Monday, January 16, 2012

I Took a Digital Sabbatical

Well, sort of...

It was more like a mini-one, and the first day was byaccident....

Late one night, whileworking on my Family Matters column, my computerstarted to overheat and wasn't working right. 

It needed to be takenapart and cleaned, and took at least an hour just to get it opened up. So, whenI realized it take a while, I had no choice but to do something else while Iwaited for my hubby to finish it up.

I may've been in shockinitially, because at first I paced around a bit, then sifted through somepapers, and finally kept returning to the computer to see if it wasready. 

I soon realized, Ididn't have much choice but to wait, and that meant I would have to dosomething else in the meantime...It was too late to text, or talk on the phone,so I decided to read a few chapters of a fiction book. (I am an avidnon-fiction reader, but don't always make the time to sit down with a goodnovel, but I enjoy doing it.)

It felt so good to justsit (and not at a computer chair, but on a comfy couch). As I relaxed, and wasentranced by the story, I decided I would try doing this on purpose some time.

Winter vacation wasapproaching...and it seemed like the perfect time. The kids and I would be hometogether everyday, and they would want to play with their toys, and with Mommy.Being glued to the computer and phone would make this a little difficult, ifnot stressful.

So, I put the phoneaway, leaving it plugged in on my nightstand, and did not use thecomputer unless it was absolutely necessary. If I was either of these, Ilimited it to a few things, stayed focused and got off as soon aspossible. 

I figured I would not beable to go even a day doing this, but I went all week!

It was weird! 

But, it felt soooogooood!

I found that by takingbreaks from digital-life, I was more relaxed, more available, and morein the now in physical-life. And when I did return to the computer, Ididn't quite feel the need to do more, more, more of electronic plugging-in,but instead felt like I wanted a lot less of it; focusing on being efficientwhile I was there, so I could get done and go back to the enjoyment of life(i.e.; I did less internet searching, headline reading andrandom-link-clicking...and yes, I did way less Facebooking. I'd like to think that this made me more efficient, and gave memore time where it mattered...because instead of Facebooking 'I was doingsomething', I justdid it, and enjoyed it.)

During our wintervacation, I played with the kids, took them out on adventures and felt timepassing slowly, instead of burring by. (I thinkI successfully savored every minute of every day.) I got backto exercising, which I've done sporadically for  a while, but used todo faithfully four or five days a week. I also did more housework and it didn'tseem like a chore, but actually seemed relaxing and more rewarding. I even readalmost the entire book I started!

The computer is anecessity for many of us, and will never be obsolete, but it seems that it'ssimilar to anything else enjoyable and easy, it becomes our main focus, cantransform into an addiction, and then turn out to be a major time waster .

I do use my computer alot for my work. I communicate via email most days, client material is sentback and forth this way, and I do my writing and personal finances online. Likemost people, I too reach for Google before the yellow pages and typein on my keyboard, before I grab the actual dictionary. 

We have learned todepend on the internet and computers for so much, and it can be super helpful, but, as I learned last week, it can also be amajor distraction.

I enjoyed wintervacation with the kids....and my much, that I plan on making this aregular part of my life.

I'd heard of doing thistype of thing once before. The author of a blog I follow tooka month-long digital sabbatical. I found it to be interesting andwondered if it would work. It seemed she learned a lot by doing it and shereally enjoyed it, though I never dared try it.

I cannot tell you how totake a full digital sabbatical (read Rowdy Kittens for help with this), but I can give you a few tips which might help you cut back:

Unplug it:
  1. I left my phone home, or in the car, when going places, and I did not carry it into each room with me for an entire week.
  2. I left my computer off, or asleep, when doing other things, so I would not be tempted to use it.
Plan other activities:
  1. Get outside
  2. Plan  to attend some events (don't forget to leave the phone at home so you can enjoy the moment)
  3. Set scheduled time for hobbies (make the computer off-limits during this time)
Cut back:
  1. Set a timer when online (limit yourself)
  2. Limit the time you spend reading luring headlines and articles (they are the biggest time wasters)
  3. Update and check your Facebook account once a day, instead of multiple times
  4. Pick a no-texting-hour each day (or a no texting day)

You've heard the plusside of this, now I the drawbacks:
  1. Since I was frequently without my phone, I did miss a few camera-worthy moments. But looking back, my memory recalls the moment and feels warm and fuzzy more so...whereas the ones I did have my camera-phone available for I don't remember so vividly.
  2. I did miss a few text messages and had replied to some a day or two late. Though, if they were super important, I suppose they could have called.
All in all, I could haveconsidered it a bad thing that my computer decided to malfunction, though atthis point, I am quite grateful, because I think it forced me to find somebalance.

Have you ever taken a digital sabbatical? How did you do it? How did you feel?

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