Part of series: Year of Lents

A First Quarter of Lents


~900 words


Last modified: April 5th, 12,022 HE

Three months in to my self-harm with extra steps perfectly normal series of deprivation challenges, and things are proving to be much easier than planned. That said, each of these challenges did see a handful of lapses, but ones that I have been willing to excuse as not significantly impacting on the spirit, or objective, of each challenge.

January: Alcohol

Like many others, I decided to kick off the year with Dry January, in no small part due to the lingering effects of the preceding Very Wet December. Having done the same challenge the year previous, I knew roughly what to expect and did not find this first month particularly challenging. However, it was interesting to find alcohol-free social activities to take part in, given that the last time I did the challenge the UK was in the midst of a lockdown and my social life was nigh-on nonexistent. To this end, I had a lot of wholesome game nights and enjoyed still being productive the day after; also nice was the 3&nbso;kg I managed to shed.

There was one premeditated lapse, however, on January 25th: non-alcoholic whisky doesn’t seem to exist, so I had a glass alongside a Burn’s supper.

February: Caffeine

Caffeine-freebruary (hush, I’m sure it will catch on one day) is another familiar challenge for me; I think this was my third go of it. Clearly I have been modulating my caffeine intake better since the last time, though, as there was none of the same first few days of grogginess and tiredness as my body suddenly adjusted to not having its usual jolts of caffeine throughout the day.

If anything, this was a rather underwhelming month; I felt fine, I didn’t find myself missing caffeine particularly, and my productivity and focus were barely impacted, even though I spent much of the month on a training course full of all-day classroom learning. As a newfound coffee geek, I was no doubt aided by my local specialty shop’s lovely decaf. coffee, which ensured that I didn’t have a chance to miss much of the morning coffee-making ritual, smell and taste.

Lapses: When someone buys a round of Jägerbombs, it’s rude to refuse.

March: YouTube

Last year, I did Meat-Free March. As I’m now doing Meat-Free All-the-Time, that wasn’t an option, and I was a bit stumped for what to do until someone suggested YouTube. Not only was this better than my fallback idea of giving up sleeping in a bed (although I’m keeping that one in the quiver for a later month), it also coincided with another goal I have set myself for the year: to waste less time on YouTube.

With a collection of around 200 YouTube channels in my RSS reader, accumulated over many years, I get a lot of videos coming up in my feed. Increasingly, I’ve noticed myself sit at my computer with the intention of briefly checking my feed only to find myself sucked into an hour-long video essay about some anime I’ve never seen, or game I’ve never played, or (sometimes) perhaps even something I am ostensibly interested in. The open feed, click video, watch video process is so frictionless and quick that I often open a video without thinking about it, and it’s much harder to resist clicking play when it’s already sat there on my screen.

So, for this month, I decided to massively restrict my YouTube time. However, I didn’t restrict it completely, as I didn’t fancy the thought of chomping through a massive backlog come April (because, I think it’s important to highlight, my issue is not with the content itself, which is often interesting, though-provoking, etc., but rather with my undisciplined consumption of it). Instead, I decided that I would dedicate one day per week to be my YouTube day; throughout the week, I would flag any interesting items in my feed to read later, and on my YouTube day I would make myself a brew, kick back and catch up. Originally this day was going to be Sunday, but that pretty quickly became flexible as my schedule dictated.

And it worked a treat! There were still a few small lapses; sometimes I would instinctively click on something when it wasn’t my YouTube day, and if the video was only a minute or so long and would have taken longer to go back and mark it to read later than it would to just watch it, I’d just watch it there. There was also some ambiguity regarding using YouTube to play music in the background whilst I worked (fine, I decided) or to watch something that I specifically sought out to watch rather than being presented with it by my feed (also fine, but potentially risky), but by and large I stuck with it and found the advantages of a more disciplined approach both obvious and immediate.

Not only that, but when you only have a certain window in which to catch up on content, you end up being more selective in terms of what you actually mark as worth reading later. Probably the best indicator of the success of this month’s challenge is that I’ve decided to continue limiting my casual YouTube use to the weekends indefinitely.