So…. how did a Week Without Technology go? For me, not surprisingly, it was a lot harder when I couldn’t get away from it. In previous situations where I’ve gone without tech, it’s been because I didn’t have internet access. It was wonderfully liberating, but I also didn’t have the itch to scratch, because it just wasn’t available. This week, I’ve had to use the computer for work quite a lot, and being on it makes it tempting to “just check” email, or Facebook, or Twitter, or some other site. Need more organic seaweed-based body wash from Ireland? Let me see if Amazon has it… No! Must wait! Aargh. I did find it interesting to track where, when, and how I usually use tech.
Normally the first thing I grab in the morning is my phone, because it has my alarm clock. Then, I use my meditation app on the phone to listen to and time my meditation. Some days this week, I used the GPS on my phone to get from here to there. This week coincided with a webinar I had already signed up for - 1.5 hours per day. I also had a conference proposal to submit, also online. Was I perfect outside of that? Nope. I managed to stay away from social media, but couldn’t resist email. I found that checking email (non-work related) can eat up an hour of my day, and combine that with “just one round” of a game and it could go longer. So, I started to set a timer. I think I’ll do that every time I hop on the internet from now on - preferably one that ticks, so I can hear my life ticking away, and decide if that’s how I want to spend it. Technology isn’t bad. It’s just that it can be addictive, and like any addict, it’s easy to tell ourselves “Just one more…” Just one more game. Just one more email. Just let me check this site. As any addict in recovery knows, the first step is to admit you have a problem. The difficulty with tech addiction is that it’s almost impossible to stay away from it since it’s so entwined in our daily lives. So, mindful usage is the key.
What was I able to do with time I had when I tore myself away from tech? Well, mostly graded papers (ahem). But I also:
- Baked apple-cinnamon muffins
- Baked brownies
- Read books
- Took a long walk in a new area I hadn’t explored
- Sorted through papers, clothes, books, from my mom’s move
- Decorated my house for Halloween/fall
Maybe I would have done this stuff (or some of it) anyway. But I was consciously staying away from the usual tech temptations, and I found that I had more time than I’d been aware of. I could think about what I wanted to do, rather than feeling hounded by what I needed to do. I felt happier, more productive, and more engaged with the world around me. What this showed me is that I have more control over my time than I think do. We all face busyness, overwhelm, and distraction.
Here are some tips that will help you keep more focused and mindful, especially when writing:
Use site blockers diligently when you know you have creative work to do. Set them so they’re still going first thing in the morning, or whenever you normally schedule your writing time. That way, you won’t have the option of going off on fruitless surfing expeditions. If you need to do research, mark it on the page and keep going. Plan a specific time to do research later on.
Resist the urge to check your phone every time you have a “down minute.” Look around you. Engage with someone. Notice the sensory details of what’s going on. Daydream. If you’re a writer, these are all essential actions that feed your writing. Free your mind from the constant distraction game. Put your phone in another room while you are working. Lock it in your car and park it several blocks away if that’s what it takes. Exercise is good for you.
Also, recognize that we enjoy a lot of what we do online - so don’t deprive yourself, or scold yourself for doing it. Just plan a time to do it mindfully. Decide when and for how much time you’ll be online, checking email, social media, etc. Set a timer, and adhere to that time. The Pomodoro Technique (which I’ve written about here before) helps with setting boundaries for play as well as work. It’s your life - how will you spend it?