Taking A Digital Dump

crispydoc Uncategorized 15 Comments

Taking a dump is one of the most satisfying activities one can aspire to in middle age.

And yet, this is not a Beavis and Butthead post

I refer to the ability to eliminate, for lack of a better term, the "life clutter" that obstructs productivity and happiness.

Perhaps it derives from the sobering reality that there are likely more years behind you than ahead of you. Perhaps it's a result of latent multi-infarct dementia diminishing the socially inhibitory effect of the frontal lobes.

Regardless of the etiology, it produces a sense of freedom to discard.

Deep Work And Deep Play Make Jack A Productive Boy

I recently finished reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, a professor at Georgetown University who specializes in relentlessly paring down his life to the essential activities that allow him to be productive and efficient in a milieu (academic computer science) where many of his peers feel overwhelmed and stuck.

How does he do it?

He says no.

A lot.

His book operates on the premise that we all have deep (creative, meaningful, value-adding) work and shallow (logistical, socially obligatory, distracting) work.

It's up to us to strategically tilt our workday as heavily in favor of the former as we can without jeopardizing our employment.

One of his greatest pieces of advice as someone at the intersection of tech and culture? Be relentless in determining which digital pursuits add value and support your goals, and get rid of the rest.

There Was A Time Before TED Talks

I've read variants of this approach before the digital era.

Joan Didion wrote a brilliant essay for Vogue alluding to it in 1961, with a follow up essay years later describing the liberating transgression of flouting social norms by declining to read aspiring authors' new manuscripts if that time detracted from her own writing and priorities.

In 1964, Ayn Rand published the provocatively titled, The Virtue of Selfishness, a collective of essays where she identified rational self-interest as a worthwhile pursuit that conflicted with the popular religious concept of a moral obligation to sacrifice for others.

These concepts outline grander belief systems whose controversial implications g beyond my lowly, somewhat humble aspiration: to reclaim time lost to unrewarding digital pursuits.

First, I had to define the reward I sought from digital pursuits: a meaningful, sustained connection with others.

Next, I took inventory.

Blog

The blog is an absolute time suck, but it's also a recreational outlet of my choosing. It's a terrific way to connect with people, many going through some incredibly lousy moments in their medical careers.

To offer a sense of hope to colleagues who might be suffering, to show them it can be better and to open the playbooks of other generous docs who took action all infuse the blog with a grander purpose than my personal amusement. To model redemption through financial literacy and discipline provides a greater purpose.

This is more vanity project than income-generating side hustle. My hourly income is pitiful from blog-related work.

I put myself out there to meet other interesting people who are willing to live differently, whose ideas make my life more rich and challenge my assumptions, and whose wonderfully quirky brains leave me in awe more often than not.

As long as it fills that need, and I can feel I fill a need for others, I'll keep at it.

Email

I get regular annoying spam solicitations (I have a guest post on mortgage rates perfect for your site, [your name here]!).

Fortunately, they haven't become frequent enough to break my spirit.

I also hear from thoughtful folks who reach out to me via email, often to pose challenging questions I enjoy brainstorming answers to, or otherwise represent the long tail of misfits like me that I am grateful to cultivate friendships with.

In addition to keeping in contact with friends from Fin Con 18, remaining accessible via blog-related email remains valuable.

Facebook

This was a tough one. I had avoided facebook like the plague, largely because I thought it would become addictive and I feared it taking me away from activities and people I cared about.

My evasive maneuvers were no match for the incredibly generous Physician on FIRE, who invited me to be an administrator on his facebook group around the time of its inception.

I was flattered to be offered a position that was the equivalent of Assistant Regional Manager to PoF!

Flattered and excited, I gave facebook the good college try.  I tried to come up with potential positives I might learn as a group administrator:

  • A chance to put growth mindset into practice by learning  a new skill.
  • An opportunity to get to know the other administrators, Drs. Bonnie Koo and Carrie Reynolds.
  • A front row seat to an impressive online entrepreneur and genuinely nice human being with behind-the-scenes insight into one facet of his business.
  • A chance to interact with like-minded docs looking to make financial independence a priority.

The reality, alas, was less ideal. Each time I logged in, I felt inundated by a sense of artificial social obligations.

Sure, I could communicate with a few friends more easily, but those friends I would have reached out to regardless. The medium makes it easy to reach out with a low calorie interaction, but the expectation of reciprocity means disproportionate time is required to respond.

Logging on felt like being thrust into Times Square due to information and sensory overload on par with the least appealing aspects of a Vegas casino .

There was vetting the endless stream of folks interested in joining the closed docs-only group, where some bad actors with conflicts of interest misrepresented their identities for secondary gain or shamelessly promoted business interests via the group.

I tried for a year, but I never took to it. I recently explained the situation to PoF.

He graciously accepted my resignation, after which I immediately deactivated my account. It still feels great.

I am told my disinterest will eventually cost me potential income (I have enough) and publicity for the blog (fair point).

I can live with those sacrifices.

Twitter

A bit trickier than facebook, this medium can be fun to use to connect with those Fin Con docs who company and witty repartee I have come to enjoy. The down side? Checking the app begets more checking of the app.

I don't like feeling addicted or getting a craving that distracts me from being present.

Twitter makes me into that guy who checks his phone all the time.

I'm not crazy about that guy, so I've banished him from my kingdom. I removed the app from my phone several months ago, and my life improved.

I'm going to limit this one to weekly checks on the laptop, with responses to messages from friends as an exception I'm willing to make.

Feedly

Another tricky one. When I first began tracking physician finance blogs, my list of 80 made for some real insomniac reading binges as I tried following each and every one.

Feedly, which funnels all the blogs I follow into a single place to read new posts (hat tip to Physician on FIRE for recommending it), seemed to offer a solution.

Now that my sleep schedule has normalized, I can't find enough time in the day and Feedly routinely informs me that I have 90+ posts I've not yet read.

Jim Dahle of WCI fame has rightly pointed out that bloggers can easily be grouped into either entrepreneurs looking to generate income or people who comment on their friends' blogs in exchange for receiving comments on their own blogs.

Jim is absolutely correct in this assessment, and reciprocity in comments among invisible friends who are also bloggers is a currency I value.

I've selectively reduced the number of blogs I follow, so that I read what I enjoy instead of what I feel obligated to read. I also batch my reading time so that I catch up on 5-10 posts at a time.

What Will It Look Like To Everyone Else?

The element of curating my life for the consumption of others is an exhausting and dreadful prospect. My life is lumpy, full of warts and imperfections and embarrassing thoughts I regret having voiced aloud. Certain mistakes I prefer remain private.

I get tired enough just living my life, and those I love have dibs on what energy I have left.

I will not chew my complex life and break it down into tiny digestible morsels for others like a mother bird feeds her fledglings.

Fortunately the supply of pre-chewed worm mush of lived experience continues to exceed demand.

Am I Just Being Rude?

Nobody wants to openly be a prick to the nice guy in your 7th grade math class who saw your profile and reached out.

No doubt he is genuine in his happiness seeing you after all these years. I'll catch him at the next reunion.

He didn't make the cut back then, and I am not suddenly lowering the bar to be my friend.

You need to be willing to make a significant effort to be my friend. That's by design.

Won't My People Miss Me?

Social media lowers the bar and creates a false sense of an audience interested in my every thought. Truth is, most people are just not that into me, and I don't need to pretend otherwise.

The Upshot

The result of this judicious culling is I'm staying ahead on blog posts, reading more intellectually dense books, exercising and hosting visiting friends without feeling trapped by the social obligations that underlie the architecture of many social media platforms.

Comments 15

  1. First off, as always, I am impressed with your voracious reading. I never find time to read books it seems and your post goes on to demonstrate why you are able to do so while eliminating the fluff.

    I 100% agree that running a blog is a time suck. Jim never told me that advice (he has given a lot of other tidbits) but it totally rings true. I am clearly not a great entrepreneur in this space and actually enjoy comments as my form of currency as payback for the time I put into it.

    It is hard to do a digital dump because it has been ingrained for so long, and starting a blog a year ago only intensified it (checking for stats, comments, trying to promote a post, etc).

    As always you have prioritized life the right way. Thanks for the example.

    1. Post
      Author

      Ah, Xrayvsn, you are another example of someone who burst on the scene and took it by storm. I took it by drizzle, but I am okay with my small stake of the ever-shifting pie because it has put me in touch with interesting people I enjoy interacting with, my cadre of invisible friends (you among them).

      May I suggest a digital soapsuds enema to assist with you dump? It seldom fails to produce results in the ED…

      Fondly,

      CD

  2. Ha—almost forgot about ‘Beavis & Butthead”! Seriously, though, glad to hear that I am not the only person to “downsize” my digital life ☺️

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      Author

      Mrs. Thompson,

      Every time I feel like I am writing for an era of culture most can’t remember, you pop in with a comment to brighten my day and help me recall that there’s a small army of 1980s nostalgics who get my humor and references.

      Thanks for the gift of reducing my sense of irrelevance,

      CD

  3. Great article Crispy Doc! I totally relate to your post. I’m actually posting tomorrow on being busy ca being productive that goes in line with this.

    I never did social media before starting my blog and found the time sink it had. Now I have deleted all social medial apps and check once every day or two like you write about. What a great feeling.

    I have gone so far as to delete the email app from my phone. And currently only use 9 apps on it. What a bad use of an iPhone X. Lol.

    Love your honesty and your voice in this. I think we do need to more digital dumps for sure. Hope to meet you at the next fincon!

    1. Post
      Author

      Vi,

      Very kind of you to visit. I am always awed by young upstarts like you who charge onto the scene with such immense dedication and such efficient time management. Makes me feel like an old coot in comparison. Glad you were able to winnow down the time sink!

      Fondly,

      CD

  4. I’ll see your social media and raise you television! My life is soooo much better without TV. Never got on twitter and check about 5 blogs, yours religiously. WCI is right to some extent. The problem he ignores is the content is often crap. Content generates a normal curve in terms of “goodness” and 66% are at best below excellent aka monstrous waste of time. Personally I see WCI’s “content” as click bait and manipulation. Content is hard. Most people on the average are average so what they write is at best average like low cost index funds are at best average, so the only thing to get wound up about is minutiae, which is like getting wound up over 6bp fund cost vs 5bp fund cost or those “really horrible portfolio advisers” who charge a couple bucks for some advice. NEXT!! What I find most remarkable is people stake their futures on this click bait mythology. That notion is fascinating. I’ve started attending some local FIRE meetings and WCI’s content is a gold mine compared to what passes for retirement mythology in the real world. This is not to be critical of the people I meet in any way, They are Pilgrims on the road seeking direction, but like it says on the map “there be monsters to the east and dragons west!” There’s a song by the Band describing the aftermath of the Civil War and a couple lines:

    Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood
    And I don’t care if the money’s no good
    Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
    But they should never have taken the very best

    I hope the social media doesn’t lead us to this kind of despair. I flipped on TV for 10 minutes when I saw the DOW was down 600 points and the advice was “BUY STOCKS!” and then some mumbo jumbo about world wide recession, trade wars and impeachment. Why yes that sounds like the perfect Wiley Coyote moment time to buy stocks. The moment just after you stepped off the cliff but have yet to start the descent. I agree discernment to all media is key. Discernment and a clear understanding there is JIMO, JOY IN MISSING OUT. The more on which you miss out, the more tailored and higher quality is that which you allow to be included.

    1. Post
      Author

      Gasem,

      I’d never considered how reversion to the mean describes online content until you placed it in the proper context – now it makes perfect sense to regard it that way.

      I don’t begrudge WCI his business – he provides content that is valuable for most physician pilgrims on the road, and he is up front about his intent to profit from his efforts (a rare show of transparency). His writing is better than most, and I appreciate his perspective and grant it weight when I consider financial decisions, as I would from anyone I respect.

      I like your JIMO ideal – ahead of your time as usual, my friend. Couldn’t agree more that the less TV I watch, the happier and more productive I tend to feel. It’s a parsimony of inputs, to steal your concept, and I appreciate that paring down the weaker interests makes for a stronger and healthier organism with those that remain.

      Grateful for your presence here, and will try to be worthy of the time you invest,

      CD

      1. To be clear this is America and WCI can do what he likes and he’s quite successful. The founders of Amway, Tony Robbins, Dave Ramsey Joel Osteen and Suzi O are likewise successful marketeers. I remember when Jim Bakker founded PTL aka Pass The Loot! WCI is clear on his intent and that is refreshing. I just find it fascinating he knocks AUM advisers but pushes insurance products and reverse mortgages and “max out your pretax” with nary a thought of the downside.

        I’ve read the average DIYer makes 2% on his money based on plan implementation mistakes, and then when retirement finally arrives you get to have the government in your bed, eating an ever increasing proportion of meager bit you managed to save. Just seems wrong to me.

  5. Hey CD,

    I say No to most things. I have long ago stopped caring.

    My close friends and family already know what I’m like that so it’s all good.

    Curating a wonderful life is worth it CD.

    1. Post
      Author

      Dr. MB,

      I love your word choice – curation in the social media context denotes outward presentation which may not reflect the inner workings; curation separate from the social media context connotes intentional choices of which aspects of life should be emphasized in the living.

      Your river runs deep, my friend!

      Thanks for the support,

      CD

  6. I noticed an uptick in workplace equanimity upon deleting FB and the twittersphere from my iPhone. They are such timesucks, digital incubi that needed to be shed.

    I’ve never heard of Feedly and feel grateful for that. Another rabbit hole to avoid.

    I have checked out the FB pages of forums I’ve liked (WCI, PoF) but found them lesser, quality diluted versions of the original and haven’t visited them since.

  7. LOVE this! I am on The wait list at the library to read this book. I removed my email Contact from my blog as I was sick of getting too many emails that took up too much of my time (sorry but reading even two spam emails a week was too much for me, lol). People who want to connect with me can still track me down – it just takes more effort. Those contacts are worth responding to. People trying to advertise flowers on my blog…not so much. 😉

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks BC!

      “You must be as tall as this sign to go on this ride.”

      We should all have minimum standards requiring shows of effort in order to be our friends or take our time.

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