Switch to mobile version
Post image for The Case For Not Knowing What Time It Is

Since I started experimenting with short stretches of idleness throughout my otherwise very busy summer days, I’ve become convinced that we’d probably get more done, and enjoy our lives more, if we encountered fewer clocks.

Even without clocks, we know what part of the day we’re in—early morning, late morning, mid-afternoon—and that’s usually enough to know what we ought to be doing right now. We can set alarms for appointments easily. So why do we need the time displayed on every electronic device, at all times?

That much clockage might be more than just unnecessary. Maybe there’s such thing as being too aware of the exact hour and minute. If there is, we must be well past that point.

As I’ve hidden and disabled the clocks around me, the days seem to flow better. Without question, I’m more efficient with my time, even though I’m unsure of exactly how much of it goes where. It simply feels healthier to operate with the vague sense that it’s mid-morning than to know it’s 10:24.

Almost everyone reading this remembers living in an era where you had to make some effort to check the time. You had to look around to see which room had a clock. If you were out on the street, you had to ask someone. I can’t help but feel like back then we had a healthier relationship to time. Read More

Post image for I Have Another Blog

One of my obscure fantasies is that after you die you get a compendium of statistics and charts on how you spent your life—a complete list of dates you went on, total days spent on vacation, bedtimes and wake-up times graphed over years, that kind of thing. Pages and pages of it.

The thought excites me because of how statistics always surprise us. Each of us would be shocked by our reports. Did you really only go to your “favorite” restaurant eleven times? Did you really spend 3.1 years with a phone in your hand?

After doing some daydreaming in that vein yesterday morning, I grabbed my Casio and calculated that I’ve been writing for Raptitude for 23 per cent of my life. I couldn’t believe it. A quarter of my time on this earth.

In that eight and a half years, writing has become a huge part of my identity. It is now my work, my creative outlet, and a major channel of connection with other people. You could say it’s been my primary contribution to our species, whatever that says about me.  Read More

Post image for The Long Lost Thrill of Doing Nothing

Many text messages between my friends and me take roughly this form: “Are you busy tomorrow? We should do something.”

That something often isn’t defined at the time. But when we arrive in each other’s physical presence, after we’ve caught up, eventually one of us has to ask: “So… what do you wanna do?”

Then we have to decide. We could for a walk, go eat, play a board game, check out what’s happening in the city, just chat, or something else.

One of my friends—and only one—sometimes throws me a curveball here, and suggests that we don’t do anything, at least not yet. We can just lounge here in the living room. Or not quite lounge, but just relax and do nothing.

I’m struggling to pick a verb for it. “Laze” and “lounge” both have moral connotations, as do “chill” or “veg.” “Hang out” is too general, and could mean switching on the TV, opening a bottle of something, or catching up.

I’m talking about just being in the room and not doing anything in particular, usually while reclining your body in some way, with no regard for the time and no idea of what to do next. Real idleness.  Read More

Post image for When You Can’t Stop Looking Ahead, Look Backwards

There’s a particular emotion we all know, but I don’t think it has a name. It’s the distinct, perplexing feeling of remembering the first hours after waking up, and finding it unbelievable that that happened today.

It’s most obvious late in an eventful day, particularly if you woke up unusually early. Usually it’s a “big day” in some sense, with a lot at stake—an exam, a wedding, an early flight, a presentation.

You’ve probably felt it while traveling, especially on the first day of a trip, when you made an early departure, arrived in a new city by afternoon, and then started sightseeing before dinner. By bedtime, the memory of waking at dawn and loading the car, back in your own driveway, in your home city, seems so distant to the present moment that it couldn’t have been today.

Read More

Post image for The Cost of a Free Lunch

Last Summer, out of morbid curiosity, my friend Hélène and I attended a motivational seminar at our local convention center. She had obtained free tickets by clicking, against every fibre of her being, on a gaudy Facebook ad.

Hélène is, among other things, a reformed workaholic and rat-race escapee, who now writes about living life strictly on your own terms. With a background in marketing, she was curious where such a smarmy ad might ultimately lead those who click on it—and who those clickers are.

Both of those questions were answered for us, during the terrible and fascinating experience that followed a few weeks later.

There’s something to be said for inserting yourself into an environment that all of your natural impulses would have you avoid. You learn so much when you’re outside your normal channels. The experience was a gold mine of insights for people like Hélène and me, who chronicle the human condition professionally.  Read More

Post image for Wise People Have Rules For Themselves

Every time I post a new behavioral experiment, or share a personal resolution of some kind, I get a few emails telling me not to be so strict with myself.

They always say something like “It’s not good to be so hard on yourself!” or “We shouldn’t be forcing ourselves to do things!”

This is a common thing to hear in our improvement-focused culture. I used to think it was a reasonable caution, but now I think it’s generally bad advice.

It seems well-meaning in most cases—people sometimes do go overboard with exercise, frugality, and personal efficiency. But I think it’s much more common for people to go under-board in some or all of those areas, and you can bet the person giving you a hard time is one of them.

We often hear about the importance of “balance” in our self-improvement efforts. But what exactly are we balancing? Good behaviors and bad ones? Are we looking for lives that are equal parts wisdom and recklessness?

Can you imagine someone saying “I don’t think we should force ourselves to brush our teeth every day. You have to live a little!”

You might have noticed a pattern in the most successful people around you. Wherever they excel, they tend to have personal rules that they take very seriously.  Read More

pink donut

The Main Street strip in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, is a mile-long stretch offering every sense pleasure you could think of. Craft beer. Sushi. Third-wave coffee. Trendy clothes. Pizza and burgers. Ergonomic furniture. Artisanal ice cream.

Last month, on my first night back in civilization after a seven-day silent retreat, I spent most of the evening slowly walking that strip.

Still hyper-aware and hyper-patient from the retreat, I kept noticing something my mind usually only does in the background. Maybe fifteen or twenty separate times, I noticed myself getting really excited about acquiring something—a slice of pizza, a book, a dessert, a coffee—and then I noticed that feeling dissipate.

Each of these cravings came and went in turn, and the experience was the same every time. There were five or ten seconds of really intense wanting—Yes! That! I could have that! Then there was a minute or so of lingering enthusiasm, maybe some money-related rationalization about acquiring the tweed-faced notebook or blueberry-lavender ice cream in question.

But if I just kept walking past the storefront, the feeling ran out of steam very quickly. Five minutes later, I could remember it, but the emotional pull was all but gone.

Desires begin vanishing as soon as they arrive, yet our responses to them can have far reaching consequences. What we tend to do during those pivotal seconds can make all the difference between good health or poor health, retiring at 40 or at 70, and being generally happy or generally miserable.  Read More

Post image for The Alternative to Thinking All the Time

One evening last week, I was sitting on my front stoop waiting for a friend to come over. I brought a book out with me, but instead of reading I just sat there and let my senses take in the scene.

I didn’t look or listen for anything in particular, I just let the details of this particular moment in the neighborhood come to me: the quality of the air—heavy and warm, the incoming summer storm kind; birds; two couples having a conversation down the sidewalk; the clinking of dishes coming from inside the house to my right; distant hammering from a construction site somewhere in the blocks behind my house.

There was also a scent that I only recently learned has a name: petrichor. It’s the earthy scent of rain having just fallen on soil after a dry spell. You definitely know it. It was a big part of the overall flavor of the scene.

I engage this kind of receptive awareness often, particularly when I’m waiting for someone, and there’s something very satisfying about it. Every scene in our lives—whatever’s unfolding at any given time in a front yard, a living room, a doctor’s office, a grocery store—has its own unique tone and emotional signature, which you can notice if you’re not talking in your head, which we usually are.  Read More

Post image for Where Personal Breakthroughs Really Come From

This article isn’t ultimately about money, but it does include a simple technique I can almost guarantee will save you tens of thousands of dollars, years of needless toil, and relieve you of an enormous amount of financial stress.

If you do this one thing, you’ll have a lot more money and a lot less worry, without any concerted efforts to earn more or restrict your spending. Probably the only way it won’t change your life is if you’re already doing it.

It isn’t difficult and it requires no new skills, only a few minutes here and there, and perhaps a daily alarm, or a strategically placed sticky-note, to remind you to do it.

Here it is: you ledger your income and expenses. Any money that enters or leaves your possession, you track in a spreadsheet or ledger by category. Then look at the totals at the end of the month. As a failsafe, sit down once a week for twenty minutes to make double-sure you did it.

That’s the entire commitment—just tracking the income and out-go. You’re free to buy whatever you want, as long as you track it. Go order $85 worth of tapas and wine, just make sure you ledger it. Go get a $350 handbag if you like, as long as you’re willing to type that “$350.00” into the “Clothing and accessories” column later that night.

Without any budgeting or self-imposed restrictions, you’ll automatically make far better use of your money, at least doubling or tripling the efficiency of your discretionary spending. You’ll gain a sense of control over your financial life and experience far less money anxiety, all without any conscious effort to spend less or make more.

It works because it’s impossible to be aware of the actual numbers behind your behavior without your priorities changing. It becomes easy to see where you’re getting value and where you’re not. A natural aversion to wastefulness emerges in your daily behaviors, with no self-scolding necessary.

In other words, the things that tempt you towards trouble become considerably less tempting, and that’s the vital point here—tracking your behavior, without striving to change it, gently reduces the amount of willpower and self-scolding required to do the right thing.  Read More

Post image for Want More Time? Get Rid of The Easiest Way to Spend It

For the month of May I time-traveled back to 2007, when social media platforms were still just websites you visited. I removed Facebook, Twitter and Reddit from my phone. Throughout the month, if I wanted to use those platforms I had to log in manually at my desk.

This decision came after experiencing a through-the-looking-glass moment while listening to an interview with Tristan Harris, former “design ethicist” at Google. I had always known it was easy to waste time on social media, but I hadn’t quite understood how engineered our social media habits are.

The big services are designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities, particularly our need for frequent signals of approval from others: thumbs-up, gold stars and hearts. These small hits of pleasure are enough to keep us checking in early and often, so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. That is the business model. (More here: How Billionaires Stole My Mind

I didn’t want to quit outright, as many people have. I just wanted to get away from the ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. I didn’t want them in my pocket. I didn’t want to find myself swiping through them without having decided to. I wanted them to return to what they used to be: fun websites you may or may not visit on a given day.  Read More

Desktop version

Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.