Planning My Screen-Time Sabbatical
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
This is the first of my weekly blog posts, meant to inspire and teach others on a similar journey. Each week, I'll be sharing my plan, my progress and any insights I gather along the way.
I've spent the last week planning my Sabbatical. My goal is to reduce my screen-time by at least 75%, translating to 6 hours less a day.
6 hours less a day for 3 months = 540 hours less = 22.5 days less
That means I get almost 23 days of my life back to invest in something else.
I get TWENTY-THREE 24-hour days back in just 90 days!
It took me a week to plan this because my goal is about so much more than addressing wasting time on my phone. Reducing time looking at social media allows me to invest my time and attention back into myself, my family, my friends and my community.
"Success" isn't about reducing my screen-time. "Success" is consciously choosing how I connect, create and contribute with the time I get back.
STEP 1: Explore What Matters Most
I began with what I know best - my Life on Purpose workbook. This is my trusted friend and the foundation of my practice when helping my clients feel grounded. When change happens to me, or I plan intentional change, I know this will always guide me to solid ground.
I spent a full day on choosing what matters most to me right now - my Touch-Stones. These are what guide me in my daily life when setting priorities and making decisions. It felt good to check-in with myself and see where there had been shifts in priorities over the last 4 months - and areas where things were out of balance. With clarity around my 8 Touch-Stones, I was able to see where I needed to focus my time and attention over the next 3 months. The time I had once used looking at social media and researching topics that had no relevance to my life could now be invested in my Touch-Stones.
What surprised me was how good it felt to change my internal dialogue. Where I once procrastinated writing a letter, calling a friend or painting because "I didn't have time," I found myself planning my 3 months ahead without that story holding me back. I was going to have an extra 6 hours a day available to me - not having time wasn't true!
STEP 2: Re-establish My Morning & Evening Routines
After tracking my behaviour for 5 days, I noticed that the majority of my screen-time was at the start and end of my day. As an adult with ADHD, that was not an act of kindness to myself for my non-neurotypical brain. It's distracting and disruptive for "regular brains" - but especially challenging to mine.
My ideas come to me in the morning with absolute clarity. My creativity and critical thinking solve complex problems without effort. That is, until someone talks to me about another subject or I look at my phone.
In the evening, my mind wants to rest while I'm in movement. I feel good when I'm quietly drawing, painting, gardening, tidying or preparing for the next day. My phone has been interrupting all of this, getting my full attention. To top it off, the blue light emitted from my phone's screen triggers my body to think that it's daylight and postpones the release of melatonin - the sleep hormone. This is disappointing - I'm going to bed unprepared for the next day, feeling guilty for wasting my creativity and sure to have trouble falling asleep. But hey, I saw what strangers ate for dinner on social media and I know how much a 1969 Porsche 911 sells for!
Back to basics for me. On day 2, I filled-in My Morning Routine, My Evening Routine and My Daily Rhythm worksheets. When I originally designed these for my workbook, I intentionally made them simple and decorative - so people would feel comfortable hanging them up where everyone in their home can see them. This helps with accountability AND with asking for support. When you and those close to you see why this routine is important to you, what you might lose if you don't follow it, and how they can help you avoid distractions - you are far more likely to follow it consistently. The first question our 9-year-old son asked me when I put mine up was how he could help me. Then he asked for his own worksheet :)
An essential component of my new routines is that my phone is absent:
My Morning Routine starts at 6:30am and ends at 8:30am. I don't touch my phone until 9:00a.m.
My evening routine starts at 8:30pm and ends at 10:30p.m. My phone is left to charge on a shelf in our kitchen at 8:30p.m., not to be touched again for over 12 hours.
STEP 3: Designing My Goal
So often, the opportunity within a goal is lost in pursuit of the outcome.
The part that matters most is the shift in your daily life, the experiences along the way and who you unfold to become. I've never felt as rewarded by the brief moment of standing at the top of a mountain as I've felt in all of the little moments of beauty, wonder and determined grit along the way.
I could simply check my screen-time data on my phone each day and celebrate on days where it was 2 hours or less. But where's the value in that? Instead, I spent another day on designing my goal to ensure I loved the experience MORE than the outcome. By using my Goal Mapping tool, I was able to imagine the full experience from start to finish, turning the next 3 months into a meaningful intention for my journey ahead.
What could I do with all of this extra time I'd have? How could I invest this time in what matters most to me - my Touch-Stones? What could I be curious about and experiment with? How could I shift my internal story of " not now, no time!" to "why not now, this time is yours today?!"
Over the weeks to come, I'll share the experiences I have, the things I notice and the impact it has on my daily life. For now, I'll share a few photos of moments I'd have never had were it not for my extra 6 hours...
STEP 4: Parking My Phone
I became used to being tied to my phone, my excuse being that it needed to be close to me "in case of an emergency." We have a 9-year-old-son and my Mom lives with us (she's turning 88 this year). After several medical emergencies and occasional calls from school, it felt uncomfortable to be far away from it. On the other hand, I've always been keenly aware that it's a distraction, an enabler for classic ADHD procrastination and a source of anxiety.
The silly thing is, I have an Apple watch - a simple tool that ALSO allows me to receive those urgent calls or texts that may come my way, but rarely do these days. Surfing social media, reading the news and searching the internet is not an elegant experience on my watch - and that is a beautiful thing.
So, I have a parking spot for my phone. In an out-of-the way place in our kitchen, it sits for the majority of the day and night, charging. I now tell myself that this is a wise choice in the case of a power-outage (which does happen frequently here). A charged phone is a useful tool when trees fall in windstorms along our coastal Vancouver Island waters.
I have my phone in my possession for only a few reasons:
when I take photos
when I'm professionally guiding people in nature
when I need to make a phone call
when I'm driving to a place that I'm not familiar with or it's further than 30 minutes away
I've also locked Facebook and Instagram - I can't access either app. Using the Screen Time setting on my iPhone, I limited their use to 1 minute per day. I didn't remove them because I want to consciously choose to not look at them. This creates a habit. I may delete them one day, but for now, I'm building my resilience.
STEP 5: My Daily Check-In
Starting on Sunday, I'll be starting My Evening Routine with My Daily Check-In. I'm still working on what I want to pay attention to over the next few months. For now, I have a "working copy" that I'm experimenting with to see where it lands with me. What I know for sure is, it will include:
Follow My Morning Routine
Follow My Evening Routine
Look at my phone for less than 2 hours
I like to give myself a week or two of sitting with my Touch-Stones, Routines and Goals before I step over the Start Line. This is a deeply reflective time where I check-in with myself in my daily life, noticing how a full commitment to my priorities and behaviours might impact me and those around me. As of today, I know this is going to be a welcome, intentional change.
I used to wake-up to the alarm on my phone - and then I'd look at my phone. Now, I use an alarm clock that starts my day off well. With a light that simulates a sunrise and an alarm that gently wakes me up, I felt refreshed - and I don't have my phone in my hand to turn my alarm off.
MY GIFT TO YOU:
You're welcome to download and use My Morning Routine for your own use at home. I hope it helps you design your mornings and start your day well.
I hope this has inspired you to consider how you might reduce your own screen-time, or change anything that distracts you from what matters most to you.
I'll be back with a new update next week!
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