Determine How to Spend Time With One Question

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There have never been more ways to spend your time. Even if you have chosen to sit on your duff and watch a screen, the choices are endless.

Do you want to watch Netflix? Hulu? HBO? It seems like we’ll never scratch the surface of even figuring out what show to watch next. 

And that’s just watching TV. If you want to listen to music, read a book, take a class, cook a meal, or anything else—the options aren’t virtually endless, they’re genuinely endless in the span of a single human lifetime. It feels like we’re on a crusade against the word “boredom”—committed to ending its use.

So, how do we determine how to spend our time? 

I had been experiencing this dilemma lately. It would start with something mindless—a YouTube binge, a meme-scroll session, or something else. Then, after a while, my default mode network would flicker slightly and I’d “wake up” to the recurring question:

Is this is what I should be doing? Is this how I should be spending my time?

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with the occasional mindless escape into the world of entertainment with low nutritional value. But like consuming loads of empty calories, I never found myself feeling especially glad that I had done so. 

That’s when I asked myself a question that has become an immensely useful litmus test for gauging whether or not I should doing something: 

How will this activity make me feel after I’ve done it? Will I be glad that I did that? 

I’ve come to personally refer to this sensational-gauge as the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test.

One of the first times I put this litmus test for time consumption to work was while getting back into reading great stories. I’ve been on a John Grisham kick—reading A Time to Kill, Sycamore Row, A Time For Mercy, The Innocent Man, and The Rainmaker all within about the span of two or three months. I not only thoroughly enjoyed the stories but also just the act of reading. 

Setting my phone in the next room and arming myself with my Kindle Paperwhite connected to my public library account, reading became effortless. I turned off all page indicators so I had no idea how far I had left to go. Hours would fly by as I got lost in the texts. I would usually only stop when life’s other obligations would arise or when my reading would take me into the night and I found myself nodding off in the early morning hours.

Usually, when I’d binge a show or fall down an hours-long YouTube wormhole, I would come out the other side exhausted—beat, but with my mind still racing. However, every time I’d close my Kindle after a hearty reading session, I would feel refreshed—almost rested. There would be a genuine feeling of whew—that was great. I’m glad I did that.

Soon after realizing this difference, I became cognizant to gauge how certain activities made me feel—what I call the “subsequent tone” of an event or activity.  The following are a few experiments and their outcomes. 

Music Production

As a musician and a huge fan of the subgenre of Reggae known as “Dub,” within the past few months, I decided to try my hand at producing some Dub recordings of my own. Like reading, I found myself immersing myself in the process of piecing together drum sounds, recording bass lines, experimenting with chord progressions on my midi keyboard, and finding the perfect melodica melodies to tie up every “riddim” like a bow. Once I had recorded all of the instruments, I’d spend hours tweaking the recordings, effects, and molding them to my liking on my dinky laptop. 

I proudly released two of those recordings as singles—accessible to most streaming platforms. You can find them on the platform of your choice on my music page

As I completed the tracks and uploaded them for distribution, never once did I feel like I was wasting my time. Even after exhaustedly re-recording a bassline at 2 AM because the intonation on my bass guitar was off on the original recording, I felt the same sensations—man, I’m glad that I did that. Though I could barely keep my eyes open, I felt full of life. 

Journaling

Rarely do I ever start a journaling session because I have a craving to scribble my thoughts onto a page. I usually do so because I feel like I have so many things on my mind that my own lack of clarity is starting to weigh me down. However, by the time I’ve laid out all of the “paperwork” of my mind onto the table of the page, I can begin to see what I can fix, what I should ignore, and what is holding me back. I start sketching out plans, goals, aspirations, and fixes. Then, closing my journal, I’m hit with the wave of man, I’m glad I did that

Exercise

Rarely do I leave my house in the morning anxious to break a sweat. Whether I’m going out to my deck to jump rope or to walk or run laps around the nearby park, my soft bed still calls out to me. However, after my body has warmed up, my pulse increases, and I hit my stride, I start to feel alive. Heading back inside my house with a sweat-soaked beard and clothes sticking to me, I feel great. The rest of the day seems to go easier because I got my increased pulse and sweat to blow out the morning’s cobwebs. 

Prayer

Like journaling and exercise, I rarely initiate my prayers pumped to be there. It can be an immense slog that requires many mindset and liturgical shifts before finding a groove. In Judaism, we have a concept referred to as “kavannah” — which most translate as “intention” but I prefer Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser’s translation, which I’ve heard is actually more accurate — “alignment.” The moments leading up to my moments of kavannah—my spiritual alignment with my Creator—can feel like a dial-up modem circa 1998 trying to log on to the internet. Like that dial-up modem, there is a lot of internal static, whirling, and sharp creaking—spiritual turbulence that accompanies such ascension. But like flying above the turbulence, there is a moment of soaring above the clouds where the connection is made.

When I have moments of immense kavannah, while it doesn’t feel like I can hear the voice of a Higher Power, it does feel as though Someone has picked up the receiver. Paraphrasing a quote from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l —“This call is being monitored for quality purposes.” 

As much as I may have to wrestle to get myself to get into a place of spiritual alignment, I always walk away from prayer with the feeling in my bones of, “I’m glad I did that.” 

Social Media

Though I stopped using about 97% of all social media years before officially using the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test as a decision-making tool, similar feelings resulted in me deleting my accounts. I can’t think of many if any instances in which I would conclude a social media scrolling session and feel better for having partaken in the social media experience. 

Applying the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test to Activities 

If you’re struggling to determine how you should be spending your limited time on this planet, I would urge you to apply this test to your own actions: after completing an activity, do you feel better having participated in that activity? 

Do you feel elevated or deflated?

Do you feel inspired or simply tired?

Do you feel fulfilled or drained?

Applying the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test to Life

Activities aren’t the only area of life where the Subsequent Tone Litmus Test can be applied. You can also use this test to determine other decisions—career choices, people, what foods to eat, and the like.

Sometimes, making a life-changing decision simply means asking yourself — Is this going to make me feel better or worse when it’s all over?


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My Favorite Place in the House to Start My Day

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“Win the morning, win the day.” – Tim Ferriss

Most of you who read this blog have likely noticed how much of a believer I am in developing morning routines—habitually performed rituals that give us the momentum we need to make the most of the rest of our day. While a good morning routine doesn’t guarantee a successful day, it gives you a fighting chance. 

With that said, my morning routines have been fairly erratic throughout this pandemic. Don’t get me wrong—they’re productive, yes. But set? Far from it. I have, however, found an unlikely activity that I will likely keep in my morning repertoire. Well, maybe more of a place than an activity. 

Step 1. I get up from bed. I use the bathroom. Feed the cat. Drink a pint of water. 

Step 2. I walk into my living room…and collapse to the floor. 

Yep. The floor. I really enjoy laying, sitting, rolling around…on the cold hard floor. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #1: It’s relentlessly soothing (or “soothingly” relentless?) 

The floor is…well, hard. Unforgiving. But you can lay on it. This combination of solid yet accommodating makes my thin area-rug-covered hardwood floor one of my favorite places to stretch out upon first thing in the morning. 

Not yet caffeinated or exercised, I’m not ready to do many activities that demand mental acuity or physical agility. My natural state is to want to return to the warm embrace of my memory foam mattress. However, sprawling out on the hard floor begins to awaken my joints and muscles without really any conscious effort. And the first thing in the morning, I’m looking for maximum output with minimum input. 

Rocking around on the floor feels like someone rolling a rolling pin up and down the back of your body. While that sounds painful, and it kind of is, it can also feel oh so good.

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #2: It’s stretching for soft, lazy people. 

In order to change positions on the hard floor feels like a natural movement while utilizing muscles you forgot you have. 

We spend most of our days in office chairs, supportive seats in a car, on sofas, and finally—big hyper-cushioned beds for hours and hours. All of these apparatuses are aimed at providing comfort. They do this by limiting certain body movements and our need to support parts of our body. They also cushion our kiesters and limit potential instances of circulation cut-offs in certain parts of the body—especially in the legs and feet. 

Though these adversity buffers can feel quite nice following a day of arduous labor, few of us break a sweat outside of a gym these days—if then. When this is the case, what were once devices for relief have become sloth enablers. If you are what you sit on, we’ve become a soft, doughy people. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #3: If you’re able to be comfortable sitting or laying on the floor, you can find comfort virtually anywhere.

I’ll be the first to admit that sitting and laying on the floor when you’re not used to doing so straight up suuuucks. It’s rigid, uncomfortable, and reveals just how tender and weak you have become as a human. If you’ve ever been forced to sleep or sit on the floor, you can attest to feeling like you should expect to find bruising under your tuchus, back, shoulders, and legs. 

After a while, however, you get used to it. You begin to understand how cultures all over the world have come to sit comfortably on the floor well into their old age. After even longer, you find yourself alternating between your $900 couch and enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine while sitting on the floor—just depending on the day. 

The greatest part of this last point is that getting used to sitting on the floor opens up a world of comfortable seating options to you wherever you are. Are all of the seats at the airport terminal taken? Are there more friends over to watch the big game than there are spots on your friend’s couch. Boom—the floor is yours, pun definitely intended. 

Now, you’ll just have to convince the host of the party that, yes, you really are quite ok with sitting on the floor without seeming like a crazy person. 

Why I Like the Sitting or Laying on Floor in the Morning #4: Increasing your ability to get up off the floor may actually help you live longer…kind of.

The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology published a story about a team of Brazilian researchers who studied a group of men and women ages 51 to 80 years old for a number of years. One of their findings revealed an interesting discovery—those who required the use of both of their hands and knees to get up and down from the floor were nearly seven times more likely to die within six years than those who get up from the floor without additional support. 

Now, will spending time on the floor increase you ability to get up from it and thus extend your functional life? I don’t know. I do know that it will certainly give you more practice. 

Bonus: The Back Stretch I Do Every Morning on the Floor

I can’t say that this on-the-floor back stretch is the reason I don’t have any back pain, but I do it every morning and, yep, I don’t have any back pain. 

  • Lay on your back on the floor.
  • With your right arm reaching over your body and rolling onto your left shoulder, reach as far and high to the left as you can. 
  • Then change sides.
  • With your left arm reaching over your body and rolling onto your right shoulder, reach as far and high to the right as you can. 

Another bonus is a quote from my wife—who is also an advocate for spending more time on the floor. I told her that I was writing a piece on spending time on the floor in the mornings. I asked if she had any input. 

“Your day can only go up from there!”


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