Most of us own several of them. We are greeted by the radiating glow in the morning and are tucked in with piercing light in the evening. Whether this be a watch, phone, computer, television, car monitor, camera, or billboard these glowing rectangles are omnipresent.
My smart phone and computer as tools have given me the ability to connect with loved ones, write efficiently, access information and even summon strangers to pick me up. These tools are as useful or destructive as we allow them to be.
A wood chipper can be used to grind up tree limbs into fine pieces for compost or grind up your neighbor.
Creating basic rules for myself helped me see how I could best use these tools.
Here are 7 basic rules I have for myself:
- No glowing rectangles the first three hours of the day: Every morning looks fairly identical to the one before. I get ready for my day, read, pray and meditate. Before I would wake up and spend the first 20-30 minutes laying in bed with a glowing screen canvasing my eyes with emails, Facebook notifications, Tweets and news articles. This shift gave me the priority to focus on my health and spiritual practices. Mornings went from being a rushed frenzy to the most productive and focused part of my day.
- No glowing rectangles one hour before going to bed: I am not a scientist, but I can attest to more sound sleep after practicing this rule in my life. Before going to bed I have a basic evening routine. I now go to sleep with a clear mind and not focused on that work project, world events or caught up incessantly scrolling through feeds.
- Phone station: My phone remains in a specified location in my home, and is only used in that area.
- Check Email Less: This one was the hardest one for me to enact, and I still fail. I check my work email three different times during my workday, being sure to devote a full 30-60 minutes focused on responding to emails. My personal email is even less with only checking it 3-4 times a week.
- Social Media: I try to limit my social media engagement to twice a day. This permits focused attention on what is most important to me in terms of connecting with friends, checking on Facebook groups, reading news articles on Twitter or catching up with friends on Instagram.
- Television: I sometimes go weeks without watching anything on television. This is not because I don’t find value in it, I have just found other activities I find more enjoyable such as writing, walking, reading and spending time with friends. On the rare occasion I do watch a show, I try to limit it to every other day and 1 or 2 episodes at a time.
- Go without: For three solid months I removed all social media and emails from my phone and computer desktop. For two months I gave up watching television or movies by myself. This helped me find what was truly important and how much time I use to waste in areas where value was not added. Taking time away helped me discover the value they truly could add to my life.
We are either shaping our technology or our technology is shaping us. You are the one who determines how to best use these devices. Choose wisely.
Here are a few questions that helped me:
- How might your relationships improve if you used your phone less?
- What sort of time will you discover you always had if you fasted from Netlfix or another streaming service for a month?
- Would feel better at the end of the day if you spent more time engaging in your passions instead of endless hours scrolling through social media?
- Who would get more of your attention if you reduced the amount of time you spent on your devices?