Of all of the Challenge for Growth prompts I have participated in, I think that “I Unplug” has been the one that I needed the most. I have been aware for some time that it was important for me to make some big changes in regards to the amount of time I spend on the computer.
I have a Facebook page, but primarily have it so I can see my son’s photographs when he travels; I never use it to converse with or find friends or relatives. I don’t participate in Linked-In or Snapshot. I belong to Twitter but I never look at it. I occasionally look at Instagram. I do not play video games, and only shop online when I’m looking for something specific. I don’t surf the web.
Even though I don’t do those things, I still spend a high percentage of my time working on my laptop. I’ve been known to say “I live on my computer.” I read and write emails, write articles and organize a monthly GreenFriends newsletter, work on various projects for my spiritual community, and spend time reading and writing blog posts. I enjoy supporting new bloggers. Watching my blog stats feels like a game, but know I check them entirely too often. Since I’m on the computer so much, I’m continually distracted by email and blog notifications. Like Pavlov’s dog, I feel compelled to find out who just wrote me whenever I hear the notification sound.
When I returned from India in January, I took some steps to decrease my distractibility and my computer use; steps that would give me the time I needed to focus on other things. For example, I occasionally turned off the sound on the computer so that I didn’t hear the notifications. I also created what I am calling a circuit, which are a list of activities I want to do nearly every day; e.g., walk, house cleaning, office work, yard work, etc. At first there were only 5 items on my list, so I went through the activities sequentially, spending 15-20 minutes on each one. I did some of the items more than once a day. The circuit increased my productivity and kept me focused. After two weeks, I added more items to the list, so now I don’t do them in any particular order and am not concerned if I don’t do a few of them. In addition to the circuit, I make a “to do” list that includes items that need to be done during the week.
My next step in this change process is to “unplug” for some time each day!
I decided to turn the computer off at 9 a.m. each day and leave it off until noon. That is a time period that am normally working on it. During my unplugged time I will not answer or make unnecessary phone calls, with the exception of emergency calls and calls from potentiaI clients. Likewise, I will not use the phone for email, text, Instagram or to find something on the internet. I will also not turn on the television or the radio.
Below is a summary of my first four days of using this routine:
Day 1 Report: It’s amazing how much slower time seems to go and how much more I can get done when I’m not being distracted by emails and blog notifications. I am surprised to find that I am actually enjoying having the computer off. I feel better today than I have felt in a long time: more energy, and less body tension than when I sit most of the day. I was concerned that when I turned the computer back on I would be overwhelmed with the number of emails I found in my inbox. There were not nearly as many as I had expected, in part because I hadn’t been generating them. Much to my surprise, I discovered it was easier and faster to read and respond to the emails all at once, rather than answering them individually when they arrived.
Day 2 Report: My unplugged time is 9 a.m. to noon no matter where I am or what I am doing. I was at my Tai Chi class for the first half hour of today’s block; I was back home by 10:00. Around 11:30, I became very antsy. That last half hour seemed to last forever. I was eager to turn on the computer so I could finish my taxes, and I didn’t want to wait. I was far from patient, but I didn’t turn it on until the clock struck noon. During the afternoon, I finished my taxes and other computer work and completed most of the items on my circuit.
Day 3 Report: Not using the computer was easy today because I had an appointment and did errands during most of my unplugged time. I worked on almost everything on my “circuit” list today, plus finished many of my “to do” activities. Looking at the day as a whole, I see that I spent less time than normal on the computer. I was surprised to discover I felt reluctant to even turn it on. I haven’t felt any desire to turn on the television either. Not using the phone during the unplugged time has been easy from the beginning. I’m liking this new way of doing things.
Day 4 Report: I was feeling energetic this morning, so during my unplugged time I took a walk through some wooded areas and streets that make a big circle around my part of town. I’ve been unable to walk the full circle during the past two years because of low energy caused by some medical issues. Some very interesting, and synchronistic, things happened along the way, which I will be writing about in a separate post. During the last half of the journey, I also picked up litter, an activity dear to my heart. While the walk normally takes 45 minutes, when I returned home, I was shocked to discover that I had been gone from 9:45 to 11:30! After lunch, I worked on almost all of the items on my circuit and to do lists and I rarely looked at the blog stats. I’m definitely seeing the value of unplugging. I ultimately may turn off the computer for more than the 3 hours/day I have committed to for now.
I am going to end my daily reports here so that I can post my response to the prompt. But I’m not ending my 9:00 to noon unplugging periods; I am really appreciating that change. A few days ago, Nichole from Nik’s Place told me that she is looking at a situation in her life as an opportunity to reset, refocus and re-balance her life for the better.
That is true for me, too. I am working to “reset, refocus and re-balance my life for the better,” and reducing my time on the computer is an important part of that process.
Written for Challenges for Growth Prompt #7: I Unplug