Busy time of year, yeah? Probably feel inundated on all sides with either of doom and gloom and consume and…damn, can’t think of another rhyme so let’s go with “holiday cheer.”
The practice I’m going to recommend today is an easy and quick fix and it is guaranteed to make your holiday season more relaxed and enjoyable. It has to do with the deluge of newsletters and ads and “special offers” that you’re going to get this year.
Now, in full disclosure: I use newsletters in my business a lot. There’s even one for Love Life Practice, and I’d love it if you subscribed. But one of the things I’m very aware of, as a business person, is CAN-SPAM.
Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand.
And within that lovely little law is the key to increasing your calm this holiday season. Now, “clear and conspicuous” has some pretty weird interpretations, usually involving really tiny fonts down at the bottom of the email and sometimes some tricksy wording (“Click on this button if you want to not unsubscribe from future fantastic emails”). Think of it as a little mini-quest in a video game – you, the hero, must solve the puzzle to free you from future emails!
Unsubscribe from everything!
Why Would I Want to Do This?
There’s more than a few reasons to do this mini-purge, especially this time of year. But let’s start out with a simple fact: if it turns out you miss a particular kind of mailing, you can always re-subscribe.
But meanwhile, especially at a stressful time of year, there are a lot of upsides to clicking that “unsubscribe” button automatically:
- Time: Each email, even if you skip it, takes time to notice, click on “delete”, etc. Maybe it’s less than a second…but the seconds add up, and imagine what a full minute of calm added to your day might feel like.
- Decision Fatigue: The jury’s still out on this, but let’s stipulate that willpower is finite. No matter how fast you hit the “delete” button, you’ve had to decide to do it. That’s one iota less of willpower left to you for more important decisions like “should I eat this bowl of ice cream?
- FOMO: I do some work in marketing, and I can tell you that the objective of a lot of newsletter ads is to deliberately make you feel like you are missing out on something by not consuming whatever product is being marketed. Whether it’s gentle or overt, it’s basically a guilt trip – and that’s something you don’t really need this time of year.
- Shoulds: Related to FOMO, the fact is that not all newsletters are about selling something. I love Steven Pressfield’s What It Takes newsletter, for example, which is chock-full of great advice for writing novels. Except that right now I’m not trying to write a novel – I have a whole lot of other projects that need my attention. So when I get that newsletter, along with the good advice I get a hefty helping of Remember, you were gonna write another novel? When are you going to do that, Gray? You’re not a real writer, are you? You really should make more time to write. Maybe I’m the only person who hears that kind of voice, but I doubt it.
Here’s the thing: in this digital age we’ve constructed this narrative that if we don’t get constant reminders of things we will miss them, fall into a morass of lazy self-indulgent non-productivity that will result in obesity, locusts, and the decline of Western civilization.
The reality, as it turns out, is that those three things, much like almost everything else, is going to happen (or not) regardless of whether we are reminded of it.
But there’s one more way to apply this idea of via negativa practice that can help the Holiday Stress.
Is This Helping You?
A very good friend and fellow self-improvement enthusiast posited this challenge to me: Is there a way you can change your social media intake so that it is a more constructive force in your life? It’s a great question; for some people (like me) just getting off of these networks entirely is not an option, for either social or business reasons.
I don’t have the complete answer to her question yet. However, I have found that applying that “unsubscribe” button, along with another friend’s decluttering method of “one in, three out”, works pretty well. Here’s the first part of the heuristic:
- Be aware of feelings as you’re looking at twitter or Facebook, and watch for moments that cause you stress – that make you angry, or (worse) make you start typing a time-and-willpower-consuming response.
- Click “unfollow” on that account. Remember, you can always refollow them later if you feel that you’re missing something. But for now, try shutting out the voices – wherever they come from – that are diminishing your calm.
Then there’s the opposite side of this:
- As you’re looking at various feeds, if you see something that makes you laugh, smile, or gives you the urge to share with someone else because it might make them happy (that’s an important part), then follow that account. Even if it’s as ridiculous as TextFromDog, if it is a positive, follow them! Remember you can always unfollow them later.
- Now that you’ve brought one in, it’s time for the three out. Go through the list of people/accounts you follow, and pick out three to unfollow. DO IT. No changing your mind and “unfollowing” that cute account from #1. Too late! You have to pick out three to unfollow, and guess what? They’ll likely be the ones that are negative, or that you didn’t really need to follow anyway.
There you go. Social media practices that will give you more time and willpower, and at the same time enhance your calm during the holiday season. Give it a try!
Good luck, and happy winter to you!
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