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A 48 hour technology detox – has life seriously got to this?

IMG_4837Many people (my parents included) may scoff at the idea of a technology detox. That is unless of course they were living with me and could see how many hours I feed into technology every single day, from the very moment I wake to the very moment I go to sleep (and there are hours in between). Many of you would know that I announced a tech detox last Friday that would last for 48 hours. I dare say some of you are wondering why I didn’t commit for longer. The fact is this was a very last minute decision and I wasn’t organised enough to do so. Technology now forms a huge part of my life and to enable things to tick over in my absence a little prior planning is definitely required.

To cut a long story short I had no choice but to do this – for too many weeks (actually lets say months) I have been pushing, pushing, pushing – filled to the brim with adrenalin and the excitement of putting together my first recipe book and finding a career that ticks all of my boxes and makes me feel like I don’t do a day of work in my life. Nothing has been able to stop me. I have never felt such passion and it feels truly amazing. However, as many would understand such passion can come with its challenges and those I now understand. Fundamentally it doesn’t matter how much you love your ‘job’ every single one of us needs down time. Stillness. Rest. Every single one of us (if I could be honest, I often find that fact a little disappointing, sometimes I very much wish I was that one person who didn’t). The outfall was the return of the virus I had been battling with for twenty years pre CFS. All the proof I needed that I had to STOP (again).

The birth of a technology addiction.
I should say that the ‘beast’ that created my technology addiction is most certainly my 18 year recruitment career and a real desire to provide personalised, exceptional service. It’s always been about surpassing expectations. I had rules that were instilled in me – every phone call was responded to same day, every email within 24 hours, there were no exceptions. I’d reply to an email in the bath at night if I had to. I was service driven and still am. The problem however is when you try to take those same rules to an online community (including many thousands of people), many of whom are not expecting same day replies. It becomes totally unrealistic, as I have found out only too well. These rules most definitely require a softening. I am human and I have the same number of hours in my day as the next person.

A new ‘online’ career.
My ‘world’ is now hugely online. I have a blog where I share my life and my thoughts and the services I provide. Said posts generate interest in the form of blog commentary or daily emails direct to my inbox. I receive daily emails about the services I provide;  I have an instagram feed. I nourish and nurture this feed on a daily basis and whilst I no longer have the time to invest in it that I once did, I truly love the engaged nature of this community. Without instagram I would not have my eBook, A Nourishing Kitchen, nor would I have the engaged following that I do;  I have a Facebook page that I also nurture on a daily basis and this too creates further online communication via news feed comments or direct emails to my inbox; I have a Twitter account that I am trying to nurture (though can’t quite get my head around Twitter!); I have a (previously mentioned) recipe eBook that is online and therefore requires marketing via online activity. This eBook in turn generates a whole host of emails on a daily basis – tech support questions that I had not previously envisaged, questions about future books, hard cover books…you name it…my inbox is typically bulging (and don’t get me wrong, I am full of gratitude for it).

A day in the life of technology.
This online engagement has been starting as soon I wake in the morning. I was checking and responding to instagram as soon as I woke – if I leave it too long commentary runs off the bottom of my feed and I have found real discomfort in not being able to acknowledge someone who has replicated one of my recipes. It would continue through breakfast (as I photograph my food for instagram). It continues across all mediums all day, in between my therapy business with a real emphasis around meal times (and food styling!). My inbox screams at me if it has too many unread messages so I work at it all day to keep it to a minimum. My respite is the therapy I provide that is typically 2.5 hours with each client and without a computer in sight. The worst offending technology habit that formed was the bed time habit and with that the demise of my love of reading. For as long as I can remember I have gone to bed to read before lights out…until about 6 months ago when my iPhone and instagram account took place of the book.

The outfall
Exhaustion and a marked lack of boundaries in my new working life. That’s about the extent of it. I have become so constantly engaged within this space that I have left little room for stillness and rest – not physical rest so much, but rest for my mind. For a few months now I have been getting little signs from the universe that I need to slow down, take a day off (just one!), do a little (or a lot) less. I have been getting those niggling feelings that a cold is coming on so I chug down an extra green juice and go to bed a little earlier. That was doing the trick until the big V (virus) stepped back into my life. Me all of all people should have known better.

So how did it feel to be on a 48 hour tech detox? photo (31)
Amazing. Instantly calming. I felt like a different person. All of this pressure to be engaged, to be communicating, to have to ‘check in’ totally dissipated. I had this absolute sense of freedom and space in front of me to fill my hours doing whatever I chose (and I had so many more left in my day). I felt so much more mindful and engaged with every activity I undertook – I wasn’t trying to comment on instagram whilst watching my favourite TV show and checking my FB feed. Just sitting at my local cafe and drinking coffee was an entirely different experience – I sat and simply watched people (on their phones) and the world go by. I noticed stuff. I found time to read and get truly excited about going to bed to read (To Kill a Mockingbird – how wonderful is that book?!). I even lay on the couch in the sun on a chilly afternoon and read my book – how on earth could I have let that beautiful habit slip? What became evident most of all was the total control technology now had over my life. It had slowly infiltrated every part of my day.

What’s next?
Well, I know what I need to do. I need to set some boundaries. I haven’t yet decided exactly how this will look but there are a couple that are glaringly obvious:
1. No social media within half an hour of bed time and NO social media in bed. I am typically a good sleeper but my wired brain has been finding it much harder to wind down.
2. No social media as soon as I wake up! My daily ritual is to get up and walk Wilson, after I have checked my phone. No more. It can wait. If I lose commentary off the bottom of my feed the world will go on.
3. AT LEAST one technology free day per fortnight. I would like to move this to 2 but with the recent launch of my eBook I will commit to 1.
4. Stop filling my ‘down time’ (eg morning coffee at the cafe, time on the couch after lunch, during my favourite TV show) with social media. Down time is to be exactly that, down time. Disengaged, rest time for my brain.
5. Give away with the need to respond same day, I am not savings lives here (well, I hope that in some instances I do..but you get my drift). My own life will not be at risk if I don’t (will it?).

This is just the beginning, it’s a step in the right, mindful direction. I am sure I could do more and I would dearly love your input. Please…if you have any advice (from experience) I would dearly love to hear it.

How do you manage your online world?

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Like you (although different again), I needed to take a technology detox recently and realise that I was too caught up and needed to “let go” of commenting back to EVERYONE, visiting EVERYONE’s blogs each day and wishing for more likes and views everyday, and worrying when they went down (which created my Allure of Junk post – http://juliegreenart.com/2013/06/03/the-allure-of-junk-part-ii-keep-it-simple/). What is more important for me and my life is to live it outside of the screen and to CREATE more writing and photography instead of reading everyone’s blogs and spending too much time at the screen (although I still am). And even if I don’t get posts or pictures out as quickly or as in-depth or as regularly as I want to, there are other things on my plate, and balance and acceptance are key, I think. Great post and I wish you all the best. Your service to us is really above par and I was really pleased to see that you took a technology detox for yourself. It’s a funny thing! I still have a long way to go to manage more time away from the screen, but I happily say it’s a work in progress because I really do love the blogging community and I am just a perfectionist who wants people to really enjoy and be served from what I produce, as do you. And you’re amazing. Thank you for being amazing!

    June 25, 2013
    • Julie, thanks awfully for your reply, I so appreciate it. It is so comforting hearing other people’s experiences. I love your comment about living outside of the screen and creating more writing and photography etc, that resonates beautifully. If I could be honest I suffer from much guilt about my lack of attention to other people’s blogs, I simply have not had the time to sit and read them, not on top of everything else I am trying to do each day, simply within my own online space. I feel the need to devote some more ‘reading’ time in my day for such activities b/c I am very conscious that I live in my own world much of the time – a challenge you face when you work from home, on your own! Many thanks again Julie. I am book marking your post and reading it pronto!

      June 25, 2013
  2. I completely agree with Julie in that technology (and tweeting/blogging/etc) sometimes becomes such as big part of our lives that we forget to live the life that we want to blog about. My family made a pact to put away all of our phones/ipads/computers each Sunday. P.S. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite books, and as a complete book addict, I could never give myself over to twittering before bedtime because books will always be number one for me. Love your blog.

    June 25, 2013
    • Thank you for pushing the point that I need to leave technology outside of my bedroom! I honestly can’t believe that I allowed this to happen. I was a book addict – it was one of my most favourite activities. I love your Sunday ideas, I think is just wonderful, more so if you have a family. As for To Kill a Mockingbird, I am just loving it! It’s the beautiful book isn’t it? Can’t WAIT to go back to bed!!

      June 25, 2013
  3. Oh my sweet Amy, i just read this post from start to finish and gobbled up every word. I am so so glad you finally did this for yourself, allowed yourself this. And no, it’s not luxury, it’s a necessity. I just quietly could see you (virtually of course) slowly getting yourself into this little downward spiral, and was hoping dearly you would see it and pull yourself back out. The above account suggests that you have completely done that and I am so proud and happy.

    The whole reason we left our previous jobs and careers was because they made us sick – the stress, the intensity, the hours, the lack of passion – caused our bodies to react, and physically proclaim to us that this was not how they wanted to be treated. The trouble is now that we’re our own bosses, we need to be nice to ourselves! Be a nice boss! Let your hard working and oh so enthusiastic employee head off at 5pm, tell them to switch their blackberry off for the night/weekend, tell them to take a day for themselves and go to the beach.

    I think the action steps you’ve laid out are fantastic. For me personally i try to adhere to a pretty similar set of guidelines (don’t get me wrong, it ain’t easy, it’s a constant battle between the nice boss and the A-type hiding its snarly head below). In particular:

    1. Upon waking, do NOT check your iPhone. I don’t even have it in the room. We have a “screen free bedroom” rule now (trust me, this has other positive flow ons). I use a traditional alarm to wake, and in the morning the first hour or two is completely mine. I have a hot lemon water, go to yoga or for a walk, have a coffee and breakfast out (my daily ritual treat), shower and prepare for the day. THEN i check my phone, emails, IG, FB etc. Trust me, the emails and comments do wait til then (~9am for me).

    2. I try to switch the work day off at 6pm. That’s what normal people do! Let’s just say i’m not very good at this one, it often creeps to 7/8, BUT the intention is there, every day, and i’m slowly getting better at it. I allow myself to check IG once after dinner ~730pm (although i’m working towards removing this also), then phone gets switch OFF. That’s right, off. Switch back on the next morning at 9am. Honestly it’s the most generous and giving thing you can do for yourself (and your clients) – i could feel your reinvigoration even whilst reading this post!

    3. Weekend’s to be as tech-free as possible. You can actually schedule FB posts ahead of time, so my goal is to do that on the Friday if i want to post over the weekend (not required though), and therefore leave FB all weekend. IG is a little tougher, but intention will eventually be for it to be a Mon-Fri show only.

    4. In general during the work day I’m aiming towards a twice a day checking/posting schedule. That’s emails/FB/IG once in the morning (all posts and reponses), and once in the late afternoon. You actually become so much more productive during the day and can focus on particular tasks. When you’re present, not only are you more productive, you also enjoy what you’re doing so much more – try it! Check this link out, it’s a cute wee footer you can add to your email signature block to remind people of that intention (or just hold the intention in your heart): http://www.calmbox.me

    5. My partner and I are in the process of booking a 3 week trip to Italy in September. Is my business crazy busy and i don’t think i can afford to take the time off? Of course. Am I not sure how i’m going to cover things while i’m gone? Yes absolutely. But we’re booking it anyway, those things will figure themselves out. How could you say no to Puglia?!!!

    Aims I’m so glad you wrote this post. I’ve even felt re-invigorated responding to you, how’s that for good karma! So pleased you’ve done this for yourself, and I hope you’ll continue to do so – and remember, you can only hold yourself truly accountable to you – that’s what ultimately matters (and mean the while, your body and hormones will quickly figure out if you’re telling porkies!).

    Much love to you my dear IG friend,

    xx
    Buffy
    begoodorganics.com

    June 25, 2013
    • Buffy, you have changed my life with this response! Honestly, as I was reading it my shoulders started dropping and I felt this sense of calm come over me..the idea that I could have alllll those hours off social media…really?!! Most significant points for me are 1 (do not check phone on waking!), 2 (finishing my day at 6pm, which is fine given I’m not so great post 6 anyway) and 4 (twice day checking, tho this is a little hard b/c I post so many food shots. Even if I made it 3 it would be a HUGE improvement on what I am doing). Oh and 3 (the weekend tech free time)…that’s a certainty, tho will need some help around IG posts (easily sorted).
      I am so excited to have everybody’s feedback – I feel so much calmer already! Thank you, thank you! x

      June 26, 2013
      • Wonderful. Ps you’ve got 1 hour and 28 mins left…

        X Buffy

        June 26, 2013
      • No I haven’t! I’ve got 2 hours and 25 mins left! It’s only 3.35! However…I am meeting a friend at 6 and am still in my yoga gear (the joys of working from home) so I will actually finish at 5 anyway! x

        June 26, 2013
      • Ok so you’re 3 hours behind, shall note this for further smacks-on-the-hand-comments.
        I hope a vino is involved at 6.
        Talk soon.
        x

        June 26, 2013
      • No – we are going to Yong Greens (you will love, it’s vegan) – they are alcohol free! x

        June 26, 2013
      • Omg i’ve seen the pics on IG – it’s on my dream to eat list (november, november, can’t come soon enough). Rightyho will stop leading you astray. Have fun.
        x

        June 26, 2013
  4. I absolutely love you for writing this and reminding me of what I already know should happen next (and soon). I literally have chills as I know this is the ultimate truth I needed to hear. I oftentimes feel myself unable to breathe because I know I’ll never have enough time to make all of the art that I need to make in my lifetime and yet, I go to bed at night with instagram and I don’t sleep well and I just…totally feel the same way. Being able to look at it from me to you and thinking, ‘she can/should totally take a day off…or wait a few hours before checking in’ etc. has me thinking you’d say the same of me. Therefore, we set our expectations of ourselves too high and that’s awesome…except when it’s draining. And we both know better. Thank you. I am so doing this!

    June 26, 2013
    • We SO both know better. You even feel it when you are doing it don’t you. The little voice in your head telling you to STOP and put the damn phone down! I’m showing that little voice a whole heap more respect from now on! Thanks for your input, hugely appreciated.

      June 26, 2013
  5. I love this post Amy. I have exactly the same tendencies as you – despite the fact that my work is all about bringing mindfulness into people’s lives.

    I agree with ClydeValentine – it’s so different when you hear it from someone else’s perspective. It makes it so much easier to give yourself permission to let go.

    Thanks too to Buffy for sharing her tips. The last one in particular is so important. It never feels like the time was right to take a holiday – there’s always so much to do – but you have to just book it in and go.

    I make sure every Sunday is my own now and often spend the afternoon lying on the couch with a book and we have a mini-break every couple of months where we get out of town and disconnect from technology. These small things make such a difference. I’m always more creative and more focused afterwards.

    June 26, 2013
    • Hi Kate – so wonderful to be part of this conversation, thanks Aims for kickstarting it.

      Kate your Sunday book afternoons on the couch sound wonderful. My partner and I also try to get out of town at least once a month for a tech-free weekend away (family bach by the beach is something I’m very grateful for!)

      X Buffy

      June 26, 2013
    • Kate I’m just visualising you lying back on your couch immersed in a good book (with one of my afternoon delights in hand of course 😉 on the weekend, it’s the most wonderful feeling isn’t it? The suggestion of weekends away is a very good one. I do very little of that being a single girl and having few buddies to trip away with. But that’s no excuse b/c I love my own company anyway! x

      June 26, 2013
  6. Michele G. #

    I was so happy to come across this post because I have vowed to have a summer “digital detox” after reading the book “The Facebook Diet” by author Gemini Adams (http://www.unplugseries.com/). This book helped me to realize that I am spending WAY too much time checking my phone, getting bored and running to my PC, and not enough time out there in the world enjoying and taking in my surroundings! The book features 50 hilarious cartoons that illustrate the many weird and obsessive behaviors that people exhibit as a result of Facebook . The book made me laugh but it also really opened my eyes to my dependency and obsession with social media. Gemini Adams does give some very helpful advice and makes “unplugging” a little bit easier to face. I think this is a fast-paced, funny and informative book that everyone should read. Good luck on your detox! Perhaps this book will encourage you to do more!

    July 4, 2013

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