Timesuck Top 10

10. Considering writing a blog. Write the dumb blog. It'll only be sand-blasted into the internet forever. Your words will likely be at once un-losable and lost; probably no one will ever read them, but everyone will be able to forever.
9. Considering "becoming an expert" on something (thanks to the internet, I made my cat an expert on pet products, and she's threatening to book more speaking engagements than me.)
8. The twenty minutes lying in bed between when the alarm goes off and you start meditating. Instead: two minutes to jot down notes about what you dreamed, and onto the mat.
7. Most internet research.
6. The rest of the internet research.
5. Time spent deciding but not making a decision.
4. Any of the "deadly sins" are just a waste of time (albeit a really unpleasant waste of time for all involved, but I might go so far as to say that the biggest sin is wasting time.) In Judaism, the word for sin is chait, meaning to miss the mark. It's not really a value judgment so much as a way of re-aligning one's aim, which is never a timesuck.
3. Being in a hurry is actually a waste of time. Discuss.
2. Let's throw in guilt and worry.
1. How silly would it be to say "reading blogs?" This is known as a callback. The callback ties everything up in a neat little bow.


Standup comedian Alicia Dattner dedicates her life to perceiving The Grand Cosmic Joke: that pain exists for us to take ourselves less seriously, to laugh, and to experience the joy and wonder of an infinitely perfect universe.

This whole crazy thing started when Alicia was eight years old and watched the HBO comedy special Comic Relief for the first time. And the second time, and the third time, and twenty-two more times after that. While other kids were wearing out their videocassette copies of Cinderella and He-Man, Alicia wore the tape through on her video of Comic Relief. Something in it deeply appealed to her… The way Robin, Whoopi, and Billy made light of homelessness–and at the same time raised awareness and money to change the situation. They weren’t reverent or politically correct–they were just funny. This was also her first exposure to the comedy of Sid Cesar’s silent clowning, George Carlin’s routine about Stuff, and Gary Shandling’s poetic neurosis.

There were more episodes, like the first time she got paid ($5.00) to do comedy at eight years old. On a trip to San Francisco, Chris Pray, an improviser and actor friend of Alicia's mom's, put her in the show and did some comedy duo patter that killed.

Or the first time Alicia absolutely brought down the house at age 14, for an audience of two hundred. She'd volunteered to be in a comedy sketch with an "ayruvedic doctor-clown", (anybody know who that guy was?) doing psychic surgery, and she played the slapstick and dramatic irony with him to a tee.

Alicia did standup for the first time a few days after her 19th birthday. She had just listened to Emo Philip's "Live at the Hasty Pudding Theatre" album with fellow Hampshire College student Eugene Mirman.

Since then, she has continued to write and perform standup comedy. Today, her voice is loud and clear. Influenced by comedians like Woody Allen, Ellen DeGeneres, and Marc Maron, her humor is playful and spontaneous yet finely tuned. Alicia makes fun of the intensely personal and yet entirely universal struggles we face (or avoid) with a level of honesty and originality we don't often see. Alicia calls this unique brand of humor "Human Comedy". She surfs the stage with a Buddhist calm, navigates truth with dangerous wit, and leaves a wake of uncontrollable laughter.



"I love San Francisco, but the neighborhood politics are complicated. The people next door put up a sign that says, "No on 226", and it freaks me out, because that's my house number."

"I listen to NPR all day. Their pledge drive is on again… 'If you're listening, you should be donating!' I finally realized it's time to do the adult thing. Stop listening."

"I've been trying this raw food diet for a couple of weeks now… just found out you're not supposed to eat cookie dough."

"I am so tired. You ever think, 'I just wasted the entire day on the computer. I gotta go watch some TV."

"Have you noticed Valentine's Day is terrible when you don't have a good Valentine? Same thing with President's Day."




Save time, talk less.

Lifehacks are valuable when they not only save you time but improve the quality of your life. This one sure will.
Do this: stop using vocal speech pauses. omit "uh, um, ah, like, so, well, etc." from your speech.
This is the old argument: people who don't say "um" all the time sound more professional and more intelligent. Of course quantum physicists say "um". Of course people on the radio say "um" (but we don't hear it any more because they've got computer programs that automatically edit it out–perhaps the first time in history a computer program is invented to actually make the people seem smarter.) My friend John says we're always smarter on paper. I sure am. I recently listened to myself on the radio, and I sound like a babbling brook called "Uhhhhhh River." That's why I write the jokes before I go on stage.
I'd like to re-frame the argument for eliminating speech pauses: saving time and improving quality of life. This is also a shift from an externally referenced mode of being to an internally referenced one.
Part one: time. This part is simple. Anecdotally, i'd say my speech pauses take up0 about 20-30% of my speech. Omit them, and I've got 20-30% more conversation time. Put that in your time pipe and smoke it.

  • 20-30% shorter conversations with annoying/boring people
  • 20-30% more time to give that special someone an opportunity to talk about themselves
  • 20-30% more sharing of meaningful glances
  • 20-30% more time to plug your new book
  • 20-30% more time to get in-depth about the destruction of Borneo's forest and ancient way of life so giant corporations can make more palm oil.

Part two: power. When you say the word, "well," you want it have the effect of the moment in the film where the woman tears off her glasses and tells you what she really thinks. Imagine her tearing her glasses on and off three or four times for every sentence. No power whatsoever. And whether you believe your power comes from your performance or your performance comes from your power (sort of a nature versus nurture debate)(I believe it's about 25%/75%), you gain a lot of power when you stop adulterating what you have to say. And that's the quality-of-life.
Anecdotal: I'm telling my friend about hearing myself on the radio and noticing the excess language coming from my mouth. I become self-conscious but not self-critical, and I stop saying "um" etc. after one or two very clean sentences, I'm filled with intensity. It's as if the "um" has been a leak in my hot air balloon, and now I see I can use this new hack to send my balloon up wherever I want to go.
Metaphor: Lynn Twist, who wrote a book called "the soul of money" talks about sufficiency a lot. Her philosophy is that scarcity and abundance are two sides of the same coin, whereas, sufficiency and enough are a whole different model. An excess of words (especially the ones that don't convey anything) is similar to an excess of anything else; it's an imbalance. Speaking just the right amount of words is a way you can allow people to "meet" you where you are.
Action: (start small, work slow)

  • one minute uh-free
  • one phone call uh-free
  • one conversation uh-free
  • one day uh-free
  • record yourself on the phone, in conversation, on stage, listen, and then judge yourself (i know, my blog-tone vascilates from self-help to self-mock and then hits notes existentialism and elation. just enjoy the ride.)

Radical Honesty?

At a friend's urging, I bought and started reading the book Radical Honesty. Now, before you jump to conclusions and think it's like someone talking up the merits of soap every time you come around or offhandedly offering you a breath mint, I have to disclaim that this friend had just read the book and found it a profoundly upsetting and worthwhile endeavor. So last night I'm reading it in the bathtub and thinking how great it is. "I'm ready! Bring it on! Wow, the truth IS the only way out of the maze of permanent adolescence (nevermind I seem to be stuck at age two)!"
But so this honesty thing has been going really well all day. I woke up smiling. (honest dreams?) I told my roommate's cat that its farts smell like a trucker at his first diner stop in 13 hours. The cat meowed. I felt great. I told my car that its headlights are misaligned and I feel angry that it's running down and polluting the environment, and I would like a Prius a lot better. Later in the evening, I was driving my not-Prius down to San Mateo and telling myself (in an act of radical honesty) how great a driver I am, that I can talk on speaker phone, drive with my knee, and eat granola all at the same time. Again, I felt great. Tomorrow, I'm going to try being honest with… people!
But then I was thinking about how the last time I performed at this place, the show sucked. It put me in a sour mood. I'd like to break it to you all: comedians don't always want to be funny. Sometimes we want to eat chocolate mousse and listen to The Cure. Or is that women with PMS? Anyway, I get to the show, and something really wonderful happens; it's a small crowd, but all of us comics have a great time on stage. And the benefit of honesty is that I let go of my preconceptions about the show sucking last time, really enjoyed myself, and made people laugh. (cue sappy happy music) I'm going to take another bath and read the next chapter.




Alicia Dattner, Comedian