).

Whatever you’re interested, there’s a book for that.

These sources provide much more in-depth and reliable knowledge compared to daily news.

Having them stored in your phone reduces the possibility of checking up the news during free time.

7. Eliminate the need to check up social media 

Unsubscribe/Unfollow social media pages that you liked. Most of the news is either fake, sensational, or marketing-biased.

8. Reread the old stuff

Instead of reading more of the “new” stuff, consider revisiting the old stuff, the ones that you’ve found really useful.

Repetition is mother of all skills (From someone wise)

Repetition also allows you to ponder about the good things one more time, give them deeper thoughts.

For example, I saved this beautifully-written article from The New York Times by John Herrman (3) for later review to improve my writing.

V. Stop being a Consumer, Become a Creator 

Instead of consuming, try to create. Now, before you start whining, please hear me out.

It’s taken me 6 days to have this conversation carried on so far. And I’m not done yet.

It means, for me, it’s not another damn thing on the to-do list that I’ve got to do to keep you guys on EnjoyYrJourney.

It’s something I care, I believe.

Now, how many of you will I get through, of that I do not know.

But you won’t believe the joy and satisfaction I’m getting out of this painstaking work. And the pride I have for my creation is equal to that a mother has for her baby.

For consumers, this article is just one of the many that they’ve stumbled upon, a piece of information to be digested.

But for your friend, it’s a belief,

a contribution, and influence (hopefully),

a piece of my dream,

my learning,

my experience,

a piece of me.

Now, my friend, tell me, which side would you like to be?

What are your hobbies?

What are you passionate about?

What do you dream of?

What is something you’ve always wanted to do but never done before?

Are you afraid of being judged for letting that madness inside of you out?

Give it a try, you don’t have to show it to the world. But the joy, and the fruit, of working on something that matters to you is far more than the entertainment you get from passively consuming news, day. after. day.

Perhaps you’ve been hesitated to try because of fear of failure. You’re right. Mistakes and failures are inevitable on any journey to pursue what we want. 

But fear not! For I’ve a comprehensive guide to deal with this issue. I call it the Art of becoming an Awakened Dream-walker. The art shows you how to take advantage of all the challenges and obstacles on your journey, so that failure no longer frustrates, but inspires and enlightens you on your path.

Head here for the guide.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* My favorite “motivating” question from Jeff Bezos, reported in Brad Stone’s book (4), which excerpt published by Bloomberg.

 

References

(1) Perse, E. M. (1996). Sensation seeking and the use of television for arousal. Communication Reports, 9(1), 37-48. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/08934219609367633

(2) Nielsen (2017). Q1 2017 Local Watch Report: TV Trends in Our Cities. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2017/q1-2017-local-watch-report-tv-trends-in-our-cities.html

(3) Herrman, J. (2018). What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/magazine/what-i-learned-from-watching-my-ipads-slow-death.html

(4) Stone, B. (2013). Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon: Excerpt From ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-10/jeff-bezos-and-the-age-of-amazon-excerpt-from-the-everything-store-by-brad-stone#p1

Pomodoro Technique – The New Way to Enjoy Work & Play

Good day, my friend. You should know by now that my philosophy in life is that the best way to ensure reaching a destination is to enjoy the journey. Today, I’d like to show you one method you can use to put such philosophy into action: Pomodoro Technique – How to enjoy your life at intervals.

People have praised Pomodoro for bringing positive impact on areas such as time management, efficiency and effectiveness, self-discipline, and physical and mental burnout/fatigue.

I. My Encounter with Pomodoro Technique

I came across this technique while searching for one way to fix a health issue caused by computer work. If your job requires hugging a computer like me, you should be familiar with this.

Very often after a long period working continuously on my laptop, I get eye strain. My eyes are sore and blurry, the muscles feel really tired, to the point of making me want to shut them down and go to sleep sometimes.

On some occasions, it might get serious, I’d have a headache, the pain comes from my forehead to the back of my head, and down to my neck.

What’s worse? The condition made me dread the idea of repeating another 8 hours tomorrow. Mind you, I love writing. But when this happens, working on the thing I love still feels like hard work. The eye strain makes me afraid of working long hours. Three hours non-stop is fine, but more than that and I start to have a headache.

So I went in search of a solution. I mean, when it comes to something that I’ve already made up my mind to do, I’m a stubborn kid who refuses to grow up. I’d try every trick I can think of to make it work out. For instance:

I adjusted my sitting posture (sitting with back straight, not hunching over) and the space between me and the screen.

I adjusted ambient lighting in my room. I changed closing drapes, adjusted shades. I reduced interior lighting, made sure it not too bright, not too dark (I switched from overhead fluorescent tubes to floor lamps to light the room and make the ambient lighting just dark enough compared to my laptop screen).

I used artificial tears (its effect is very limited)

I considered changing my laptop, I wondered whether it’s because of the screen that causes the eye strain. But it’s already the best in the industry (Retina MacBook Pro).

I adjust my laptop display settings (reduce brightness, increase text size & fonts, turn on Night Shift 24/7)

I apply dark themes on most of the regular applications (Scrivener, Safari (reader mode), Firefox, OmniOutliner)

And a few more.

Well, they’re all nice helpers, none are definite problem solvers.

Ever heard this conversation between a patient and his doc?

P: It hurts when I do this!

D: Then don’t do that!

Simple right? Exactly what I need! But since I couldn’t stop the doing, the solution I came up with was a bit more complicated.

That was when I first applied the idea of taking frequent breaks to ease my eye strain. Then I heard about Pomodoro technique, I thought that 25 minutes seem like a great length, and I gave it a try.

Result? Big discovery in my life!

II. Pomodoro Technique

This technique is a time management method pioneered by Francesco Cirillo (1). Basically, we break our work down into 25 minute intervals, which are then separated by 5 minute breaks.

  1. First, define what you want to work on.
  2. Then, set a timer of 25’ and start working.
  3. You keep working non-stop (translation: no daydreaming, no diversions, no minor tasks – check/answer emails/messages/tweets/Face comments, coffee-making, etc.) until the 25’ is up.
  4. Then you take a break for 5’ and repeat the cycle again.
  5. After 4-6 cycles, take a long break, and repeat the whole process.

In brief, by breaking down a typical 8 hour workday into small chunks, we become more aware of the passage of time. This forces us to focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions.

Plus, we’d all agree that single-tasking is certainly more productive than multi-tasking.

And that’s how Pomodoro technique works. But there’s no fun to stop here, isn’t it?

So, let me tell you how I’ve benefited from Pomodoro, and how I’ve used the technique in my work and life, and how you can, too.

III. What Pomodoro can Do for Me & You

1. Ease eye strain & back pain

My initial encounter with Pomodoro was due to my motivation to look for a way to ease the eye strain. I’ve found that taking 5’ breaks greatly diminishes the eye strain after each work day.

What’s more? I use the breaks to stretch my body, or perform tasks of different nature (Why? I explained it here). Such activities really help my brain, my back, not just my eyes.

I no longer feel physically burned after work, nor dread working long hours. For those who are working with computers, I highly recommend it.

2. Accomplish more with less

What about productivity? To be honest, at first, I didn’t believe I would do more by taking short breaks IN ADDITION TO the normal breaks.

Suppose a day has 7.5 working hours plus 30 minutes paid lunchtime, then the 7.5 hours give us up to 14 pomodoros, which mean we need to invest 14 x 5 = 70 minutes for the breaks (I said “invest” because it seems to me no employer would allow that).

How are we supposed to get more done in one hour less?

Boy! I was wrong. Paradoxically, I was able to not only write more, but also tackle more challenging tasks, instead of procrastinating by running low-value, low-priority errands.

Now, understand that I have no record to prove my point here. And no, I won’t do the analysis for the sake of comparison. You must try the technique to see for yourself.

This is just one of the many cases showing time and again that, we’ll achieve much more simply because we focus all our might on one single task and avoid interruption.

I’m not the one who said this. Orison Swett Marden (wiki) said that in “Pushing to the Front”. Don’t know who he is? He’s the guy who left an orphan house to establish Success magazine. Think about that!

The world does not demand that you be a physician, a lawyer, a farmer, or a merchant; but it does demand that whatever you do undertake, you will do it right, will do it with all your might and with all the ability you possess ~ Orison Swett Marden

The fact that I must decide what I’ll work on during the next 25’ minimizes my tendency to multitask. And should the need occur, I would defer it until after the break.

What about trivial tasks like returning a message/phone call, or filing documents, I can easily save them for the break.

So, that means better time management, doesn’t it?

3. Prevent daydreaming/mind-wandering/mindless surfing

And I can’t tell you how many times the notification sound dragged my mind back to the present task, if I happened to be lost in the rabbit hole of Facebook/Web/YouTube surfing.

What if I didn’t set the timer? Well, as long as love still lives, my drift is always deep. That’s a fact of life that I can’t remove.

So we need a reminder to drag us back down to Earth at times, don’t you think?

4. More discipline, less procrastination

I have to confess that, I have a weak will, I’m lazy, I consistently search for the path of least resistance to do anything.

I remember a typical part of my university life, which centered around rushing on big assignments and studying for final exams. And like other students, I work better under pressure (ok, I believe that). That means my uni life revolved around two things: procrastinating the whole semester and finally working like a bloody tiger to meet the deadlines.

Even now, after some modest successes, I still feel incompetent in this area.

How do you write a 5,000-word Goal-setting guide?

A wrong question can’t have a right answer!

If I’d asked myself that, I’d never made it. 5,000 words are too much for the subject “you” in that question.

In fact, all I did, I repeat, all I did, was cruising myself over my draft, enjoying the work at intervals of 25 minutes, block after block.

I asked myself different questions:

Ok, remember the time when…what did I do to achieve that goal?

After I mind-mapped my plan in iThought, what did I do?

But at that time why didn’t I give up? What happened beforehand?

Remember that thing that Mahatma Gandhi said that taught me the art of slowing down, where should I put it so that the plan makes sense?

I didn’t plan to write a certain range of word count. I didn’t have a deadline either.

The fact that I set a timer before starting to work during the next 25 minutes naturally nudges me to break the current project down into doable pieces, pretty much like the way we plan steps to reach our goals.

No discipline required. No more procrastination.

5. Harmonize with my Philosophy – Enjoy the Journey

The last point is the main reason motivating me to adopt Pomodoro into my life.

It’s my conviction that

The best way to ensure reaching a destination is to enjoy the journey

Whenever I set out to achieve something, I deliberately design my game plan in such a way that the execution requires as little discipline as possible.

I have a strong belief that discipline or willpower is of limited supply, so I plan to reserve it only for tough occasions.

In fact, I resist the temptation to try too hard too soon. Why? This deserves another post, so stay tuned.

Pomodoro allows this to happen.

At work, I don’t look ahead at the coming hours. I don’t even look forward to the coming break (more on that later). The only thing I care is that I need to work for the next 25’.

If I feel pain (pronounced “bored/lazy/procrastinate”), “oh, I’ll survive, somehow” (another favorite line from Witcher 3), it’s gonna be over soon, and the 5’ break is my savior.

On the other hand, at play, Pomodoro allows me to live the philosophy “Everything in moderation” (I explained it here).

IV. How I’ve used Pomodoro to make Work & Life more Enjoyable

1. When to use Pomodoro

Pomodoro works best with activities that

  • Last long hours, and/or
  • Require discipline/willpower, and/or
  • Require effort, and/or
  • Repeat regularly, and/or
  • You wish to spend less time, and/or
  • [Feel free to add to this list]

2. Select a Timer & Notes regarding its Usage

You can use the timer function in Clock app on iPhone or Android phone.

If you wear a smartwatch or Apple Watch, it’s super convenient to use the timer there by moving the app to the watch home screen.

Note: Do NOT use a kitchen timer, nor a Tomato shape timer like below, nor any kind of clock timer that you can put “in your face” on your desk.

 

Why?

Because it defeats our purpose of making work more enjoyable.

Would you like to have your boss watching over your shoulder CONSTANTLY over 8 hours/5 workdays???

Ok, I did exaggerate it a bit. But think! If you put the timer where you can see it, it would constantly nag you that you’re on the 25-minute countdown.

Now, how fun that is!

Having the timer constantly reminding me that the time is running out makes me anxious. Sure, it helps to boil the adrenaline. But not every time I’m at work. Being constantly on fire will eventually lead to being burned out, right?

Even worse, some people suggest using a kitchen timer, so that you can hear the sound of its clock ticking.

This “clock is ticking” idea is like setting an extra deadline for yourself, in addition to the deadline you already have to deal with on your job.

This clearly goes against my philosophy.

I don’t plan to use Pomodoro to instill a sense of urgency, nor to give me the impression that I must hurry up to get the thing done within this 25’.

No.

I aim at making my hard-working days look a LOT less like hard work, by dividing the lengthy working time into short sessions, and more breathable, by knowing that I’ll have multiple breaks in between.

The enhanced productivity resulting from applying Pomodoro technique should be treated as an added bonus.

However, if you’re all turned on listening to the ticking sound of the countdown, pretty much as being showcased in The Final Countdown song by Joey Tempest, lead singer of Europe rock band, you might be heading for trouble.

Why?

Because you might be using the ticking clock as a countdown to the upcoming break.

This, obviously defeats the purpose of using Pomodoro to getting things done, because we should be losing ourselves in the work, not looking forward to the break.

So, did I make my point clear enough? Don’t let the timer bother you throughout the 25’ duration.

In fact, I prefer a “set it and forget it” approach. I would set the timer on my phone or my watch, then go to work.

Time flies. And bam! Time’s up.

No pressure, no hassle.

Yes, people would argue that no pressure would probably mean slacking off. And what if I daydreamed, or got lost in web surfing?

And they’re absolutely right.

However, my experience tells me that, after a week or two, I got used to the rhyme and became more often aware of my driftings.

In case where I’m totally lost, no big deal! It must be that I’m up to something that means greatly to me, so a simple reminder would hardly make me stop (and so would you, admit it!). By the way, the alarm’s gonna sound off after 25 minutes and my dream will soon be over.

And here’s what you probably want also, to have someone (which is ourselves) to kindly, and occasionally, remind us that we’re at work, not to have a feeling that THAT someone who’s “here watching you kid!” 🤒.

Besides, productivity isn’t my primary motivation here. The most important thing is that I can enjoy my work and life at intervals, not “endure” it at intervals like the way people’ve been applying this technique 😉.

The way people use Pomodoro, in my opinion, seems to be similar to HIIT (High-intensity interval training – check out a comprehensive HIIT training here), a popular method of fitness. It’s a training technique, in which one performs short bursts of high-intensity exercises, followed by low-intensity exercises.

Again, HIIT worked wonder for me, for 2, 3 times a week. However, applying it every day is a different story.

3. How to use the Timer

After deciding the activity, set the timer for 25’, and start working.

If unexpected tasks occur, or if someone interrupts you, unless they’re urgent, either you schedule a proper time to address them, or leave them until the coming break.

Explain to them that you’re in the middle of something urgent, and tell them WHEN you will get back to them. Schedule this to your calendar.

When the alarm goes off, stop working, set the timer for 5’ break.

Now, many times I’m speeding up on the highway, and the timer goes off. I’d admit that it’s hard to take the exit, get out of the flow, then come back later and wonder how to take off again. Moreover, I fear I might forget an important idea I have in mind.

If you’re like me, feel free to finish what you’re doing before taking the break.

I’m fairly relaxed in this respect.

Also, I don’t take notes of how many Pomodoro sessions I complete per day, nor specific things that I did per session. It’s because my work is quite simple, where every day revolves around writing, editing, and developing/fixing EnjoyYrJourney blog.

If you work for clients, maybe it’s worthwhile to jot downs a few notes on the timesheet. Feel free to bend the rules.

Bonus: If you listen to music (any music lover here? I’m in love with instrumental) while working, you can set the timer to turn off the music on your devices.

Without music life would be a mistake ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Instead of getting the same boring reminder when the 25’ is over, the sudden stop of the music playback would kick you out of the zone.

Here I can show you how to do it on iPhone, iPad, or iTunes on your Mac (sorry Windows and Android users, I do have these devices, but I’m an Apple enthusiast).

So, for iPhone/iPad, you can turn off the music by using the Timer function in your Clock app. After setting the timer for 25’, click on “When Timer Ends” option, which opens a list of various ringtones. Scroll down to the bottom, select the option “Stop Playing”, then click “Set” at the top right of your device.

For iTunes on any Mac, we don’t have similar function ready, unfortunately. So, we’ll create a smart playlist, which contains all the songs we want, which duration lasts 25 minutes, so that our Mac stops playing music after running through all the songs in that list. I learn this setup from Alleny Gavin (2).

Please follow steps below:

i. Create a favorite playlist

Create a playlist that contains all the songs you’d like listening to.

In Music category of iTunes, right-click on the “All Playlists” on the left-hand side of iTunes window, select “New Playlist”.

Rename the list. I named it “Songs for Writing”.

To add songs, drag them to your list on the right side of the iTunes window.

ii. Create a smart playlist

Follow the same step above, right-click on the “All Playlists” and select “New Smart Playlist”.

This opens a new “Smart Playlist” window.

iii. Set the rules for your smart playlist

Tick the check-box “Match music (select “music” from the drop-down list) for the following rules”.

In the first box, change the option “Artist” to “Playlist” from the drop-down list.

In the third box, click on whatever shows up there and select [Name of the playlist you made in step i.]. For example, I have “Songs for Writing”.

Tick the check-box “Limit to”. Leave “25” in the fill-in box beside as is, and change the option “items” to “minutes” from the drop-down list. Leave the option “random” in the box next to “selected by” as is.

Your window should look like this

Click ok.

iv. Confirm duration of your smart playlist

Now, if your favorite playlist contains few songs for the Mac to choose, you might end up with a list that has duration UNDER 25 minutes, like me

If so, go back the rule-setting window (by clicking on “Edit Rules”) and increase the duration box 1, or 2 minutes. Try a few times. For me, I get the exact 25’ when limiting to 27’.

v. Ensure the “Repeat” option unticked

Now, the last step is to make sure the “Repeat” option unticked, so that your Mac stops playing as soon as it finishes the list.

Done! Enjoy the music.

You can change the songs by editing the rules to re-create a new list.

4. Take your break strategically, not habitually

A break is meant to give our brain and body time to refresh. So, during your break, it’s best to do something very different from what you’re working on.

I’m writing on my laptop, so if during my break I search web, watch YouTube, or check news on Facebook, etc., it would be taking a break from the work, but it wouldn’t be a break to the brain, nor the body.

Also, refrain from thinking/planning/finding ideas about whatever you’re working on. If you do that, your 5 minutes are not breaks, but rather pauses from your work.

During my breaks, I often meditate while walking around the house, doing housework, or while eating an apple (learn how to incorporate deep-breathing meditation into daily life in my post here). Such activities recharge my energy, clear my mind, and stretch my body.

You can’t believe how many things/activities you can do in just 5 minutes, if you give it some thoughts. Here’re some more to get you start: practice yoga posing, do a quick body massage, drink water, play with your pet/loved ones.

5. Working with colleagues/clients

This one is tricky. If your relationship is close enough, you may explain the technique and its benefits to others, and encourage them to try.

By the way, if you have poor salesmanship, like me, you can always point them to this post (I appreciate it!).

What’s more, everybody wins, when somebody shares (Jim Rohn). The others might consider that you treat them close enough to share something you believe, so that enhances your relationship, too.

Moreover, it’ll give the two of you something interesting (of course, otherwise I wouldn’t bother writing 4,000 words about it) to talk about (other than the “Looks like it’s about to rain today, don’t you think?”).

Plus, it’ll also give you two something to work together with. Working together is a great way to bond a relationship.

6. Use Pomodoro to Enjoy Your Playtime even more

Now, the idea of making playtime more enjoyable by timing and interrupting the activity seems absurd, right?

Well, head to this post to see if I can win you round.

We’ve all heard the saying: “Work hard, play hard”. Although we don’t spend as much time at play as we do at work, the physical and mental energy, emotion, and effort that we spend on our leisure activities and hobbies are equally intense, if not more, compared to our work.

If you don’t believe me, try playing computer game for 8 hours straight like the way you’d spend your time at work, and you’ll see what I mean.

So, for those meaningless harmful vices, entertainment and hobbies, set a timer of 25’ and prepare to stop when your need is 2/3 (65%) fulfilled.

When the time’s up, ask yourself this question

“Am I still feeling blue/hungry/thirsty/drowsy/lonely?”

If you honestly need more, set a new timer for another 25’ or less and repeat the process.

7. Be flexible, set your own rules

By now you’ve already got the main ideas of how Pomodoro works and how to apply it to your life.

Try it out my way.

I’ve got great results applying this technique. It doesn’t work every time though, yet I try to improve the technique along the way.

Once you’ve tried it out my way, feel free to break the rules in any way that works for you.

  • You can vary the duration. Some freelancers prefer 30’ blocks, as they charge clients that way; while others might settle in 10’ blocks. Or you might have only 15 minutes left before jumping to another appointment, then set a timer of 15’.
  • You can set different durations for different kinds of activities, as long as they are not too long so you don’t exert yourself too much, and not too short so you don’t ruin the fun. Practice moderation in all things.
  • You may change the ringtone to be more uplifting and inspiring.

=> Don’t rigidly follow the rules. The technique exists to help you enjoy your work and play, it’s not meant to control you. You control the technique, you master the technique, then bend it to make it work for you, no matter who told you you must do such and such to make it work. Rules are meant to be broken. So, feel free to break MY RULES (I’m happy with that, because you prove that you’re a student, not a follower).

This technique is a major tool that helps me enjoy my journey.

Suppose you buy my philosophy, why not give it a try?

And let me know your twist, and how it works out for you.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. Everybody wins, when somebody shares!

and until I see you again, be a student, not a follower!

 

References

(1) Cirillo, F. (2016). The Pomodoro Technique: Do more and have fun with time management. Cirillo Consulting GMBH. Retrieved from https://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique/book/

(2) Gavin, A. (2016). All You Will Ever Need to Know About iTunes Sleep Timer. MobiKin. Retrieved from https://www.mobikin.com/idevice/itunes-sleep-timer.html

How To Have Better Sex With Those You Love – Too Much of a Good Thing could be Too Much & What to Do about It

M: “Wise One, have you ever hated the thing you love?”*

Before you start, let me clarify this. First, I thought the word “those” in the title should be “the things” (no, not THOSE things 🤭!).

But on my second thought, since the former appears to be a better “bait”, I decided to leave it there. The title should have been “Too Much of a Good Thing could be Too Much & What to Do about It”.

I had a dream, not noble nor great like the one that Martin Luther King had. My dream was to play Witcher 3 game on PC, when it was released 2 years ago. Playing computer game has always been my passion since I was a child.

And to make my dream come true, I even invested about 3,300 USD to get a top-of-the-line Alienware laptop, a significant amount compared to my income back then.

Actually, $1,500 could play the game just fine. But you know, when it comes to things that you love, “fine” is a shameful compromise. You want only the best.

So, I got the laptop, installed the game, gathered as much time as I could, got myself ready, and enjoyed Geralt’s adventures.

Only for a while!

As best as I could remember, after about a month or so, I lost my desire to play. Although I hadn’t finished the game, I no longer felt that much enthusiastic. Sure, it’s still fun to play. But, besides, I started to feel guilty about playing the game excessively.

I’d fallen into the trap of having too much of a good thing. The same thing might have happened to you. Let me play another scene.

You go shopping. And after turning into a corner, you smell of XYZ, your favorite food. The store is nearby, and you happen to feel hungry (Oh boy! How come such coincidence happens that often!). And so, it’s the nth time, which you’ve lost count, that you bought so much more food than you could eat. You sit there, scold yourself for being too piggy while struggling to finish whatever left, because 

1. Mom told you that it’s bad to throw away food, and 

2. This one’s your favorite. 

Hang on a second. Did you just say that it’s your favorite food? No, I lied about that. It’s my favorite food WHEN I’m hungry.

Sometime, somehow or other, we all are victims of such trap, “desire too much of a good thing”, to quote William Shakespeare.

There’re many meanings regarding what is considered to be “good”, but I’m not gonna start a philosophical debate here. My definition is simple, “good” in this sense refers to something desirable. Now whether such desirable things are beneficial or harmful, that’s another question of our intelligence. So,

You’ve landed that dream job.

You’ve planned lots of things to do and places to visit for the next vacation in that favorite country.

You’ve just discovered your life purpose, and that you have a passion for writing (sounds trouble to me!).

You’ve just quit your day job, and dreamed of having all the time you can get to do the ONE thing that you love. Why? Because “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”, a cliche that I’ve “heard” many people, too many that I care to remember, who said that it’s the one thing that made many OTHER people successful (sorry for the sarcasm!).

So what?

It’s tough luck trying to enjoy 16-hours days on your dream job, or to blissfully rush around to checkmark your to-play list during your holiday.

High hopes are often accompanied by great despairs!

I’ve found out that, unfortunately, no matter how much fun that I have, staying on top of my love is still hard labor to me. And after 8 hours, I’m exhausted.

I’ve learned the lesson. Sometimes, having too much of a good thing is too much.

~o~

These days, I try to practice Socrates’s advice:

Everything in moderation. Nothing in excess

My translation: Don’t overindulge in things that we desire.

Again, whether the things that we desire add to our well-being, or satisfy our vices, it is another question. So, please, don’t twist my words for this.

A common misunderstanding of this wise quote is to take it to be that we can have everything, as long as it is in moderation. No! If the thing is a poison, should you have it in moderation? Of course no! Only a fool would do that! You said?

Yeah right. But you’re wising off on the wrong man, let me show you many others, who had done, are doing, and will be doing so. In fact, there’s one you might be familiar with, Rumi The Fool! If you suffer an ingrained addiction, you should have first-hand experience that any amount is NEVER okay.

So, I think it’s worthwhile to remind you of Oscar Wilde, who said: “Everything in moderation…including moderation”. Take the middle way, practice being moderate in all things.

By moderation, for me, it means 65%, or 2/3, of what would normally give me full satisfaction. Where do I get such idea? From economics, the “law of diminishing return”, which states that:

“…in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant (“ceteris paribus”), will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns. The law of diminishing returns does not imply that adding more of a factor will decrease the total production…” (wiki)

Suppose I’m bored to death, the law states that I’d get a lot more fun (my return) during my first 30’ of playing Witcher game (my investment) than the next 30’. Keep playing, and my satisfaction goes up slower and slower (hence lower incremental return on time invested), until exhaustion and guilt set in.

So I’d be better off stopping the game after one hour to get the best value from my time. Note that I don’t necessarily need to be fully satisfied, as reaching that level requires much more time due to the diminishing return.

Besides, I’d rather leave my need unfulfilled to retain my interest, thus ensure high return on my time investment in the next session. Thus,

Stop when you’re 2/3 of the way 

Below is the strategy I use to apply this idea in daily life:

A. For Basic Needs

If it’s a need (or a vice, I should say), stop at 2/3 before your need is fulfilled. Now I know that there’re exceptions, for example, sleep.

One problem with “full” or “2/3” is that they are subjective measurements. And due to my tendency to crave for more with regard to the things I want, I wouldn’t trust myself when I say “My need hasn’t been fully satisfied, I need to have more”.

So, I use this question to know whether it’s time to stop an activity:

“Am I still feeling blue/hungry/thirsty/drowsy/lonely?”

I learned this question from Dan Buettner (1), who promotes the idea of stop eating when we are 80% full, or “hara hachi bu”.

With regard to eating, Gemma Sampson (2), a dietitian specializing in performance nutrition for endurance sports, advises to consume your meal slowly, so that your brain has time to register how full your stomach is. That means for those who have a habit of having lunch at your desk, you need to consciously plan a reasonable amount of time.

Now, how much is 65%? It depends. “Know thyself”. If you do eat your meal slowly, after a while, you will get a good idea of the amount.

Back to the topic, set a timer (use your phone; or, if you wear Apple Watch or a smartwatch, it’s super convenient to use the timer there by moving the app to the watch home screen) of 25 minutes.

When the time’s up, ask yourself the question “Am I still feeling blue/hungry/thirsty/drowsy/lonely?”. If you honestly need more, set a new timer for another 25 minutes or less and repeat the process.

B. For Things that Contribute to Well-being

For those things that are beneficial to us, no matter whether you like them or not, such as working, exercising, moving out of comfort zone, developing good habits, spending time with family/friends, etc., use a different question.

When your 25 minutes is up, ask yourself:

“Am I still comfortable continuing this?”

If the answer is “Kind of”, consider it’s time to stop. Even if you’re confident you can do more, stop yourself when you’re just above comfortable. Move out of your comfort zone, yet not too far. Don’t stretch yourself too much.

Now, how do you know when you’re merely above comfortable level? It’s a subjective question that involves trials-and-errors.

However, if an activity requires continuing for a long time, like working, instead of stopping, you take a 5 minutes break, and repeat the process.

~o~

Follow this strategy, and you will enjoy those things you love, without one day finding yourself, like I used to be, hating the loves of your life.

And what’s more? You can apply this philosophy in sex as well, don’t overdo it.

Uh, I mean the philosophy only, not the “2/3” formula, save me the trouble of having to explain to your partner afterward.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* W: “Yes, whenever I’m mistaken it to be the only thing that I have”.

 

References

(1) Buettner, D. (2011). Enjoy Food and Lose Weight with One Simple Phrase. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thrive/201101/enjoy-food-and-lose-weight-one-simple-phrase

(2) Sampson, G. (2014). What does everything in moderation really mean?. Retrieved from http://dietitianwithoutborders.com/what-does-everything-in-moderation-really-mean/