50 Analog Activities that Resist the Attention Economy

One of the most influential books that I’ve read in 2021 was How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. Big companies spend a lot of money to gain our attention. Before the digital age, companies were focused on capturing our hard-earned dollars through consumption of their products. Today, companies seek to capture our attention by consuming their advertisements. Our attention, rather than our money, has become the commodity that big companies compete for. Looking at it from this perspective, our attention is what we must protect. Our attention is the resource that companies seek. Our attention is what we run out of all the time, because sneakily, companies are trying to buy them from us.

The attention economy is what drives us to social media. It’s what makes us pick up our phone and unknowingly click on Instagram. Addictive apps are creating social behaviors that keep us coming back to these companies. The companies that have the ability to bring your attention back to them has the most influence, and influence is power. If they can make the behavior a habit, any future influence they want to have on you in the future will become easier. They can essentially make you do whatever they want you to do, without you ever being aware of it. Because of this, we must resist, to the best of our ability, the attention economy.

In the book How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell articulates how doing ‘nothing’ (according to our society’s definition of what gives life purpose and meaning) is actually a way for us to ‘fight’ these companies from taking control – which really means that by doing ‘nothing’, we are doing something about the way in which large companies are subverting the general public. That really struck home, as I prefer to see my choices in life as its own form of silent rebellion against the current institutions that I don’t agree with.

Plus, as a frugal-wanna-be who has spent the last five years resisting consumerism as best I can, I have gained plenty of experience in finding analog activities that do not succumb to companies vying for my attention. In general, just being out there doing things for others around you and for yourself is the best way to resist the attention economy. But in case you need a few ideas on how to separate yourself from those Instagram advertisements, here are a few of our favorite activities to engage in.

Our Top 50 Analog Activities

  1. Play vinyl records.
  2. Go bird-watching at an estuary.
  3. Skim stones on a glass lake.
  4. Learn how to walk a tight-rope.
  5. Cook meals together.
  6. Read books by candlelight, or aloud.
  7. Wash the car.
  8. Go on a hike.
  9. Have a social interaction without social media.
  10. Plant a tree or garden.
  11. Visit a farm.
  12. Bake something challenging (like a croquembouche).
  13. Make a sandcastle at the beach.
  14. Go for a bike ride.
  15. Organize the home.
  16. Walk other people’s dogs.
  17. Do a puzzle.
  18. Go stargazing.
  19. Visit a museum.
  20. Play board games.
  21. Enjoy a picnic, even if it’s on your balcony.
  22. Play a sport outdoors. Think tennis, or kick a soccer ball around.
  23. Visit friends or family.
  24. Have a bonfire at the beach.
  25. Take afternoon naps.
  26. Pick up an instrument and practice, practice, practice.
  27. Take a long, hot bath.
  28. Volunteer.
  29. Finish a home improvement project.
  30. People watch on a park bench.
  31. Give your pet all the cuddles they deserve.
  32. Do a nature walk and photograph all the different plants and animals you encounter.
  33. Make lists of the things you want to do.
  34. Draw, paint, or do some sort of art project.
  35. Try your best to master chess.
  36. Perfect magic tricks.
  37. Go camping.
  38. Pick up pottery.
  39. Learn how to make sourdough bread.
  40. Do your own car maintenance.
  41. Try to become a mixologist.
  42. Pull out those rollerskates.
  43. Complete an adult coloring book.
  44. Practice flower arrangements.
  45. Make plans for the future.
  46. Go swimming at the community pool.
  47. Declutter your things.
  48. Start a journal and process all the feels and thoughts.
  49. Do a workout routine.
  50. Stare into space and let your mind wander.

These are a collection of our personal favorites and we pull from this list quite regularly. Of course, you’ll want to find activities that align with your own personal hobbies! It seems the younger generation will have a tougher time finding things that they can relate to but as the adults, we need to show them how to slow down enough to disengage from the RA-RA-RA, GO-GO-GO mentality, lest they develop a strong sense of FOMO in their early youth that will make resisting the attention economy quite difficult for them in the future. Enjoy your silent rebellion.

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Thoughts On: Slowing Down

In 2020, I suffered from a period of overwhelm. It was brought on by the flooding of current event updates disguised as news but served unto me as advertisement. The only way I knew how to save myself was to shut off my phone from all the noise.

I found that the proliferation of chatter was the reason behind useless anxiety caused by the need to be plugged into the information (and misinformation) of others. Ironically, this connectedness with the living world led to a disconnectedness from the self which resulted in confusion and agony, leading up to the miseries plaguing our species – doubt, fear, uncertainty, etc.

I wonder, upon looking at those around me, whether the proximity of our noses to our cell phone screens is the factor behind the lack of proximity to other human beings. I wonder how the big companies have won. How the attention economy has grown so that we pay companies in terms of our precious brain cells rather than dollar bills – and when exactly did they decide to target our thinking power and our time?

It’s like they knew that dialing the volume meters on our social media apps is the exact method by which they could silence our voices. By letting us share experiences, they took away the motivation to make our very own – a robot army full of knowledge and lacking any real stimuli.

It worked, you know?

Shutting off my phone to shut up the noise.

Turning off the media was when I started to hear myself.

The cadence of my neuronal firing returned to a humanly beat and reality was returned to me. It isn’t a matter of never subscribing to knowledge or information, but rather, one should learn from slow-living and be concerned by the RATE with which we gather information – lest we be reduced to a tiny node in the homogenous network created by a handful of “thinkers” spreading a singular message of their choosing.

I hope to impress upon others the importance of processing information with adequate space and in due time – the factors that increase our overall human experience and reconnect us to being a part of this planet. It is no longer a matter of having experienced enough if you aren’t even immersed in the experience itself. At that point, it’s like you experience nothing at all.

It bears repeating again and again: Slow. it. down.

Getting Back to Okay

We inhabit a world built around a fallacy: that the more we have, the happier we will be. For the fortunate, they reach the “place-of-more” earlier than others, only to realize that they aren’t any happier than when they were ten years old. I am one of those unfortunate fortunates.

I understand that being exposed to this knowledge is a privilege that very few in today’s world experience. People spend entire lives getting to where they want to be. I spent twenty six years, and then decided, it was time to turn back. I graduated from dental school and landed a dream job with my esteemed dream title hand-in-hand with my dream husband and I felt miserable. Every day was a battle, and I knew that I was happier when I was fifteen and didn’t have a dollar to my name. So, I set out to undo the damage, in reverse.

I read books on happiness and living with less, learning about American consumerism and global waste, searched for alternative lifestyles with better environmental and social impact, while also searching for myself daily. I read up on how the mind works, how we process information, how we organize our lives, and most importantly, how to find joy – all with the hope of making sense of things and finding direction. I was lost somewhere underneath the possessions I owned (and thus owned me), the expectations people had, and the norms that wrap our society like a safety blanket. A mountain of more made and meant to keep me (the real me) buried and confused.

The undoing of it all was quite a process. Not only did I have to unwrite the narrative that I told myself, I had to do it while the world repeated that narrative and threw it at my face. I found that the path to what I call “getting back to okay” required one tiny step at a time. Ironically, it was much the same process as having more, but repeated with the thought of having less. I re-programed my mind around ideas and notions that I learned in my youth, in the exact same order that I learned them.

For example, I first learned of materialism when I was a child, watching television commercials for the latest toys or by playing the comparisons game with classmates, who arrived at school with new clothes, notebooks and backpacks. Those were my first exposures to wanting more of material things, and I spent many years trying to collect more stuff. So of course, this was the first thing I got rid of. Decluttering was my process of learning how to live with less.

The second thing I learned to seek is the approval of others. As a child, I tried my best to be agreeable, with my parents, teachers, friends … even people I just met. This turned into a desire for networking in my late teens and early twenties. I spent years trying to make connections and being a yes-woman. That was the second thing I rejected. I decluttered my relationships, almost in a non-conventional way, and kept only close family and a few friends. Rejecting my relationships meant freeing myself from the ties that would have the strongest pull on how I lived my life.

Looking back on it, I had to declutter my relationships in order to negate social norms. It was in high school that I learned the “ideal” progression of college, a profession, a marriage, a home, a family and finally, a good retirement. The thing with norms is that there are always people around you trying to put you in a box. Of course, with the best of intentions, but without really any thought as to what individual wants and needs you may have. I truly believe that if I hadn’t closed myself off from most of my relationships, like a hermit who retreats into the woods, I would not have unlocked the alternative lifestyles that I did. It is difficult to live differently when whispering “wisdoms” turn into urgent persuasions to stick to the status quo. I loved my friends and fam, but self-discovery was something best done on my own.

The last and final thing I decluttered was my achievements and accolades. This was the most difficult for me because I so closely tied what I did to who I was, which are not the same thing. Letting go of my notions of myself felt a lot like losing my identity. It was one of those weird paradoxes: you must lose your identity in order to find yourself.

I spent the last few years discovering what I wanted to do in life, taking up odd jobs as a baker, writer, dog walker, and dentist. Early 2020 slowed me down enough to realize I was approaching this self-discovery with the idea of more, more, more again. Unwriting narratives is hard work!

In March, I stopped dog-sitting to prevent social contact. I closed the bakery that I spent all of 2019 building. I reduced my dentistry hours. And each time I chose less, I got closer to becoming who I was. After all my experiences, I had enough confidence to take one giant leap of faith. In November, I quit my dental job altogether and really let go of everything I associated myself with.

I cannot put into words how it felt. Like a giant weight was lifted and I was unearthed from all that darkness. It was the first time since graduating dental school that I saw light.

Life isn’t perfect, I’ll tell you that. It never is, which is what makes it beautiful. But I’ve gotten to a place where I feel okay. There is peace that comes with that. I want to stay in this space. I fear that getting to a place of “great” is just another way of getting “more” out of life. Perhaps we all need to aim for some middle ground in this already tumultuous world we’re been born into. Perhaps our new marker for success should be getting back to being okay.

What Could Happen If You Let Everything Go?

Aside from sounding like the title of a Dr. Seuss book, the question I pose today can cause a lot of emotions to surface. Raised in a society where the words “less” and “nothing” are deemed failure words, I myself used to feel fear with the idea of letting things go. In my youth, I took pride in being a “yes-woman” – a multi-tasking energetic force that can only be caused by extreme naivete. Today, I find myself in a much different place.

I have learned that letting go can create the negative space necessary for growth and opportunity. Letting go of material things that ground us to a hedonistic lifestyle can free us to alternative models. Letting go of our identity can access our fullest potential. Letting go of our biases can open our minds in a way that leads to kindness. Letting go of our wants can lead to inner peace. But most importantly, letting go of the fear of letting go is the first step to starting the journey to a higher way of living.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a wordsmith, I am keen on word selection. It is, after all, what I do. I often wondered why there was negative emotion tied to the idea of letting go, and I have found that many people ask the wrong question. Often times, the same question is worded with one letter changed: What would happen if you let everything go.

That “w” is enough to confuse even the surest of minimalists.

Letting go of everything would lead to negative repercussions. For example, letting go of my job would certainly lead to unemployment, less money, and no job identity.

Sure, giving up everything would not necessarily lead to better things.

But you know what? It could.

Letting go of work could lead to more travel, more peace, a new identity, a better future, a more enjoyable profession, and a more secure financial situation. It’s not definite, but it could.

We need to start switching the language around letting things go into a more positive one.

What could happen if you let everything go?

Absolutely anything is possible.

The Pursuit of Doing Nothing

This post is sponsored by Territory Design. By curating a collection of items centered around crafting a life well-lived, Territory inspires the pause needed for grounding us in our everyday living. 

The pursuit of doing nothing is a dying art. Hardly do I ever encounter a human being capable of nothingness. We Americans, especially, are never not doing. We have a bad habit of seeking activity rather than pleasure. We are always looking ahead to the next thing. We are constantly in search of distraction. How many times do you automatically take a moment of stillness and use it to pull out your phone and subconsciously hit that social media icon. BOOM! Time spent, action checked off.

But are you well?

Does it behoove you, the things you cram into your schedule?

DSC01901

We leave the art of doing nothing to the monks, as if it is an occupation that is not worth our time. Or we make up some excuse, saying we were born this way – our personality is just not meant to sit still.

There’s a reason the monks call meditation a practice. Because even monks were not born to be doing nothing. They are human, after all, with human minds that wish to plan ahead and human hearts that wish to conquer dreams. The practice part of it is required in order to master the art of stillness. It is, even for them, a pursuit.

Many of us get uncomfortable sitting with ourselves for too long, constantly on edge should a negative thought fleet across our minds or a scary imagination flicker behind our closed eyelids. We seem to always be waiting for bad news. Why waste time thinking and worrying? Best we get up and go do something about it. DO, ACT, GO. Or so the consensus goes. There is a certain courage required to pause in the face of discomfort and keep going as if nothing was shaking you to the core. There is growth in being able to take a short-coming and process it in ways that transform you.

The pursuit of doing nothing is a challenge worthwhile. It’s not going to be easy, and certainly the world isn’t making it easier. There will be temptations thrown your way, low-hanging fruit dangling inches from your brow, but don’t be fooled. Everyone else will also be holding on to low-hanging fruit. It’s hardly special, and will always be around. You’ve got a job to do.

DSC01910

Look at nothingness as an opportunity. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I don’t have the time”? Doing nothing is required to create space for something new. Therefore, the pursuit of doing nothing is preemptive to moving forward. It is old-age culture that is lacking in new-age thinking. No one else around you is doing that. Everyone else is too busy to take on the opportunities, and losing them too, all at the same time.

The pursuit of doing nothing is a dying art, and we, a backwards culture. Since when did we value filling our time with useless action items that are essentially repetitive loop cycles? Get up, go to work, come home tired, eat dinner and barely see the kids, binge watch TV, go to sleep, repeat five times a week, fifty-two weeks a year, forty-five years of our life. Is this what you want to call a living?

I don’t know about you, but I am committed to pursuing doing nothing.

DSC01905

Territory Design’s Flecha Pillow in Cream is the perfect muse for reflection and thought, growth and discovery. For a limited time, TheDebtist readers can receive 15% OFF using the code debtist15

unnamed.jpg

Thoughts On: This Surprise

I know it’s hard for people to live in a world that feels so reduced. Trust me, you are not. Trust me, I’ve been there.

It’s quite the sensation feeling like you’ve got nothing left to lose. Like all your decisions led you here. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I know what it’s like feeling enslaved by a system. Despite losing your freedom to move, you still have the freedom to choose
how to continue living when you’re tied to stillness and a snail’s pace. But even snails get somewhere.

You don’t have money, god knows I never did, but you have a brain, your health, love, hope, dreams, a breath. And if it were only one of these things, I’d venture to call THAT a life,
This a phase,
You, a force,
The world, your oyster,
The virus, a lesson.

Because the best thing I ever learned was that nothingness is a gift, and starting from the bottom means there’s an up. Something to look forward to and make life worth living. Nowadays I choose to live with less, knowing ultimately people can’t tell me what I can’t do, and if you dig deep enough into the recesses no one else is willing to touch, you will find that all you need for a good life is with you in the form of a past that no one can take, a future that only you can destroy, and a present which we are always lamenting but the great thing about having nothing is not having anything to lament.

Is it so bad not being able to know what can happen next? I bet it’s the first time in years that you haven’t tried to plan or control your entire life. In a way, I’ve found myself worrying less. Moving with the tide. Sleeping in without guilt. Forgetting the days.

Isn’t this what living is — Letting things unfold in due time?

I don’t know about y’all, but this was a good surprise.

DSC00840

Healthy Coping Skills During Times of Stress and Anxiety

To brush over this trying time is to do a disservice to all who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not only speaking of those who are impacted physically, which on its own seems to be the global focus of this pandemic and rightfully so considering the number of deaths that we have seen thus far, but I am also referring to those who have suffered financially, mentally, and emotionally.

Many a small business owner is seeing their life’s hard work dwindling before their eyes with hardly a hope of surviving this stay-at-home movement. Many blue collar workers are forced out of a job, having been laid off about a week ago “for the wellness of the community” but at their expense. Many a woman has seen their education and work opportunity wane as they are forced to stay at home to school children who are now being expected to virtually learn. Many children will struggle to find an equal footing in the current educational system, as the ability to have access to the internet or a computer will greatly determine which children learn and which do not. With all of this impact and more, it is safe to say that these are difficult times which may leave people feeling a bit less-than their normal self. 

In an effort to be of help (somehow), I wanted to take the time to share the following words from my sister-in-law and registered therapist, Alexandra, for those who are currently struggling to maintain their mental health or are experiencing more-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety.

Some great tools to aid with anxiety, stress, and loneliness during this time are:

  1. Being active – going for a walk, run, yoga, at-home workout, and getting some sun, if possible.
  2. Create routine – whether that be a work-from-home routine or a morning routine, creating some sort of consistency for your body and mind are important.
  3. Spend time with someone you care about – Don’t isolate. Even if it’s virtual time together, text someone or call someone, at least one person a day.
  4. Take breaks from the media – Take breaks from your phone, the TV, and the news. This helps us not ruminate or over-think, and reduces stress, anxiety, and worry.
  5. Do something for you! – Mindful activities such as baking, cooking, coloring and art, working out, reading a book, taking an online course, or learning something new can really help carry you through tough times. Schedule at least fifteen minutes a day for this.

Off course, you don’t have to do all of these, especially if you are working from home or are out working and helping others. But these are some healthy coping skills that can reduce depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.

Alexandra Tillapaugh is a Registered Associate Marriage Family Therapist specialized in counseling adults and children with a variety of challenges, including but not limited to, anxiety, behavioral issues, depression, self-esteem, and relationship problems. She is also my wonderful sister-in-law.

During this time, she is offering lower cost online counseling sessions to people in need in our community – especially those who are displaced, anxious, and stressed.

“I know many people are anxious right now and stressed. They may need someone to talk to or need help with learning a few coping skills.” 

She is offering a free consultation on the phone so that people of the community may seek help without the pressure of money. It’s a great way to find out if her services work for your particular situation or lifestyle.

“I want to get an understanding of why they want to talk to a counselor prior to any sessions. It’s the best practice.”

To learn more about her services, schedule an introductory call, or simply chat with someone over any hardships you may be experiencing, you can view her website here. To offer helpful tips for those who are suffering, feel free to comment below.

A Period of Essentialism

Doesn’t it seem sometimes that finding yourself requires rejecting everything that defines you? Like a snake shedding skin. Or a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. The less we have, the more we are whole. I’ve found that after rejecting associations, all that is left behind is the rawness of “me, myself, and I”, and the beauty of what that has to offer.

This entire journey started with getting rid of external associations, such as physical clutter. Then it continued with societal expectations, financial burden, and more recently, digital stimuli. Now, a more difficult task. What I’ve struggled with the most in the past year is ridding myself of aspirational clutter, but I am refocusing to address that struggle.

My aspirations, titles, roles, and expectations dictate my day-to-day actions. This much I know to be true. Most of these things are self-imposed. I choose to identify with these things, and therefore, I can choose to un-identify, as well. I’ve come to this awakening that a lot of my stresses result from these impositions on the self. These are also the sources of the majority of my time-suck. And since my ultimate dream is to achieve waking up each day and doing whatever calls to me, without being tied to money, possession, job, title or expectation, I must face the fact that none of these self-impositions get me closer to that point. In fact, I am being drowned by their current.

In order to get to ultimate freedom, I have to free everything else.

Awakenings are the hardest part,
But also the BEST.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately and I’ve decided to close the bakery. Cancel the course. Stop Rover. Write for myself again.

What brought this on was the husband’s current situation.

This is a really special time for my husband and I. He recently stopped working, having quit a job that he had grown impassionate about, and is going through a growing phase that entails a bit of self-discovery. I’ve found that with all of my titles and roles, I have not had the time to be there for this period of rebirth. The last few weeks, I’ve been telling him to stay out of my way because I have “things to do”. I didn’t want to talk to him because I had to “focus” on creating content for the blog. I couldn’t spend much time with him because I had to bake bread. I hated that the first thing I cut from my life whenever I needed space or time was my relationship, which is arguably most important. And it’s safe to say that over time, perhaps I myself have grown to become impassionate about my own work, too. There is always that line between hobby and work and when we cross it, other things shift with it, too.

So we are re-structuring,

My husband and I haven’t had this freedom since… college? We have an opportunity to come home and be idle. To have nothing due. This is the first time in our lives where we are both at a place where we can create the opportunity to just be. To reject most obligations. To do as little as possible. Or rather, to do only that which is essential.

I decided to commit to only one professional title (dentistry) as I fulfill more important roles of being a wife and friend. Where I was prompting him to find himself, I figure I should listen to my own advice and do much the same.

If I am being completely honest, perhaps taking on these jobs was my way of filling a void, rather than understanding why I felt partial instead of whole … arguably deeper work. I took on the title “baker” with Rye Goods one year ago, and I remember saying to Sara that I was looking for something more. The bakery was my saving grace from a dissatisfaction with where my life was at.

It was also my distraction.

Now it’s time to face fears, and start a new age.

A period of essentialism.


They say it takes courage to hold on when everything around you is falling apart,

When you are falling apart.

But usually we hold on for the sole reason that we are too afraid to let go.

Therefore, it takes equal courage to move on.

Either way,

You are brave,

Whatever you choose to do.