Are you the person you want to be right now?
January has always been a time for self-reflection, whether you do New Year’s resolutions or not. (Not for me. New Year’s Eve is my least favorite holiday- too much pressure to go all out and ‘have fun'). Over the holidays however, it's easy for me to see and feel whether or not the way I have been living aligns with how I want to live. It's a time of re-assessment and this year I knew that once again, I hadn't reached one of my ongoing goals: going without my phone or computer for a full 24 hours. I decided to again, make it a priority when goodnessknows challenged me to try something new within the first 30 days of the New Year.
As soon as I put up my out of office status on email, all I craved was time off my computer and phone… yet I had a hard time actually doing it. For the first few days ‘out of office' when I first knew I wanted to try my goal of going digital free for 24 hours within that week, I constantly checked my email and Instagram. I checked my phone first thing waking up, last thing before going to bed and while doing fun vacation things. You name it, I felt compelled to check my phone. All I wanted to do was keep putting off this digital free project. Historically, I have a hard time ‘turning off' until my body stops wanting to work and forces me to stop. Before we took our first real non-work vacation in June last year, I literally almost cut off my finger during a work project making deviled eggs for a picnic photo shoot. If that's not a neon sign to slow down I don't know what is.
If you're in the same boat of wanting to be a more present, calm and focused person reducing your digital time has probably been on your goals list for a while. If I look back at my agendas for the past two years (yep, I keep a paper planner!) both contain ‘check email less' as a goal. Clearly, I still need some help. What I have found over the past few years is that achieving a goal that's hard wired into your personality, I've never fully felt like I've succeeded. But that's part of today's post: to encourage you, if you're like me, that you just have to keep trying. Accept the small successes. And enjoy a fantastically type-a list to figure out how to relax.
How I successfully and surprisingly went digital free for 24 hours:
1. Put it on your calendar: Eliminate excuses. If you handle everything you know requires posting to social media, sending emails or doing something online before your scheduled digital free day, you have less of an opening to fall into old habits. I hate an undone task on my to-do list and I'm positive I would have jumped on my computer ‘real quick' just to handle something if I didn't finish everything I needed to beforehand. That included even writing down things I might reference online (recipes, etc.). It was worth it.
2. Move your phone: I have a habit of keeping my phone right next to me most of the time (except while sleeping). The problem is it has become my muscle memory to occasionally look at my phone and grab and swipe when I want to. I moved my phone to a central spot in the house near our charging station and kept it there. I found myself looking next to my arm and starting to reach when my brain craved checking email or Instagram. How crazy is that?
3. Relocate apps and remove notifications: I've turned off all notifications on my phone except calls and text for the past year and it has been a huge help for me. I get a lot of emails and when I would see an email notification pop up, that became my focus. My concentration was broken and as much as I hate this, I became less efficient because I ‘needed' to check in on the email. What has helped me recently is moving apps off my main screen on my phone or even putting them within sub-folders. Just like with keeping my phone next to me and reaching for it without realizing, once I was on my phone my thumb knew exactly where to go. By moving apps to the second or third screen in a different spot within the app grid (or in a folder), I had to stop myself and think to see if I really wanted to be on my phone at all. Need extra help? Log out.
4. Keep a paper to-do list of non-work projects: I feel better if I've done something ‘productive'. For me, that means addressing to-do lists. I've started keeping a master to-do list of random things I've been meaning to do and that list was my way to get things done while being offline and feeling good. My list has random things like cleaning out the attic, making new bread starter, trying a new restaurant and filing papers. Your list could be fitness classes. Just keep it non-digital.
5. Find non-digital hobbies: I hated that checking Instagram or whatever had essentially become a hobby. It was being done in my ‘free time' but it wasn't making me feel good. If you think about the time you mindlessly spend online and apply that time block to doing something you're passionate about, think what a difference it could make. I love to read and during the holiday I had a massive order of books lined up. It was amazing. Finding an offline hobby you love (really, think about it or make a list!) is a key to sustaining your improved digital life.
6. Reflect: However your first day goes, remember small steps get you closer. Allow a little goodness and appreciate it. Reflect. I realized how much better I felt being offline for a while and that has really encouraged me to be more conscious of how I spend my time. I realized that doing other things recharges my creativity which I need for work. I'm better at my job if I take care of myself and that starts with realizing sometimes I spend too much time online. The digital free day also made me realize time periods my mind can feel uncomfortable or lost (right before I start cooking dinner, after I stop working for the day I need a reading or wind down period).
I know seeing these 6 specific steps makes going digital free for 24 hours seem more do-able, but it was genuinely uncomfortable for me. By not being connected, I fear I’m going to miss something that will make me look bad to a client (an email with a request for example or a last minute project). I get worried by not posting on Instagram the blog falls off the radar even a little. Or in the off chance posting an image that day would have a chance to get re-grammed by a major publication. Writing down these ‘fears’ seems so silly now, but understanding the reason why I’m hesitant to disconnect is helping me figure out how I can keep going with being intentionally while I’m online. The six tips above helped me actually make it through the 24 hours, but as I mentioned, that time right after working and right before dinner is a tricky trap for me. That was almost my breaking moment.
Your digital life can be one of two things: a way to improve your life in a positive and progressive way or an empty, negative time waster. Don't get me wrong, there are things I love: meditation apps, quick communication with family and friends, organization tools. It just comes down to re-assessing. And that's what January is for.
Let me know what you're going to try for the first time this year - try it within the first thirty days of 2017 and tell me about it!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of goodnessknows. The opinions and text are all mine.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.