Productive Solitary Confinement

Much emphasis is put on things we shouldn’t do throughout our days.  Don’t watch TV.  Don’t mindlessly scroll through Instagram.  Don’t eat fast food.  Don’t watch cat videos.  Don’t check your email every ten minutes.

We have to say no to so many things because we live in a world of endless possibilities.  Our possibilities are greater than our ancestors with the advent of technology.  At this very moment I could decide to call a friend, online shop for things I don’t need,  or spend the next hour on Instagram.

On a daily basis we are bombarded with things we shouldn’t do.  We must draw the line between what we feel like doing and what we should be doing.  The question is: how does one create an environment to do only those things he or she should do?  Let’s turn to a bizarre hypothetical to figure this out.

Bizarre Hypothetical

Imagine a scenario in which you are sentenced to solitary confinement for 24 hours.  The sentencer (in the goodness of the system) explains you can leave after four hours of confinement under one condition: you do only things that are a good use of your time.  Before entering confinement, you’re allowed to bring personal items to pass the time.

If you can bring whatever you want but can only do things things worth your time, what do you bring?  First think about all the productive things you should do.  Perhaps you should exercise, read, and update your resume.  In that case all you’d need to bring is weights, a book, and a laptop.  Anything that could tempt you to waste time should be left behind (or the WiFi should be turned off).

Imagine for the next four hours doing only those three things.  You could get a nice burning workout, read well over 100 pages of your book (even if you’re a slow reader), and update your latest job description to your resume.  Not too shabby.

Normal World Application

Let’s be real, the idea of a productive solitary confinement is extremely far fetched.  The purpose of this exercise is to realize what’s possible when one eliminates the possibility of doing things not worth their time.

Though you may never be locked up in solitary confinement, there are instances in which we experience periods of confinement.  Perhaps you’re home alone on a rainy day.  Maybe your socials plans fell through and you have an entire evening to yourself.  If you’ve been on a long plane flight you know the feeling of being confined to the same seat for an indefinite period of time.

What if in these instances you made the commitment to do only things that should be done?  This is possible through a few simple steps:

  1. Identify moments of confinement (or simulate solitary moments for yourself)
  2. Decide what you should do
  3. Do only those things

We take these steps to rise above the plethora of options that makes us prisoners in our own lives.  With a lack of discipline, we fall prey to the time sucks of life. Therefore it’s in our moments of freedom we must limit our options.  Limiting options enables us to do only what we should be doing and eliminate the rest.  Instead of facing a block of time and chastising Instagram or Netflix, empower yourself to focus on the right things and pursue them to the fullest.


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