When my girls were young, we had piles, then stacks, then boxes full of tapes. Audiotapes and videotapes, by that time the ubiquitous VHS format tapes that required parents to learn to master their VCRs, even knowing how to set the time and the timers on the infernal machines. Yes, there were piles, and more piles, and even more piles of Disney tapes, beloved and classic movies and musicals, and later the newer crop of Disney creations which has morphed now into Pixar animations. It seems to me that we bought them all, some of them more than once, because we would wear them out. We had our favorites. I think that I have been told that I loved Little Mermaid the best, but I also liked Lion King, Cinderella, and others. Which brings me to the point of this post.
How, in today’s modern digital world, does one possibly pick out what to listen to, what to watch, what to read, and what to learn from? How does one figure out where to go to dinner tonight, where to shop, and which vacation spot to book?
At our fingertips and via the machines on our desks, laps, and in our pockets, we now have access to millions of songs, videos, books, blogs, essays, newspapers, magazines, online courses, chats, messages, TV shows, and movies. There are thousands of reviews of everything from standing desks to barbecue to scotch whiskey to motorcycle helmets. Pundits and podcasters want to have our ear (as do their sponsors, of course) for thirty minutes to over two hours, just to convince us, educate us, or entertain us.
Speaking of sponsors, we are still very much in a marketing driven economy. The message is clear. Whether it’s buying, listening, reading,traveling, or doing, the answer is always MORE.
Buy more. Rent more. Stream more. Listen to more. Watch more. Read more. Browse more. Click more.
The reality for most of us?
The one thing that we have a finite amount of, that we cannot truly create more of, that we must manage and use wisely, is time.
When I look at my ideal day, one that I strive for even though I don’t always hit the mark, it breaks down like this:
Sleep: 7 hours
Meals: 1.5 hours
Work: 8 hours
Travel: 1 hour
Exercise: 1.5 hours
Personal hygiene: 1 hour
This adds up to 20 hours in my 24 hour day that are pretty much allotted to things that I think are important enough to carve out a place in my day for them. Almost every day.
This leaves four hours, just four short hours a day, to do anything else that I think is important.
This might include worship, conversation, developing or maintaining relationships, learning new hobbies or activities or skills, spending quality time with those closest to me, making phone calls, meditating, or just sitting and watching a sunset.
We only have so many hours in the day, and like it or not, very few of those are open for us to manage as we wish in most cases. So what to do we do? Three things.
I am getting married in November. I have been living by myself for almost four years now, and I have a pretty routine schedule that I follow, within the the framework I shared above. I have a feeling that come the end of November, when I have a band of gold on the fourth finger of my left hand, that my priories and how I choose to use my expendable time might change just a little! This will be a good thing, in that my beloved will be one of my most treasured relationships, I’ll choose to spend time with her, and I will want my day to reflect that commitment to her. Will I stop going to the gym or listening to podcasts? Absolutely not, but the time I spend, the time of day that I do these activities, and what comes first will change. I will prioritize these activities to reflect what (and who) is most important to me.
We must pick what we do, where we go, where we eat dinner out, and what movie we see. As I mentioned above, we have literally millions of choices. It’s overwhelming! We must learn to choose what we feel is best for us. How? read on.
Once we have prioritized and made our choices, we must follow through. We must stick to our guns and execute. There will always be something shiny that comes along that will tempt us away from what we thought was an ironclad schedule or a training regimen that could not fail. We must be strong and resist it, and keep to our well thought out choices. Otherwise, we will be hopelessly spinning like tops, trying to respond to marketing messages, requests from work and family and the lure of the exotic, new and exciting.
But wait, how do we cut through the cacophony? How do we blot our the trivial, the mundane, the boring, the too-expensive, the time-sucks? Nowadays, our problem is that too many people want to do the curating for us, instead of letting us decide for ourselves. It is easier to be lead than to evaluate and choose. How did we do it before, in the days of Disney VHS tapes and plush toys and Pet Rocks?
We listened to people that we lived with, spent time with, shared interests with and respected. In short, we got personal references for things, activities, and products that we thought might be right for us.
We focused on the bang for the buck in those days. If we could buy one Disney VHS tape that cost, say, $20, but we knew that it would be played in our home at least a hundred times, that was worth it. What you learned from, what you craved, what you loved, drove your experiences. Now, we crowd source everything, follow the hoards out into the street to play Pokemon Go just because is the biggest thing of the moment and that is what we are supposed to do. (No, I have not, and never will, download that app!) We run headlong from one fabulous experience to the next, not thinking about how this will affect us, if we will truly love it, and if it will make lifetime memories for us.
When Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPod, arguably the most beloved music player ever invented, one of the catch phrases that he used was that now we could have ” a thousand songs in our pocket”. This was unheard of. It was fantastic, fabulous, ingenious and music to people’s ears. Literally.
Now, in 2016, we can have millions of songs in our pocket, on at least three or four different music streaming services. We don’t even have to own them or buy them.
We can access millions of books, including the classics, on reading devices no bigger than the old paperbacks that we all used to carry around when we read one story at a time.
We can think, out loud into a tiny remote control device, about a movie that we once watched and would like to see again (Little Mermaid comes to mind) , and fifteen seconds later it is playing on our flatscreen television in gorgeous high definition, 4K color.
Now, those of you who read me know that I love my technology. Of that there is no doubt. But I challenge you to think about this.
Does it really help to have a thousand, or ten million, songs in your pocket, if none of them are good? If they don’t move you to tears or make you shout for joy or make you play them over and over again because the artist just gets you?
Isn’t it better to have talked about that Beatles album with an old friend or remember the time that you first watched Jaws in the theater or the first time that you were scared out of your ever living mind by a Stephen King novel?
Isn’t it that much sweeter to have found that song or that book or that movie through someone who knows you and cares about you and shares space in your head, good space, good memories of really good stuff that is worth four hours per day?
Let me know what you think.