Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Being More Effective - Understand that Youtube videos are short, until you watch 50 of them

In the last 25 years, maybe longer, I can count the number of months I've lived in a house with a Television. I lived with Nic at 901 Sherman, in Denver, between September 1996 and December 1997. I was there during the school year, three semesters worth. During the summers, I worked in the country far away. Nic was a TV head. He had that thing on much of the time he was at home. He turned it off during meals, which was something I was greatly appreciative for during our dinners together.

And there was a three or four month period in 2006, also a roommate situation, where a TV was in my house. This particular roommate worked in the television industry, so the fact that the TV was on all the time was almost permissible.

When I tell people that there is no TV in our house, I am almost without fail, envied. It has become a point of pride for me and my wife that we are raising our son without the TV. We do not watch reality TV, sports or political debates. In short, we are not subjected to mind-numbing entertainment augmented by commercials for pills, processed food and new cars. In a way, we are lucky.

As an aside here, when I get involved with conversations about what I do, writing, film, etc., I am always asked: “Where do you find the time?” or “I can't imagine having the time to do all of that.” To which I answer, “If you have a TV, you have the time.” Now, here, 2017, I only partially believe that statement.

I may not have a TV, but I have a computer. I'm staring into its screen right now. I also have the Internet piped into my home, and I'll be staring into it too. I'm immune from the Smartphone, but I know that it's only a matter of time before I catch that disease like so many of my fellows. I do have a screen. It's a necessary part of life and an unfortunate part of the life of a writer. After all, I keep this blog, I have a magazine and I'm submitting as much work as I can to other magazines. Then there is the LinkedIn, Facebook and all that goes with it. All part of a life, I guess.

Then there is Youtube. I love Youtube. I have watched tutorials from how to translate Swahili to growing hydroponic chili peppers in to-go containers. I have watched old movies, music videos and countless episodes of The Twilight Zone—the 1960s version, the 1980s reload and the 2000s incarnation. I'm hooked on Youtube.

I find that Youtube as well as just about everything on the Internet is good, if taken in small doses. It's like the poison you take in small amounts everyday so that when the real dose comes, you can live through it. I'm not suggesting that videos and Wiki articles are poison, but I do think they're good in small doses.

About this time last month, the time I decided to be more effective, I was binge watching Youtube. A binge for me is maybe two hours on nights off and maybe 30 minutes on work nights two or three times a week. As I add it up, I watch less Internet videos in a week than most people watch TV any given evening. For me, however, I found it was still too much.

When I talk about being more effective as a writer, I think it's not so much the desire, and it isn't even so much the discipline. I think there are a great many writers who have the desire to write. I think there are a great many writers out there who have the discipline. What I'm discovering now after thinking about it for some time is that many writers lack effectiveness. I'm no different. I am, however, becoming more effective.

Feeling addicted to Youtube (or Amazon, or Netflix, or whatever) is not a good feeling. For me, it was a specific time of day when I started to zone out to videos. That specific time of day is late night when I'm tired, trying to stay quiet while the family sleeps. So, here's what I decided to do: I decided to use my Youtube hours to do low energy activities. These low energy activities I would consider the more humdrum things a writer should do like research possible markets, network with other writers, and read articles to further professional development. In short, during those late night hours, there are many small tasks that can be done. I find I'm just as tired after a 22 minute 1980s Twilight Zone episode as I am after reading an article on how-to write a better third person BIO.

Effectiveness is an interesting thought. I save my writing, revising and editing for my alert hours. It sure would be a shame to spend those alert hours mindlessly staring into a video. It's also a bit of a shame to spend the alert hours updating my LinkedIn profile or reading trade secrets articles, right?

Shun Youtube forever? Good heavens, no. But always remember a single Youtube video, even a 22 minute Twilight Zone episode is not harmful. All 50 episodes of it in one shot, or nonstop, is worse than harmful, for a writer, it's fatal.

Next time:

The conclusion: Break everything up in small easily attainable tasks

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