Updated: Apr 19, 2021
This is the end of my second week of my 3-month Screen-Time Sabbatical. I have lots to share, including some helpful tips.
My goal is to reduce my screen-time by at least 75% over 3 months, translating to 6 hours less a day. By doing this, I get back over 3 weeks of my time in only 90 days.
For this blog post, I thought I'd focus on my Morning Routine and things that seem to work for me when creating new habits. I'll add a couple of resources that I've discovered as well.
How I Start My Day Can Define My Day:
Over the last 2 weeks, I've noticed just how important it is to start my day without my phone near me. I know this, because on 2 occasions I chose to look at my phone before the end of my morning routine. Those 2 days felt disjointed - from the start.
When I look at my phone in the morning before 9 a.m., it feels like I've let 100 people into our home, uninvited. I wouldn't open our door at 6:30 a.m. and invite the neighbourhood in, so why would I start my day by opening my door to the stories, opinions and images of people via my phone screen? When I do, I get distracted and things that are important to me don't happen. I'm emotionally connected to other people's stories before I've been present to my own.
There is something about starting my day with myself. When I begin with the digital inputs from others, I bring those people and their perspective into my day. When I start with quiet time for myself, I bring my Self and my perspective into my day.
There is nothing that can't wait until I'm sitting at my desk at 9 a.m..
No matter what your morning looks like, I hope you find some time for yourself before you pick-up your phone. Pay attention to your breath for 5 minutes, make your cup of coffee and fully-taste the first sip, listen to your favourite song - just something for you, first.
My Morning Routine:
My Morning Routine starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 9:00 a.m. It's a blend of things that help me start my day well, as well as a few things that support my family with their routines.
Because some of the items in my routine were new, I've learned over the years that I need to include start and end times for each activity as guidelines. I do this to ensure I have enough time to do everything, allowing me to be fully present in the moment.
Currently, my Morning Routine is:
Let the dogs out - take-in the sounds of birds and smell of our forest (b-r-e-a-t-h-e)
Feed the dogs and make a cup of tea
Leave my husband's favourite mug + tea bag out for him
Put out vitamins for everyone
Smile at our son, make eye contact, give him a long hug and tell him I love him as he stumbles into the kitchen and starts his routine
Take my mug of tea with me and sit to write in my Morning Pages (Artist's Way)
Shower and dress
Walk the dogs + notice surroundings
Go to our Studio with big bottle of water to drink
Review & plan my priorities, my focus area for the week and the activities for my day using my Weekly Planner
Check email and texts at my desk
I've been following this routine well, except for yoga. It's on YouTube and I don't want to watch it on my phone. I would normally watch it on our tv in our basement, but we're about a month away from our renovation being complete to repair significant flood damage that happened in January. I made a conscious choice to not use my phone "until" I can use our tv - that's a slippery slope for me to use my phone. I had an "ah-ha moment" yesterday. Our son has an iPad with parent controls for internet use. I can add the exception of only the yoga YouTube channel in the parent controls and use his iPad! Sorted.
It helps that my husband and son also have their own Morning Routines. We work together to help each other have the start to the day that we need. Our mornings are a calm dance, versus the frustrated beginning that we used to have years ago. We all wake-up much earlier than what is needed to simply eat and rush our son off to school - we make time for what allows us start our day well. We help each other with small things that remove a task from someone else - and we understand why each of our mornings are important to us. Everyone does their own thing, within their own schedule, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we began the day being kind to ourselves and to each other.
Creating New Habits:
The brilliant thing about having an "ADHD-brain" is that I know how to leverage its strengths and I have strategies to power through potential challenges. These strategies also work well for "normal brains."
When I create a new habit, I know I need to add it to the beginning, during or end of a habit that I already do and like. Choosing to write in my Morning Pages Journal is tied to me quietly enjoying my first morning cup of tea. I put our vitamins out while the kettle is boiling. Yoga is a welcome stretch after intently writing for 25 minutes. If I decided to add any of these activities to the middle or end of my day, I know I wouldn't do them consistently. Because I paired them with something that feels like a natural fit, it flows together. I start small and build it into a habit that's already working for me.
I also use a classic ADHD strategy called the Pomodoro technique when I want to do something daily that I know I might procrastinate starting. I tend to use this in its simplest form. Using a kitchen timer, I set it for 25 minutes, put things in place to ensure I won't be disrupted, and I do only that task for 25 minutes. When the timer rings, I stop the task and take a 5 minute break. This is how I started writing in my Morning Pages every morning. I knew that there would be days that I didn't feel like writing... The funny thing is, where I once used the timer to help me start ("I only have to write for 25 minutes - I can do this!") I eventually found myself using it to remind me to STOP. My writing habit is solid now. (Note: I do not use a timer on my phone!)
Awareness of My Phone Use Triggers:
I spent some more time looking at my iPhone Screen Time Settings. I had never clicked on "See All Activity" in this setting before. This is a useful tool to notice your triggers and tendencies for phone use.
My greatest awareness was under "PICKUPS." In here, I could see what triggered me to pick my phone up and look at it. Texts and Google Keep were the two main triggers this past week. That actually made me feel quite good, knowing how frequently I used to pick-up my phone to see if I had any social media notifications, to read the news or to initiate a random Google search. I know that I look at a text only if I received it on my watch and it's something that requires a typed reply. I use Google Keep to store ideas and tasks, replacing Post-It notes everywhere. I pick my phone up less than 20 times a day now - it would have been close to 100 times a day a few weeks ago.
I also appreciated how my removal of notifications from all apps, with the exception of texts, our house alarm and my clock gave me almost no triggers to look at and pick-up my phone.
You may wonder why I allow my clock app to send me notifications. This is a strategy that works for me. Before I put my phone to bed at night, I create alarms in it for each of the key tasks/activities in my calendar the next day where I need to start and finish things that require concentration. I give myself blocks of time to allow for "flow" when I can. Each alarm has a clear title, like "Write Blog Post For 2hrs" or "Stop Writing & Eat Lunch." For some, they prompt me 15 minutes in advance of the task, allowing me to prepare for it. My alarms nudge me on my Apple watch with a gentle buzz, allowing me to stay present to what I'm doing. This keeps me away from my need to check my phone or look at "everything" in my calendar.
Helpful Tips To Reduce Screen-Time:
Tim Ferriss is one of my favourite podcast hosts, especially over the last year as he's explored the more "human side" of business. He's been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People,” one of Forbes’s “Names You Need to Know,” and one of Fortune’s “40 under 40.” He is an early-stage technology investor/ advisor (Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ others) and the author of five #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. His podcast has exceeded 300 million downloads and has been selected for “Best of iTunes” three years running.
This is a helpful video from Tim, offering simple tips and strategies for reducing screen time. Some of the strategies that work for him include:
using airplay mode
no social media apps on his phone
no email app on his phone
using silent mode
posting on social media without consuming social media
What I've Been Noticing:
Here are a few photos of what I've been noticing this past week. It's been a gorgeous start to Spring on Vancouver Island!
And an insightful article that you may also enjoy about our need for nature:
I hope that this week's post has offered some helpful insights and ideas. I welcome any of your own ideas for what works best for you.
Valerie spent over 25 years leading technology teams to reach their potential in the energy, utility, banking and technology industries. Over the last 6 years, Valerie has developed a private practice as a trusted Executive Coach (ICF), Mentor and Certified Forest Therapy Guide (ANFT) for clients around the world. Her unique approach incorporates guided time in nature in support of mental health and overall wellbeing.