I lied. This post is not actually about Reddit. However the role Reddit plays in my life exemplifies a type of behavior I am minimizing: consuming without a goal. Reddit is my starting point and I’ll generalize from there. Please understand that I am not disparaging Reddit as a whole – I am making a statement about my own behavior when using Reddit.
When I say consuming without a goal I mean absorbing a lot of information with little to no reward besides the base stimulation that seeing lots of new comments, images, and links offers. This type of stimulation results in a lot of short-term gratification but yields little benefit in the long run.
As I write this currently the top 3 posts on Reddit (based on default subreddits without logging on) are:
- Swedish justice minister falls for Daily Currant spoof story on marijuana deaths, calling incident “stupid and sad”
- number 1 rule at a party : DON’T FALL ASLEEP FIRST!!
- What do you see on tv all the time that never actually happens in everyday life?
While there are more focused and useful subreddits (a better-known one that comes to mind is /r/AskHistorians) these three links are a good sample of what I encounter most often. There are lots of links to news articles that I am personally not involved with, random comical things happening in other people’s lives that I don’t care about, and possibly interesting discussions that don’t really make my life better.
Even when I tailor the subreddits to my tastes with subscriptions to /r/engineering, for example, the basic content does not change. /r/engineering often has the same type of content I find uninteresting except with a different coat of paint. And I would argue that the more banal, asinine, or irrelevant content is more addictive.
This sort of content and gratification-seeking behavior on Reddit is the root of this post today. I want to avoid behavior that does not lead to a happier life. Looking at memes/image macros, following pun threads in comments, and being bombarded by a seemingly random collection of information is not helping me be happier.
Other examples from my personal life would be letting myself get caught up watching a TV show that I don’t really enjoy but sit down and watch anyway because it happens to be on.
That’s not to say avoid TV altogether! There are shows that stimulate the imagination I whole-heartedly recommend and documentaries can be a good source of TV that is beneficial.
The key is to have a goal.
It doesn’t have to be a grandiose goal like changing the world. Those types of goals are usually too taxing for their own good anyway because of the scope. I prefer to work with personal, quantifiable, and achievable goals that can build momentum into a massive shift.
Spending time with friends and loved ones, for example, is a wonderful goal. I don’t suggest watching Judge Judy on your own (I use this example because it’s a guilty pleasure of mine) but if you’re sitting with friends and able to bond over it – either because you are enjoying it or because you’re making fun of it (I’ve been known to do both) then you are working on something that leads to long-term benefits.
A clearly superior use of my Reddit time is to improve my skills. I don’t mean random skills that don’t help me with anything. I can learn how to build a website but does that do anything for me as an engineer? Not immediately and without a clear reason for requiring a website that skill is just another project waiting to cause stress and disappointment by not being completed. On the other hand I can review my textbooks and hone my math skills, both of which have direct benefits to my job and to my mental well-being. Plus the better I get with engineering concepts the more likely I am to be able to innovate.
Instead of being on Reddit, even if it was only a “quick” Reddit break, I could have cleaned my apartment. I get stressed when my apartment is messy in any way so the cleaning option is obviously better but it is not instant gratification like Reddit is. But that’s my point – the extra willpower and discipline to clean is tough but improves my happiness while Reddit does not.
Just so we are perfectly clear I’m not saying Reddit is bad. I’m saying my use of Reddit is a waste of time. There are certainly plenty of folk who use Reddit productively as a tool for communication, collaboration, development, marketing, or any number of other things. (Though for every one of those people there are 100 more using Reddit for puns and image macros.) There are plenty of other behaviors for me that fall into the same waste of time: playing games on my smartphone, procrastinating, sitting around doing nothing, and more.
My point in all this is that I want to be more selective with how I spend my time so that I can be true to my personal motto: Live deliberately.
I’ve struggled with sleep for a long time and for a while I thought all sorts of things were wrong with me. However, partly due to increased pressure from having a full-time job, I finally made a breakthrough that made sleep so much more enjoyable.
What follows is a collection of things I’ve found that helped me and some thoughts I’ve had that solved the issue.
1. Follow the Body’s Sleep Cycles – Sleep in Multiples of 1.5 Hours
It’s generally common knowledge that an average human “should” get 8 hours of sleep. However, would you believe that getting less sleep could be even better?
Now, let me clarify – it’s not getting less sleep that makes it better but being able to work with how your body sleeps. The main issue to avoid is waking up when you’re in the middle of a sleep cycle. From what I can find the average sleep cycle is 90 minutes. 8 hours will wake you up right in the middle of the sixth cycle. After doing the 8 hour thing for a long time and then switching to being conscious of the 90 minute cycles the difference was immediately noticeable.
The nail in the coffin for me was this weekend actually where I went to bed without setting an alarm. I woke up the first time after approximately 6 hours and then decided that I wanted to sleep some more. I woke up – again, naturally – 1.5 hours later. While this isn’t proof by any means the evidence is definitely in favor of the 90 minute sleep cycle.
I’ve been doing better now on 6 and occasionally 7.5 hours of sleep than I have trying to get as close to 8 as possible.
2. Don’t Snooze
Snoozing is bad for two reasons. The first is the inherent risk of sleepily turning off your alarm or sleeping beyond the critical point for being ready for work/school/whatever. The second reason is that even if you sleep for another 5 or 10 minutes, that could have you sinking into deep sleep and waking up from that would actually make you more tired. Avoid snoozing at all costs!
3. Don’t Treat Sleep Like a Chore You Don’t Want to Do
I tend to approach sleep like a chore, like something I’d rather not be doing. However, sleep is vital to many bodily functions related to recovering from your day. Are you a student looking to learn your material better? You need sleep! Are you a man or woman looking to become more fit? You need sleep! Are you a human being? You need sleep! Wikipedia does a pretty decent job summarizing the important functions of sleep.
It’s tough to adjust a mindset but adjusting the mindset with respect to sleep is so rewarding! In my case I went from setting an alarm for 8.5 hours of bedtime, getting approximately 8 hours of sleep including the time to get to bed, and then more often than not falling back asleep for another hour or so and rushing to get ready and get to work on time. In college my sleep schedule was even worse. Now however I’ve been doing pretty well with 6 hours of sleep. I’ve had more energy for work and have been able to do more in the day.
I think my sleep issues have been fixed! If something changes in the near future I’ll let you know, but if you’re having sleep issues I hope that this helps!
Of course, if you’re having serious problems, always check with a medical professional. I’m only going from Google and personal experience.
There are two components to getting things done:
These are the two major categories that I think everything related to getting things done falls under. I did a brief search of the blogosphere and found several interesting pieces on the concept of “getting things done.” There’re even Getting Things Done (GTD) Systems and whole books about this.
The different thoughts and systems all dance around the aforementioned core concepts. The following discussion is not meant to serve as strict rules that you must follow but as inspiration to develop your own mindset and methodology to reaching your goals. Here is my way:
- First, determine what there is to be done. This can be assignments from class, hobbies, or random things that have come up for any reason.
- Now prioritize these tasks. Tasks with deadlines get top priority, obviously. Hobbies and other things are more flexible.
- Finally these tasks are in a position to gain motivation.
- Find the light at the end of the tunnel for everything you want to do. The most important thing is to make the light concrete. For school make sure the goal is a tangible reward such as a higher GPA. For other tasks make sure there is an end product that you can look at and know you’re done. Abstract ideas are troublesome because humans can rationalize away delays or anything else that can set you back.
- Decide why these goals help you get what you want. It helps to make these as tangible as possible (“a great job in the future” is better than simply “success”, for example)
- Start! The most important thing is to actually start whatever task you are currently working on. Don’t tell yourself you’ll start after you check your e-mail or catch up on Facebook updates. Just start!
- Don’t get distracted.
I think the two biggest points to this process is deciding why you want to reach your goals and starting. Once you figure out why you want something your human nature is to reach for it. The next tough thing is to actually start working on it. If you accomplish that the completion does not take as much will power.
As I mentioned earlier these ideas serve more as guidelines so feel free to adapt them into your own process or modify these ideas with other tools. For example, following this process is simplified by Google Tasks. Just make sure you don’t lose yourself in setting yourself up for success and forget to actually succeed (like I said… Start! Just do it!0.