What I do when I disconnect

What you are getting into: 450 words, 2mins read

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Danka & Peter

Because my mind is so used to the limitless bounds of information from so many sources: Google, articles, blogs, news, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Behance, Snapchat, books, advertisements/advertorials, emails, meetings, texts, instant messages, podcasts, and probably many more channels, it’s really hard to stop ‘doing something’. There’s always something to do given the vast interconnected world.

What do you do when you are standing in line for your groceries? What do you do when you are waiting for the bus? What do you do when you are early for a dinner date? I think the answer is obvious.

I do not claim to be able to disconnect totally. Truth to be told, I am writing this on my iPhone during my ‘disconnect’ time. I simply can’t sit and do nothing. 5mins in staring out of the window and the idea to write this piece popped into my head. I simply cannot pull myself away from my phone. Perhaps I should keep my phone out of sight. Luckily, I have my phone on airplane mode, at least I won’t be able to search for information online, like “what do people do when they disconnect..” Oh the irony!

Most of the time when I disconnect, I reflect and read. Since we go online to get connected, ‘disconnect’ is disconnecting from others and connecting with myself. Hence the reflection. As for reading, I just like kicking back with coffee and a good book. Coffee stimulates my mind and books inspires my creativity, potent combination.

Case for disconnecting

There are a million articles out there talking about the case to disconnect, it is a new social-economical problem that do exist whether you like it or not, much like climate change. But there’s only one reason why I disconnect.

Because I need to connect with myself.

At work, we always respond to the demands of others. Through emails, through our bosses, through our colleagues, through our clients.

Outside of work we respond to the needs of our family members and partners, sometimes our friends.

When do we even have time to disconnect from all these demands and start listening to our inner thoughts?

If I don’t allocate alone time, I don’t feel at ease. Without the million distractions, I am able to slow down, do nothing, and listen to the chatter inside my mind. I won’t attempt to stop it, because as time go by, the monkey mind will get bored and quiet down. That’s where the onion slowly reveals itself — my truest thoughts, and I’m only able to get there when I disconnect.

Respect the tools you use, buy the best you can afford

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

Photo via Unsplash

A gentleman buys the best tools he can afford. He doesn’t scrimp on tools that allows him to ply his trade. He will not purchase something that is of a lesser quality and sacrifice usability because he respects the tools he uses.

A prime example is a computer. In today’s age, if you are a knowledge worker, chances are you work from a computer. Do you use a subpar computer that is slow and clunky? Do you find yourself needing a more powerful computer? A computer allows the knowledge worker to ply his trade, which in turn generates income. Therefore shouldn’t a knowledge worker use the best computer they can afford since it’s an income generating machine?

I have been thinking about big ticket expenses. How do I calculate their value? There are material items, tools, and experience. I’m not going into investment. Here’s how I see it:

  • Material items: Makes me look nice and presentable
  • Tools: Makes my life easier, tools of my trade
  • Experience: Makes my life interesting and worth living

Experience is considered the most expensive, because once you live it, there’s no reliving the same experience anymore. Yes you could document it with photos and videos, but some moments are best in real life. For example, take a one week modest travel, it may cost between USD$500-1500. As compared to a computer that may cost USD$1500. If well taken care of, it could last 5yrs, and it will cost you $1500/5/12/4=$6.25/week. Or a luxury item that you only use 5 times a year, the cost of using the item increases the lesser you use it. (Side note: It boggles my mind to see people wasting real life experience away by being on their phones all the time.)

My logic has a lot of flaws, mainly because certain big ticket expenses have got good reasons, economic reasons is not the only biggest factor. For example, purchasing a luxury watch if you’re a salesman signifies you’re doing well, that brings tremendous ROI.

Coming back to tools, I also try to get a tool that only do one thing well, rather than mediocre on many things. Multi-tools are usually subpar quality products jumbled up and sold at a premium price. It appears to have ‘a lot’ of functions you can use to justify the ‘value’ it brings.

FOCUS!!

FOCUS!!

Like a sushi chef, the knife is his tool of the trade, it forms the whole of his work. As should we, respecting the tools of our trade.

How I manage my information diet in today’s information overloaded age

What you are getting into: 1342 words, 8mins read

For everyone living on the internet, we know how much information is out there. There’s always one new article to read, 5 interesting tweets, 10 inspirational videos, 20 juicy forum discussions, 30 new social media updates, and so on. Google any question and you’d get millions of results. It will only keep growing. New media outlets and platforms will be created. The constant variable is information.

If we are not careful and don’t learn how to manage inbound information, we will get overwhelmed. And I’m pretty sure at some point of time you got sick of the internet and told yourself ‘Fuck it, that’s all the internetz I’m gonna use for the day.’ only to find yourself scrolling through Facebook 30mins later. I know I do.

Occurrence of such ultimatums is increasing and I don’t like it. I’m always searching for better ways to improve my consumption flow. In this article, I share how I manage my consumption flow and habits, if you have any good tips, do tweet me at @musingsofzen!

Here’s what I’m gonna share.

  1. Why I read
  2. What, when, and format
  3. Percentages of what and when
  4. How I manage all the information

Why I read?

“To improve myself. Expand my knowledge. And to create.”

It’s simple. First, I want to improve myself. How do I do that? By expanding my knowledge. What’s the expected outcome of expanding my knowledge? To create something.

What, when, and formats of the things I read

#1: Books

First, I ask myself what are my immediate goals, then pair books with goals I’m working on for the month. For example, now I’m practicing Stoicism, I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and write about it.

When: During my morning routine, commute (any type), idle waiting time, before bed.

Format: Only physical books. I’ve tried Kindle Paperwhite and blasted through 13 books for a whole full year, but I can only remember a few key concepts from 1 or 2 books. I realised that marking up, dog earring pages, and having a tangible book boosts my absorption rate.

#2: Articles

Second, I supplement it with articles. Mainly from Googling.

When: During solo meals, micro idle waiting time (not long enough to whip out a book), ‘you can try to google it’ moments — instant gratification on the topic that’s on my mind.

Format: On desktop and mobile. I use Instapaper to save articles for later. Now the number of unread articles in my Instapaper queue is 74 (DAMNIT there’s 74 articles waiting for me to read them).

#3: News

Third, news. Because we all need to keep up with current news else we are just people living inside our own dream world. News is a double edge sword though, most times it brings huge amount of negativity, but a small fraction makes you revive faith in humanity. Mostly I just scroll through subjects and limit myself to 5 new news article per day.

When: I catch up on news during my return commute. I try not to read any news in the morning since the nature of news is negative, which throws me into a negative spiral for the day. So no news before noon.

Format: Via websites. Mainly CNA and Google News.

#4: Social Media

Forth, social media. Social media is not everything. Yes most of the news circulate and spread like wildfire within social media, but always remember, social media is a platform. Like all platforms out there, it only represents a fraction of the whole picture, be it large or small. I use it to keep up with what my friends have been up to because apparently these days ‘meatspace’ time is getting lesser and lesser.. Also, I spend way too much time on social media than I am willing to admit.

When: Snippets of ‘free’ time when I should be using those free time to relax my mind and do nothing. Similar to news, only after noon.

Format: Apps, tons of them.

#5: Podcasts

Fifth, podcasts. They are audio recordings published by very smart people. It’s like blog posts, but in audio. The best part is that it’s all free.

Podcasts I'm listening to.

Podcasts I’m listening to.

When: On my return commute. Since the train I take is always packed and almost impossible to hold a book in hand, listening to podcasts and learning something new seems to work out for me.

Format: I user Overcast. The smart speed won me over — it has saved me over 32hrs.

#6: Youtube

Six, Youtube. Video is getting really huge this year, so did my consumption of video. Sometimes the best format to learn is through video, you can almost always find something you want to learn in Youtube. I am ashamed to say that I spend way too much time in Youtube (skiving) despite ranking it so far down the list.

When: Usually during weekends, when I just want to laze around and idle my life away. Other than that, most of the times I use it to learn something new, it could be a new concept, or something tangible that I can use instantly, like Google Analytics.

Format: I prefer the desktop version, solely because I can turn up the speed. I cannot stand watching tutorial videos at the normal speed. I also turn on subtitles.

#7: Pinterest

Seven, Pinterest. I’m a huge fan. It’s so visual, so appealing to my creative brain (which I’m working very hard to improve). When things get tough, I turn to Pinterest for inspiration. It can be from motivation to design, or even spiritual.

When: Moments in need of inspiration.

Format: Desktop and mobile.

#Bonus: Miscellaneous reads

Lastly, miscellaneous reads like forums, Reddit, Quora, or any other random things I find on the internet when I’m skiving.

Metrics

What I think how I spend my time.

What I think how I spend my time.

I track a lot of things in my life, but tracking my consumption is a code I’ve yet to crack. But because the consumption varies from week to week, and it’s seasonal, it may prove to be a daunting effort to track down to the minute.

In the ideal world I wish I would spend my consumption time as such:

Only in the ideal world..

Only in the ideal world..

How I manage all the information

I markup in physical books, write longhand to take notes or draw diagrams to help facilitate my thinking. I also buy premium notebooks for that. Writing on paper without any distractions is what desire. But there’s a big draw back.

I can’t easily retrieve my notes.

Sometimes a good thought can be buried if I have written it down months ago.

For this, and the most important piece of the puzzle, I use Evernote. I can clip articles straight into Evernote, save pictures, emails, documents, bills, and of course, texts. All these are organised into folders, most of them are tagged. For example, I have a notebook named ‘Travel’, I can tag each individual note like ‘travel gear’, ‘southeast asia’, ‘bookings’, etc. It’s also synced across desktop and my phone. Which I can download notebooks for offline access. It currently holds more than 5000 notes, which I have collected over many years. Then, the most important part, the search. What’s the use of saving it if I can’t find it? The search is amazing. It can search within documents (if you are a paying user), it has OCR (which can search within photos, useful for handwritten mind maps), and it highlights your search term when you are scrolling through the results.

Because almost everything important is saved in Evernote and searchable, it makes it a really important tool in my workflow in managing all the information I consume. I don’t have to go through many apps or folders just to dig find that small snippet of information. It’s like Google, but for personal use.


To close off, your consumption will greatly differ from mine, but taking time out to audit the sources, thinking about where you are spending your time on, what the information you consume serves, and how to manage all these information without wasting time searching for it is extremely important. Especially in today’s information age.