So long, Facebook

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits over the last few days. There are some good ones that I’ve let slide recently, such as running a good few miles each week. There are others I’m still trying to embed, such as opening my mail on the day it arrives rather than a few weeks later.

I had my second instalment with Rachel, the brilliant professional organiser and declutterer who helped me sort my shit out over the summer. And then we moved house, and after a couple of weeks of being all smug-show-home-tidy, my old habits have returned. Crumpled receipts, clothes, papers… that kinda thing. Thanks to Rachel’s wonder work on Friday, my desk and office are now raring to go, and I’m right there with them.

And then I downloaded iOS8 on my phone. I’ve discovered it does lots of things: crashes various apps, reminds me who I’ve been communicating with, and—crucially—tells me what has been burning the battery over the last 24 hours.

How I spend my phone’s battery is basically how I spend most of my waking life. I am wedded to the thing. If its fake leather case isn’t in my hand or back pocket, I feel out of sorts. Naked.

There’s nothing like a clear visual indicator of how I spend my time to demonstrate the habits I actually have. And there it was, top of the line, the thing I spent most of my time on: Facebook.

Facebook. Not just burning the phone’s battery but also my brain. What a fucking waste of cells. I fell for it over seven years ago, when I was living in San Francisco and falling in love. It had opened its doors to non-Harvard people, and I went in. Slowly friends added themselves—new ones from Berkeley and the city, then later old ones from back over the other side of the ocean.

For me, my favourite thing was that I could use it as a wonderful way to chart and capture those early days of romance, to let my folks back home know that I hadn’t made a terrible mistake.

My friends group swelled with the onset of wedding season. It lasted a couple of years. The inevitable babies followed, including my own. I ransacked timelines with his chubby cheeks. It was so fun to see other people’s lives and to have others see mine.

A couple of summers ago I switched my photographic allegiance to Instagram (so if you want to see photos of my kid, have at ’em). And then I decided not to double post, I became more of a Facebook lurker. The few posts I continued to make tended to be self-aggrandising. Gone were my misty-eyed days. Then came more and more ads. Mashable seemed to be my most prolific friend. Every day I scrolled through scores of photos of toddlers I would never meet. And yet, somehow, I stayed tuned in. Looked in at it once, twice, three times a day. Well, four times. Five. Probably more.

With low energy at the moment, and a lot going on, realising that I was spending 10% or more of my life on the damn thing made me angry. So yesterday I deleted it. I’m guessing I’ve gained about an hour a day of my life back. The question is.. what am I going to do with it?

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#Flourish40, Take Two

Last year I tried out this idea for a little project. I called it #Flourish40, tried to do too much, and failed. This year, I’m going to try again. The idea is pretty simple, and fundamentally unoriginal: to do things differently for forty days and forty nights. It’s Lent, but as I’m not Christian, I feel weird calling it that. And although I appreciate that the emphasis of Lent, typically, is of abstaining or demonstrating self-control for a period of time, I’m actually more excited about focusing on trying to be a better version of myself for six weeks. Then I can go back to being a bit shitty for the next ten and a bit months, and feel contentedly smug along with it.

Also, six weeks is supposedly a great amount of time to make or break habits. Which is neat. Hashtag yay for behavioural science insights that I proclaim without any actual reference to any actual study.

This year then, I’m thinking of restricting myself to doing three things:

  • giving something up that inhibits my flourishing
  • doing something new, or more of something old, that boosts it
  • taking a different approach to my normal one.

The problem is, I’ve got a lot to choose from. And another problem is that I’m really bad at choosing. And ANOTHER problem is YAWN I am boring MYSELF with my self-improvement load of CACKALACKY.

  • giving something up that inhibits my flourishing
    • eating chocolate every day
    • eating sugar every day
    • watching House of Cards and True Detective and all other possible box-sets every day
    • saying cackalacky
  • doing something new, or more of something old, that boosts it
    • seeing friends more
    • keeping track of my receipts so that I don’t have minor panic attacks on a regular basis
    • being more tidy in general—this is more to boost my husband’s flourishing than mine, but we all know that doing things for other people does stuff for us
    • possibly saying cackalacky actually
  • taking a different approach to my normal one:
    • when making a decision, ask myself “What is the KINDEST way?”
    • in the improv spirit, try to always say “Yes, and…” rather than “Yes, but…” or “No…”
    • actually factor in how much time it will take me to get somewhere, so that I get there on time

I like that whole “new approach” idea. I like all of them. But blah blah BLAH and also all this is cheating. Too many things. I won’t remember them. I’ll fail. I am encroaching on Holier Than Thou territory which is my non-Christian IDEA OF HELL. I don’t want to be that person. I am that person. A little bit. But no. NO. I don’t want to be. Take me away. Away.

Anyway.

I’ve realised over the last few weeks that I’ve been poddling along these three or four years with a lot of support but not much guidance. This is a genuine realisation. I’m done with Striking Out.  I want some guidance! I want to raise my game! To feel admiring of someone, awestruck, desperate to impress them. Is this what happens to the irreligious in their thirties, do we all suddenly start yearning for a mortal to idolise?

Well, here it is. And it so happens I’ve come across a fair few extraordinarily brilliant women in the past few months (here’s where I get to name check Dame Mary Marsh and Charmaine Eggberry, and I even got to meet Stella Creasy MP recently too, who was so un-grip-and-grin-y that she nearly almost had me contemplating  a career in politics). But, if I set one of THEM as my idols, I’m a bit of a nutter. A creep.

So actually, here is what I’ll do. I’m going to give myself one task for the next 40 days. And I’m going to assign myself one idol. That idol, after much reflection [two minutes], is going to be [DRUM ROLLLLLLL] the awe-inspiring Michelle Obama. Relatable, but far away enough from my league and location for me not to feel like a creep; suitably fallible but also fierce and strong AND funny. Boom.

Whenever I’m stuck on a choice, I’m going to ask myself: What Would Michelle Do?

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Example:

“Do I buy this Double Decker for the train ride home?”

WWMD?

“NOT buy this Double Decker. Instead, buy a banana. And possibly tell some kids about it.”

I think I can remember that. So here’s to #Flourish40, Take Two. If I can get to being a teenytiny-eth of the greatness that is Michelle O, with less of the wankiness that filled my first #Flourish40 attempt, I will have flourished and then some. Goodbye mediocrity, hello michellety.

I did just write that.

If you’ve got thoughts on how YOU can boost your levels of flourishing over the next forty days, or on whether you think I’ve just hit another personal record low,  please post comments below or tweet me (@eugenieee). I’d love to know.

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The Last Stretch

I’m coming to the end of my #Flourish40 experiment—forty days of doing things differently. Or trying to. And then failing, confessing my failures publicly, moving on and trying some more. I’m going to try to gather my thoughts together in a way that will help me streamline and refine the #Flourish40 framework ahead of when I lead a workshop on it during Oxford Jam next month—I want it to be a whole lot more achievable than what I’ve done, or not done. But right now I want to reflect on what I’ve enjoyed, what I’ve benefitted, and what I’d change.

breadThings I’ve loved:

  • The whole going veggie thing. It’s the one thing, out of everything that I set myself, that I’ve actually consisted achieved, so that feels good. And I’ve loved it as an excuse to get back into eating a lot of bread and cheese. Those things are good for the soul.
  • I loved my weekly actions list—such as going someplace new or cooking food for someone else or reading a book. Even if I didn’t achieve all of them, it made me much more clear about what I wanted to be doing.

Things I’ve learned:

  • I take on too much in one go. Not necessary. I didn’t abandon any of my intentions officially, but there was a certain mission drift. 
  • I seek a lot of feedback. Especially when it comes to any food I’ve made. It maybe spoils the taste a little.

Things that may change permanently, or at least for a little while longer:

  • Less screen time when others are around. That means me not staring at my phone over cornflakes, and the kid not in front of the TV when he comes home in the afternoon. But I love watching great movies.
  • Making a lot more bread.
  • Eating a lot less meat.
  • Meet people and speak to people rather than email people.
  • Be generous and open with my time, but ruthless and quick with my email.
  • Seek out new places.
  • Start a new book each month. If it isn’t gripping, ditch it.
  • Honour, silently, the positive and mindful choices I make.
  • Write more. But not at 10:30pm.