Do you find yourself on Facebook or Instagram, scrollingscrollingscrolling and you don’t remember the moment when you actually picked up your phone?
Are you arguing with your child when it is time for them to turn off their show or game and they whine, “But you’re looking at a screen!” And they are right?
Do you think about things you would like to do and then immediately wonder how you will photograph them, or what caption you might write about them?
Have you looked over at your partner in the middle of a conversation and noticed that he’s actually looking at something on his phone?
Have you felt utterly lost and disconnected when your internet is down?
If you said yes to any of these things, don’t feel bad. Everything on this list is something I’ve done personally. And also: These things are not things I even want to admit to, let alone do.
I don’t want to be looking at a screen as much as I’m looking at my people. I feel addicted.
I hate questioning my own creativity because everything on Instagram and Pinterest looks so perfect and effortless (even though I know those photos are curated and edited. I know it, but still I buy into the image of it).
I expect you don’t want these things either.
WE SUCK AT SCREEN TIME
Most of my life right now is on the other side of a screen – work as well as entertainment. Lots of information I’m used to having at my fingertips because Siri and Google are my crutches. Most of the ways I communicate with my family and friends and even my partner. My grocery list, my calendar!
I’m actually pretty helpless without my little screen, it turns out.
My daughter has zero interest in giving up Math Puppy and PocketCamp for a week but I love not having the “turn it off now” fight.
But I have noticed how different we are when we orient our lives away from screens, instead of into them.
I am so much more calm when I’m not constantly looking at pretty squares of other people’s lives, sound bite advertisements for this or that product and new stories that stress me out.
When the iPad is not an option, my daughter will put on an audio book and build apartments for her toys, complete with hand-drawn signs and complicated storylines.
She also transitions easier, is more cheerful, and wants to engage with me more (I love that!).
I’ve learned that when I read a book or wrote in my journal in the morning before waking my daughter for schooI, I felt more rested and had better focus when I sat down to my work day.
When we turn off the screens, we remember there are other things that we like to do together, like eat our dinner on the front porch, build puzzles, and read to each other.
In other words, we started connecting with each other, better and more often. It felt good.
But the biggest benefit?
I stop comparing every idea and thought in my head to the whole rest of the world. I keep my eyes on my own paper, so to speak, because I stop looking at the places where everyone else is broadcasting their work.
As a result, I could have an idea, mull it over, let it expand or mutate or do whatever it was going to do inside my own head without having it die on the vine by comparing it to what everyone else was doing. My clarity goes up. My confidence goes up. My desire to take an idea from inception to completion skyrockets.
And that alone is worth all the iPad whining.
Your thoughts and ideas are important. Please give them some space.
10 WAYS TO GO SCREEN FREE
Not sure where to start? Here are some ways you can unplug, starting today.
Write a letter
Not an email, but a letter. On paper. Tell someone what’s happening in your life right now. Describe that tree that blooms in your backyard only for a week. Tell them a funny thing your kid did today. Ask them how they are and tell them you hope they will write back. Put a stamp on it and walk to the mailbox to mail it.
Have a conversation
Meet a friend for coffee and leave your phone in your bag. Smile at a parent at drop-off and ask them how they are today like you’d really love to know the answer. Call someone just to tell them you are thinking about them.
Make a list on paper
Write your grocery list by hand. Or illustrate it with pictures and hand it to your kid, so they can direct you though the store (my daughter loves this!). Start a bullet journal (don’t look that up on Pinterest, really really don’t).
Do in-depth research
Look something up the old fashioned way. Go to a library, use an encyclopedia, find a book on the topic and read it. Look at the bibliography and find another book on the topic and then go find that one. This is so much more interesting than reading 500 words on a topic on a web page!
Talk to strangers
Ask for directions or dinner recommendations (I’ve found the best restaurants this way!). Comment on the weather, or tell someone they are wearing a fabulous outfit!
Talk to your plants
Water a plant and tell it a secret.
Go on a photo walk
If you have one, use a camera that is not also a phone. Resolve that you will not post any of these pictures on Instagram or Facebook. Maybe even get one printed and hang it on the wall.
Pay attention to your food
Plan a meal out of a cookbook (Don’t have any? Try the library!). Try a new dish. Get your kids in the kitchen to help. Really pay attention to the way your food looks and tastes.
Create a memory
Draw a picture of what is around you, rather than taking a picture of it. Don’t draw? Sit quietly and study it. Use all of your senses. You are writing memories to your brain right now. Load them up with as many details as you can.
Be with your emotions
Does it feel uncomfortable when you can’t avoid your feelings by tuning out online? Sit with that. Breathe it in and out. Pay attention to where you feel that discomfort in your body and then let the emotion pass through you and away.
Whether you unplug for one day or one week, or find more permanent ways to reduce your screen time, I hope you’ll consider it.
Regular screen-free time makes a big difference for our family.
Doña Bumgarner is a life coach, mama, and maker who works with creative entrepreneurs who want to do meaningful work and also be awesome moms. They want to get out from under the guilt and overwhelm and find a little space for themselves again – but it feels impossible to balance all the pieces. She helps them focus their time and energy so they can confidently pursue their passions, make a difference in the world AND be present and engaged moms. She loves to help women get back in control of their time and to conquer their overwhelming to-do lists.You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook, or subscribe to her podcast, Nurturing Habit.