“Technology is an [odd] thing. It brings you gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other.” – C.P. Snow
Every year I make a New Year’s Resolution. Just one. I take it seriously and I work on it all year. Sometimes, I renew my commitment the next year as well.
This year, my resolution is to get more value from my life by going back to the basics and enjoying natural, simple things (and teach others how to do so, as well), starting with cutting back on what I have seen referred to as “technology addiction”. I am not nearly as bad as many people I have seen who have their face in a screen all day long. However, I started to notice things I was doing that I didn’t think was healthy.
1. Checking my social media and email upon waking in the morning. I typically use my phone as an alarm, so I would be lying in bed, reach for the phone, and BOOM there’s my email, FB notifications, Twitter messages, etc…
2. Checking my mail/messages/media whenever I had a few moments of down time (waiting in line, waiting for an appointment…).
3. Checking my mail/messages/media when I should have been focusing on something else.
4. Checking my mail/messages/media too many times a day.
I began to feel as if I weren’t as productive with the list of chores I needed to get done, because I was in “social media land” or “email alley”, too often. I think it is harder to focus and stay on task when you feel distracted by the bleep on your phone, the pop-up window on your computer, or simply the tab you left open in your window.
For me, my problem was the checking in. Thankfully, though, there have always been things I just DON’T do.
1. Checking my phone when spending time with friends or when talking to people...RUDE, RUDE, RUDE, PEOPLE!!! This is truly one of my biggest pet peeves. Especially when I am talking to someone and they are reading something in their phone. Just awful.
2. Texting or checking while driving.
3. Using email notification (the beep) on my phone.
4. Using my phone during outdoor activities.
5. Using my phone during my children’s performances (sports, school, etc…).
So I was already off to a good start before the New Year. I just needed to up my game.
The first step was making the decision to completely disconnect for one week. And I mean completely.
I went away for the weekend before Christmas, so I decided that from Friday a.m. until after Christmas was over, I wasn’t going to check my email or go into any social media programs. I hid my email (since apparently you can’t delete it on an iPhone) and I uninstalled my social media programs. I had my phone in my handbag, only to accept calls from my kids if they needed me. Other than that, I wasn’t picking up my phone, and I wasn’t using it for communication.
What I discovered….
- I had a great time! I was able to enjoy my weekend away, as well as the holidays, without feeling that attachment to “checking in”. I could focus on the activities I set out to do and truly be in the present moment.
- It was easier than I thought it would be! Being so reliant on the constant checking-in, I thought I would have trouble. Instead, I found that once I made the commitment to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind with my phone/computer, it was easy.
- Going away from the home office (and home) was probably what made the transition easier (I think it would have been harder had I been home walking past my computer in the kitchen non-stop all day*).
- I felt much more focused! I was able to just do things without the constant distraction.
But of all theses things, the best result, by far, was…
- My anxiety went down, and my relaxation went up…A LOT! I felt such a sense of calmness and clarity when I wasn’t being bothered by people all of the time. No one emailing me about their issues, their gripes, no one asking me to do things for them, fill out forms, pay bills, address a need, no junk mail, no one asking for money, no notifications of bogus fans on Twitter who want to sell me their bogus services, etc… It was heaven, I tell you!
It made me realize we live in a society where, thanks to technology, the world expects us to respond immediately, at any time, when the fingers are snapped. People are expected to get out an urgent report for work because their boss emails them at 10 pm and wants it done right that second. People email you about a matter that needs immediate attention, and get mad when you don’t respond right away. Companies expect the freedom (at no cost, mind you) to be able to harass you daily with coupons, promotions, and garbage you don’t care about. And we wind up wasting time weeding through all the nonsense.
So what am I doing about?
- Attempting to check my email only twice a day. The first time being when I sit down at my desk for the start of my workday. Post getting up, coffee, etc… The second time of day is before dinner. I decided checking email too close to bed is a bad idea (stress levels can go up and I won’t sleep). So I’m treating email just like a job, “9-5″ then I’m going home and turning you off.
- I no longer check mail or social media on my phone.
- I check my social media once a day, unless I need it for work. I do this in the morning.
- I’m calling people more. When I want to talk to a friend, I am picking up the phone (or texting) rather than emailing (for the most part).
- I’m setting boundaries with the people and businesses in my life. There are certain times I can’t talk to you, can’t read your email, can’t respond to your immediate request. Deal with it.
In reality, I know that I am dreaming when I wish for a time when people are more connected to their local community in a real and sincere way, and screens existed solely in one’s home to watch Leave it to Beaver. But that isn’t going to stop me from trying to make my own life more meaningful and connected or trying to help others do the same.
Take the challenge and disconnect entirely for a day, a few days, or if you’re brave, an entire week! See how you feel! I bet you’ll be more productive and you’ll feel more connected than when you were, *connected*.
* I originally put my computer in the kitchen so I could observe the kids on it, but now realize it may be better to place it out of sight, or at least away from the normal daily traffic. I’ll be moving mine, shortly.