My last post was about our week away from technology at my husband’s family cabin and how much we appreciated the silence and a change to do a little bit of digital detox.
And then we came back home.
Once we drove back down into cell and wi-fi range, my phone went crazy downloading all those texts and emails that had come in while we’d been away. As we stopped at a gas station, I scrolled through the email list, trying to triage some of the items, and felt a familiar sense of anxiety and dread settling over me. Back to the real world. Back to mini-crises and urgent responses needed. Receiving all those messages felt very oppressive, even after only having been away from them for a short time. All of a sudden, instead of just enjoying the car journey, I felt hopelessly behind and in need of catching up.
I had almost forgotten the way that answering emails and messages used to be something you did once in a while, not all day long. A week of digital detox helped me to remember that I didn’t want to spend my entire day glued to my smartphone, and I wanted to bring some of that intentionality about using technology and also some time away from it into our home life.
Here are the strategies I’ve been using.
1. LEAVE MY PHONE IN A DESIGNATED PLACE AT HOME.
I realized that I was carrying my phone around with me everywhere, so that I wouldn’t miss a text or an email. I bet I’m not alone in this. Be honest: How many of you carry your phones with you to the bathroom?! But with no new messages coming in, there was no need for my phone to be an extra appendage. This experience had reminded me that it wasn’t essential that I read and then answer every single message or text immediately. If I leave my phone in its spot on the kitchen counter, I can hear a ring from anywhere in the house (it’s a small house!), but I don’t have to pick up the phone and read every single message or email that comes in the second it comes in. Catching up here and there is enough. (Plus, I have found that I spend a lot less time calling my cell from my home phone so that I can find it since I usually know where it is now!)
2. CHARGE IT AWAY FROM MY BEDROOM.
It’s so very tempting to charge your phone RIGHT next to your bed at night—then you can wake up to music on your playlist or even track your REM sleep. But I realized that the first thing I was doing in the morning was reaching for my phone. That is not the way I want to begin each day, not to mention the fact that I could hear the buzz or see the screen flash occasionally as texts and emails came in during the night. So I now charge my phone in the kitchen instead. That way, by the time I make it in there, ready to make breakfast and school lunches, then I can decide whether I want to take the time to check it or not. Usually by that point in the morning I figure it can wait another few minutes until the kids are fed and we’ve gotten on with the day.
3. SCHEDULE A SPECIFIC TIME FOR ANSWERING EMAIL AND SOCIAL MEDIA.
Email and social media are the creatures that seem to creep into all the crevices of my day. I just think I’ll take a quick second to check email and then fall into a pit of, well not exactly despair, but busyness and distraction. It always takes longer than I think it will, and I usually end up not accomplishing very much. In fact, I’ve noticed that although I often read emails on my phone, I tend to wait to respond to them until I can sit down at the computer, so then they’re just nagging away at me or worse, getting lost in my inbox never to be seen again. Much better for me to take a few minutes when I can sit down at the computer to go through all the emails at once and then spend a few minutes with Facebook or Twitter. For me this comes in the 9:30-or-so hour after I’ve gotten the kids to school and have some time to catch up uninterrupted. On non-school weekdays, I still try to check in during those times while they’re playing. I still do check my emails on my phone at other times of the day, but having a designated time to go through them and respond so helps me feel less anxious about the emails that may be piling up.
4. FORGET MY PHONE (ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE).
Yep, that’s right. Just leave it behind sometimes. I don’t feel comfortable doing this when my boys are at school or with someone else because I want to be able to get to them immediately if something were to happen, but when they’re with me, I just forget the phone on purpose sometimes. It’s a good reminder that I don’t always need to be available to everyone. Sometimes I need to be available just to my boys.
How about you? Any successful digital detox strategies?