“I think there would be some drugs involved to be honest… and some elements of hedonism and a lot of music. I think I would enjoy a mix of those 3 things.” (Tomo, 39, USA)
Tomo’s perfect day:
Psychedelic drugs – “it’s not about feeling good or euphoric or numbing pain, but actually about changing the way you experience things. It would be a day where your senses are enhanced or altered. Because of that it would be a very abnormal day. It would also warp your sense of time.”
Unplanned – “[music / psychedelics] are just the start. the perfect day wouldn’t be planned much further than that… ideally, you would be able to do what you want for the rest of the day.”
“People are greedy and always want more: lots of money, girls, fun nights out. When you’re young you want everything fast, you don’t know what’s important. As you get older, you realize that the things that matter are the small things, the things you take for granted. You never realize what you have until you lose it.” (Salah, 31, Yemen)
Salah’s perfect day:
Good health for him and his family
The people you love are okay
Being “home,” which means being with the people you love
In his early 20s, Salah made “perfect money” working for his family’s construction business in Yemen. He’d party weekends in Dubai. But then suddenly war forced his factory to close. He moved abroad, pursuing a childhood dream and opening coffee shops in Malaysia and Vietnam.
“I got to think about what I wanted to be and I got to spend it with the people I love.” (Ramon, 42, USA)
Ramon talked about 3 perfect days from his past, present and future.
Past: At 23 he flew with his brother and best friend to a gaming convention in Dallas. They had dreams of starting a business together. “I remember taking notes and observing everybody. The sky was the limit. I felt like I was young and could do anything.” Then Ramon flew to Las Vegas. He won enough money to pay for the entire trip, plus tickets to the musical Stomp for his best friends and crush.
Present: this year Ramon got married – “There are only 2 times you can get everyone in a room that matter to you, your wedding and your funeral.”
1:30am. Where did the time go? I hadn’t text replied to my girlfriend.And now I was too tired to send one.
Last month was a blur. I was working… or was I? I’d open Youtube to research something and spend 45 minutes watching NBA highlights. After lunch on Facebook, I’d bounce around like a ping pong ball from Trump to an ex-flame to another update that made me roll my eyes. Then I’d find out an acquaintance just sold his business for 1 million dollars. That would wake me up. What’s my problem, what am I doing with my life? Why am I on Facebook when I should be working?
I’d try to work. But it would get harder each time. If I couldn’t make progress I’d return to that half-finished podcast or investigate that guy who made a million dollars – how did he do that? He wasn’t even that smart. I’d end day after day feeling unaccomplished.
After a few weeks, I needed an intervention. I was in a bizarre no-mans-land where days would fly by and I seemed busy and occupied but nothing in my life would move. I’d compulsively reach for my phone when I was bored, lost, and frustrated, as if it held the answers. My friends tell me I am horrible at keeping at touch. Ironically, social media wasn’t helping. I would spend hours on stories of acquaintances and celebrities, but still hadn’t replied to my best friend’s email from 3 months ago.
In April I recorded a memo: “I feel in touch with everyone who matters the least and out of touch with many who matter the most to me.”
6 months later I hadn’t changed a goddamn thing.
“How to quit Facebook” on Google led me to Cal Newport’s TED talk about quitting social media. This led me back to his book, Deep Work, which I had been circling for years. I finally pulled the trigger, hoping the $16 price tag would stop the insanity, and force me to reflect, at least for a few days.
Deleted Facebook and Instagram off my phone. Try using Instagram on your computer. It sucks.
Committed to 5 days off Facebook and Instagram unless for business purposes. If I did use them, I would close them immediately after my task.
Committed to 5 days of deep work on a personal project. For me this was spending 2 distraction-free hours per day writing a short story.
Set a daily time limit for work activities: 7pm. No work allowed after!
Limited my online / chat / social media time during the work day to 11:30am – 12pm, and then 5-7pm. To help, I turned off ALL phone notifications during the day.
After a few days, I felt a quiet sense of accomplishment. It had been awhile since I gave myself the gift of working undistracted. Deep focus was a strength of mine, helping me become valedictorian of my high school. I was giving myself that gift back, growing that latent power.
I felt less annoyed and more focused. In fact, I started to cringe at just the idea of logging on to Facebook or Instagram. When I did, I’d see beautiful pictures of beautiful people in beautiful scenery and laugh. It was all a big joke. It was insane.
Cal Newport asks readers to consider 2 questions after their social media fasts:
Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service?
Did people care that I wasn’t using this service?
I concluded that my 5 days had been noticeably better without social media. I had written half a short story; I started my Perfect Day project which I had been mulling over for 2 years; I met new people and had deep, interesting conversations. Remember, no work after 7pm!
I did have a few hiccups. I went to the wrong place for a salsa event (the organizers announced the last-minute change on Facebook). My friends would talk about people on Instagram and I couldn’t see the latest juicy photos on my phone (I’d make one of them show me). As far as I know, only my girlfriend cared that I wasn’t on Facebook (“Less social media is a good thing but me having to pay the price of hearing from you less isn’t.”)
I still fell into the late-night Youtube rabbit hole, my guilty pleasure and reward for a hard day’s work. Hours would fly by. Again, it would be 1:30am and I hadn’t messaged those most important to me.
So I must find rules to end this addiction. The reward is mindless relaxation. What other activities would give me a similar or better feeling? Meditation? Reading? Talking to friends? Maybe I need to set a cut off time too, say no social media after 11pm.
I write this to say that I am still working through this addiction. I expect this to be a lifetime effort. Tech behemoths will continue spending billions to monopolize my attention. And my priorities will change with age and circumstance.
Have you ever signed onto Facebook and forgotten why? That’s how addictive it is.With distance, I started to see Facebook for what it is: attention skittles. Login, get a skittle. Use Facebook more, get more skittles. Maybe some days you get only 1 skittle, but others you’ll get 100 (like on your birthday)!
The problem, of course, is that unless you sell them, skittles don’t contribute to your long-term goals. They distract you and steal time from your most important work and relationships. You get addicted to sugar and forget the taste of real food.
I liken social media to other pernicious addictions: potato chips, alcohol, and porn. Thoughtful parents limit their kids screen time each day. Shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?
“A perfect day has an element of surprise. I don’t want to know what happens between noon and 7pm. I want to leave that up to chance.” (Marc, 28, USA)
Marc’s perfect day:
Early morning walk going nowhere
See the city wake up to the sun
Break a sweat in the gym
Breakfast with a loved one
Making a movie from start-to-finish for 4-5 hours – “it’s pure magic”
Check social media and “live in virtual cave”
Not having a plan and getting lost somewhere – “An element of getting lost while on the way to something. Because that makes time seem to slow down. You start to take in all the sights. You take it in slower perhaps? It makes that day seem like journey.”
Watching the sunset – “A day that you see the sunset is a day not wasted”
Playing board games with parents
Dancing from 10pm-5am at an Afro-Latin dance festival
He would want to feel:
High on caffeine, with a sense of clarity and awesomeness
“When I was a kid there was a river behind my place. I would go there and fish the whole morning. When I catch something I just bring it back to my Grandma and say, ‘Hey I have some fish. We have food today.’ At that time my family was very poor so I had to live far away from my parents and live with my grandma. We tried to grow rice, vegetables, chickens, everything we can to have food everyday. For me a perfect day when I catch some fish to bring back to my grandma. It would make me proud.” (Sparky, early 20s, Vietnam)
Sparky’s perfect day:
Fish all morning, bring fish home for grandma
Need people by his side
See girlfriend after work, chit chat, and think about future
He would want to feel:
Loved – “I want to give love and warmth to friends and family. I know how we miss the warmth and the love.”
“A day where I can go to sleep without feeling incredible pressure from business and family matters would be really quite wonderful… Something as simple as that – where you’re not always worried about the future – would be perfect enough.” (Howard, 42, USA)
Howard’s Perfect Day:
Feel well-rested when waking up
“Me time” do something non-productive for first hour before family awakes
Do fulfilling business tasks for 5-6 hours that moves the business forward (not day-to-day tasks)
End of the day beer with friends
Go home, spend 1-1 time with kids – “I used to dread it, but these days I find great comfort in building a stronger bond with him, it makes me feel good.”
“Me time” before going to bed, like video games – “I’ve loved them ever since I was a 4-5 year old. It’s rare to turn 42 and have a hobby I’ve done since little.”