Friday, August 31, 2012

less + a digital sabbatical : notes from my 24-hour break away from my phone and computer

Last Friday, when Courtney from Be More with Less shared that she was going to be taking a digital sabbatical over the weekend, I was completely inspired to join her. At first glance, no phone and no computer for 24 hours sounded simple enough. Simple, but challenging for this iPhone lover. I decided to give it a whirl.

At 4:30pm on Saturday, we were at the beach and I took one last photo of the kids and my nephews playing at the beach before putting my phone back in the diaper bag. We had a great time that afternoon with my sister and her family and I kept more than busy watching all of those little bodies play in the sand and get in and out of the water. I totally could have taken more pictures (and posted some on Instagram), but refrained and just enjoyed myself.
A few hours later, when we were driving home, was when I got my first temptation to grab my phone. Normally I would have spent that 30 minutes scrolling through my blog reader or Twitter. This time I just sat. Mark and I talked. I sang songs with Morgan + Parker. I had brought a book to read (since I knew I'd be phoneless) but I didn't even touch it. Before I knew it, we were back home.

Once the kids were in bed, I spent my evening unpacking our beach bags, plus some shopping bags from earlier that day. I started a load of laundry and cleaned our kitchen. (I don't know about you but one of my favorite things is to wake up to a clean kitchen in the morning. I love that feeling of a fresh start.) As I unpacked, I took my phone out of the diaper bag and set it face down on the counter near our back door. I'm not sure why, maybe I was taking baby steps, but I never turned my phone off during this break. I just turned it on vibrate. Not that I would have heard it vibrate way two rooms away...

For the remainder of the evening, I sat with Mark and watched a football game. I planned out the following week. I was curious about the weather in the coming days, but looking that up would have to wait. With no internet to suck me into the depths of scrapbooking, social media, blogs and message boards, I was in bed before 10:30. That alone is very rare here.

Both kids were up just before 8 on Sunday and Mark made us waffles for breakfast. The urge to check my email was strong but I stayed busy and away from my phone. More laundry, I repaired a hole in one of Morgan's shirts, and I looked through the new IKEA catalog that's been sitting on our coffee table for 3 weeks. I was finally started to relax and enjoy some intentional downtime without the temptation to get sucked into what everyone else was doing. I was getting stuff done and being with my family. I was present and focused on whatever and whoever was in front of me. And I will be the first to admit, man, that can be hard sometimes!

We played inside and out, and enjoyed the weather. I cleaned a little, organized a little and purged a little. We ate lunch and I made notes - brain dump style - of things I wanted to do, emails I needed to write, and other reminders. After Parker's nap, we got ready to meet some friends at the splash pad and then dinner at their house. During our visit, my 24 hours was up. While the kids ate popsicles in the backyard, I grabbed my phone to capture the moment, then slipped it back in my bag. I ignored the notifications on the screen and reminded myself if I waited this long, I could wait another hour till we were home to "see what I've missed."
And believe it or not, I didn't miss as much as I thought. As a stay-at-home mom, I don't have much adult contact most days, so I adore checking in my with online friends. The vast majority of the daily conversations I have with people are through a keyboard. I love these relationships, but then there is this thing called moderation. I don't have to do it so much. When I think about how habitual it can be to be on the phone, checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, email, shop orders, the weather, whatever - this week when I felt I was grabbing it a little too much, I tried to ask myself "why?" For me, it's usually out of boredom or I'm completely unmotivated to do what I should be doing. And the key for me is to choose to be more aware of that. If you too find yourself playing on your phone or computer more than you like, my absolute biggest tip is to keep them out of sight. And at least turn it on vibrate, even for short periods of time. Next time, I might even turn off my phone.

The consensus : when Courtney asked how it went, I said "getting used to not grabbing my phone at every whim was tough, but overall, it was quite refreshing! Need to do more often!" For sure. Probably not weekly, but I could totally do it once or twice a month. What I would truly like to work into my daily rhythm is phone/computer free times. Back at the beginning of the year, one of my less list items was to keep my phone off the table when we're eating a meal. Particularly when other people, even if it's just me and the kids, are at the table. This has been a great time for a mini digital break each day. I'm trying to set a time for myself at night to get away from the screens but have not found a good, consistent fit yet. The busier I get, the more excuses I have. Yup, I am a work in progress.

Have you ever gone on a self-imposed digital sabbatical? Do you set times for yourself for checking email, browsing the internet or working? Any tips to share to get yourself away from the all the screens and in front of the people and things you love?

6 comments:

  1. This is awesome Nicole, i agree with everything you said! I'm so going to give this a try very soon. I too feel way to attached to my phone/iPad and need to remind myself often to set it down! Babz

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    1. It's hard to get used to at first, especially when you get that urge to 'just check Instagram for a minute' and something else sucks you in. Let me know if you give it a try, I'd love to hear how it goes!

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  2. I really should try that with my iPad. Gosh, 24 hours without it, I'd die! But, it's worth a try..

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    1. Let me know if you do it sis. I'd love to hear how it went. :)

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  3. Great post. We have just been on a self imposed 2 week break from internet/television in the evenings. We get way more done, and actually spend time together in a positive way. Definitely worth doing every now and then! It's terrible to think that I'm missing out on the life around me, when I'm worried about missing out on what's happening online!

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    1. That's a great idea! I hardly watch any TV (the internet is my vice) and you are so right. I've made some amazing friends online but nothing beats the people that I share a home with. It's definitely something to be more conscious of. Thanks Fiona!

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