I finished my last meeting at 5:30 p.m. I closed my laptop and rubbed my dry eyes. I had spent the majority of my day staring at spreadsheets, with miscellaneous calls sprinkled throughout, and any free time I had was spent replying to urgent client requests.
I walked over to my couch and lay down. On the coffee table beside me was a book I had purchased a few days prior: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I wanted to take a nap or mindlessly scroll through Instagram; my brain felt worn out, and it was raining outside, which added to my general tiredness.
Despite the environment being perfect for rest or browsing social media, my better, disciplined self decided to shut my phone off and pick up the book. It had been a while since I picked up a physical book.
As the air conditioner hummed and rain tapped on the nearby window, I flipped to page one. Soon it was pages two, three, four.
An hour had passed—and I was well into Pressfield’s explanations about Resistance, that nefarious force that causes creative people to stray from creating—when I put the book down. I was so calm. Disconnected from the world, I didn’t feel rushed to do anything.
My obligations were finished for the day. I didn’t need to do anything other than lie there, the book in my hands, appreciating the moment for what it was: solitary and peaceful. I was then struck by a thought, “Why don’t I do this more often?”
An hour before, I had three paths in front of me: rest, be mindless, or learn something new. I chose the third path, and Pressfield reminded me how much I missed reading and writing without expectation.
What added to the ambiance was having my phone turned off. There was nothing distracting me—no pings or dings from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, newsletters, emails, and text messages.
I hadn’t experienced this type of complete concentration since I was in my early twenties, a period when I had no social media at all. I remember people’s shocked faces when they would ask for my Instagram handle and I’d reply that “I didn’t have an Instagram.”
I miss those days.
I know this whole insight may sound silly to some of you. But you have to understand that there was a time when I had a pretty monastic way of living. At one point, my life consisted of nothing more than working, writing, reading, learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and studying for school. I experienced a good amount of self-growth during this time because I didn’t have the constant distractions that bombard our screens every minute.
I was so focused during this period that, beyond my daily responsibilities, I wrote a sixty-thousand-word novel. I never published it, but the experience was great, and it taught me about storytelling and writing.
I spent my early twenties either training or creating, and the lessons I learned during this time became the foundation I built my career on. Yet, though I still follow a diluted version of that lifestyle, I’ve realized that my growth spurts these recent years haven’t been as high as when I was experiencing the full, concentrated version of living a disciplined life.
I've realized that to have another surge in my personal development, I need to return to the initial actions that I was doing to receive it: focused working, writing, reading, training, and studying.
Beginning today (August 6, 2021), I’ve decided to do a thirty-one-day detox from social media. The rules are simple: I can’t use social media for thirty-one days. The only exception to this rule is that I can use YouTube for educational purposes, e.g., researching a topic or learning how to do something. However, beyond this exception, I deleted the top time-wasting apps from my phone such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn.
I’m going to see what I experience—and create—during this time. I'll write a follow-up article on any lessons learned. I’ve known for a while that I’ve needed to do a reset like this, especially after reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work, a book about the importance of prolonged periods of concentrated work to create favorable outcomes in the form of products or increased knowledge.
After experiencing how much value I got from the simple moment that started this article (reading a book on a rainy evening with my phone turned off), I realized that it was time to begin a social media detox.
Motivation is a myth.