Daily Time Off-line
Sep 15, 2014
For a long time now, I've been feeling guilty about all the time I waste on the internet. I'm talking about the unintentional ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there where I'm doing absolutely nothing except mindlessly clicking and scrolling and watching and reading.
The key word here is unintentional (I've been thinking about this word (and its counterpart) a lot since finishing Notes From a Blue Bike). It's one thing to say, "I'm going to look on Pinterest for some dinner ideas" or "I'm going to read all the new posts on my favorite blogs" or even, "I just need to unwind for fifteen minutes and check facebook" and quite another to have my house and my children calling my name and still succumb to the magnetic pull of the virtual world.
My guilt was associated with the amount of time I was wasting on the internet and also the purposeless clicking I found myself doing (how many times do I really need to check my email?).
I decided I needed a set time of day that was strictly off-limits to online. In our house, we are most productive in the morning, so it's imperative that I am present and available during the hours of 8am to 1pm. I decided that those five hours should be completely internet free.
Now, I have to say, I've tried this kind of limiting before without more than a day or two of success. But I did four specific things this time, and they made all the difference:
1. No Internet Meant No Internet
That meant that if we decided to go to the library in the morning and I hadn't added our latest picture book favorites to Goodreads, well, I would just have to keep those books another week or write down the titles with pen and paper to be added later. Or, if we decided at 11:03 that we wanted to make a batch of play dough, but we didn't have the recipe, I'd have to call my mom and have her give it to me over the phone.
This might seem a little excessive, but I had learned from my past failures that it was those little "necessities" during the day that invariably sent me down the rabbit hole. So I decided that if I was going to make a "no internet rule," I wouldn't allow any exceptions.
The added bonus of this was that I planned ahead a little bit more. I thought about our plans for the morning before 8:00 so I could look up or print off anything I might need during those hours when the internet would be inaccessible.
2. Three Weeks or Bust
I've heard before that it takes three weeks to form a habit. So I decided that I would try this idea for three weeks and then reevaluate at the end of that time period. If it wasn't working, I could change some of my regulations, but I had to give it an honest, three-week effort first.
3. I Offered Myself a Reward
Yes, I really did. If I could go three weeks without losing my willpower, then I could buy myself a new pair of earrings. Yep, a $5 pair from Old Navy. That's how nice I am. (I can be a little tight-fisted when it comes to money.)
4. I Told Mike About My Plan
This ended up being the critical key for success. If I hadn't laid it all out for Mike (the 8:00-1:00 time frame, the three weeks, the reward), I probably would have cheated or given up. But knowing that he knew and that at any time he might ask, "So how's your goal coming?" made me push through the tough moments and earn my check mark every day.
And now . . . I'm five weeks on the other side, and I have no desire to ever go back to my old internet ways. I feel so good about using my time with greater intention and purpose.
Now lest you think 1:00 comes and I spend the rest of the afternoon and evening glued to the screen, I don't. I'm just more relaxed about letting myself look things up. Also, as of this writing, I do not own a smart phone, so when I am away from my house, I'm also away from all things virtual, which in most cases is really nice.
Oh, and I'm sure you're dying to know . . . did I really go out and buy myself a new $5 pair of earrings? Why, yes. Yes, I did.
How have you made the use of your time more intentional and less wasteful? Please share in the comments!