My adventures in trying to maintain some newfound inner peace after a 7 day, self imposed digital detox.
When I boarded the plane last September 25th, I was headed to Muskoka for some family celebrations. My smartphone, on the other hand, was headed to airplane mode.
And though I got off the plane in my home and native land, escaping into the sea of my fellow Canadians and Tim Hortons on every block, my phone remained on airplane mode, blissfully unaware – and unable – to receive texts, e-mails, or phone calls.
And because my smart phone tends to be connected to my hip, that meant that I too was blissfully unaware – and unable – to receive texts, e-mails, or phone calls.
And there we both remained, disconnected and undisturbed for 9 wonderful days.
Don’t get me wrong – I feel blessed that there are so many people in my life who care enough to get in touch with me, work and personal alike.
But I am a sucker for the ping of a text and the ding of a phone call. As a recovering people pleaser, it’s even harder for me than the average person to ignore the incoming messages until I actually have time to respond thoughtfully. I just can’t do that.
Must. Respond. Right. Now.
If I don’t, and – gasp! – I happen to open up a text accidentally, thanks to the latest Apple technology, I know that the other person can see that I’ve read the message. Darn it! Why did I do that?? So now they know I’ve read their message, but I’m not responding. What are they thinking?? Are they thinking I don’t like them? Don’t have time for them? Don’t think they’re important enough?
Welcome to the inner workings of my apparently troubled mind.
Thankfully, I found peace in the 9 days I spent away from technology, lost in the changing colors of the autumn maple leaves that lined the lake and quaint streets near my cottage. I replaced texts with chocolate timbits, phone calls with sitting on the dock (of the bay), staring at the lake and drinking tea, and e-mails with late night chats with my beloved family.
It was life, uninterrupted.
It helps, of course, that my cottage is set in a tranquil spot 2 hours outside of Toronto. It backs onto a lake, and is surrounded by nature. It is truly my happy place. My soul recognizes it before my eyes do. There, I am free, and this trip was no exception. With my automatic e-mail message telling people not to expect to hear from me for 9 days, and my voicemail saying the same, I felt incredibly free. I could do anything I wanted, anytime. And that I did. I can’t say that that I slept much (you try sleeping in a cottage filled with 40 of your very amazing and yet very noisy family members), but I had a lot of fun. I walked the 2.5 miles into town twice in one day. Actually, no – I strolled! Because I had time to stroll! I had nowhere to be. No one was expecting to hear from me. I was free.
My smart phone was at 75% of its charge when I put in on airplane mode on September 25th. On October 3rd, when the wheels touched down on the runway at LAX and I leaned down to ceremoniously turn off airplane mode, begrudgingly returning to the land of the connected, my phone was at about 50% charge. And I never plugged it in to charge while I was gone. Not even once.
It turns out your phone uses almost no energy when it’s not being used so much. I wonder if the same could be true for humans?
Based on how rejuvenated I felt after this disconnected trip, I’m thinking yes.
Re-entry has been interesting. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been looking at myself like some kind of science experiment. In this out of body experience, I’m noticing what happens when my phone rings, a text comes in, or an e-mail arrives. I feel it in my body first. My heart beats a little faster, my stomach tingles with nervousness, my breath gets shallow, and I feel a need to respond, even if I’m not prepared to do so in that moment. Those feelings cause a ripple effect in my day, making me feel like my attention is being pulled in too many directions. And if I don’t somehow break the chain and stop the feeling, my day spirals out of control. I go from playing offense (aka being the boss of my day) to playing defense (aka trying to squeeze everything into an increasingly time starved day).
It’s quite remarkable, albeit a little depressing (not to mention embarrassing – how did I get here?).
And though I know I am ultimately responsible for my actions and reactions, it’s proving to be difficult to keep the sense of peace I had while I was digitally disconnected.
Never one to back down from a challenge, this is a battle I have to win. Because my smart phone isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t want it to. I just need to get better at managing how I interact with it.
In the spirit of my previous post, here are 3 more tips to help you manage the onslaught of your digitally connected life:
1. Be ready to be fully engaged.
As a rule of thumb – don’t ever answer the phone or respond to a message unless you are ready to completely devote your attention to the person on the other end. If you’re not, don’t answer or respond. Wait until you’re ready.
2. Stay on task.
Answering your phone or responding to a text in the middle of your work day is a distraction, and it can cost you a lot of time. In fact, it can take an average of 23 minutes to get back on task after being distracted. So if you respond to every message as it comes in, or pick up the phone every time it rings, that’s a lot of wasted minutes in your day. So what can you do?
As I mentioned in the last post, unless you are expecting a message from someone, block out specific times in your day when you will respond to your messages. You can even turn your phone on airplane mode for an hour or two if you don’t trust yourself, or hide your phone. Whatever works.
3. Be present.
This one seems obvious, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been out with friends when they’ve pulled out their phones. I do it too! I especially do it if someone else does it first. We need to stop the cycle. Unless you are waiting for a call or a message, or have to keep the phone out in case the babysitter calls, leave your phone in your bag. Try to really be with the person or people you are with. So much of our communication comes not from the things that we say, but rather from the things that we do. So if you pull out your phone to answer a call while a friend is talking to you, you don’t have to tell them that they’re not as important as the person on the other line. Your actions already spoke for you.
These are just some of the things I will try to remember as I navigate my way through maintaining inner peace as I slowly get back into the connected world. Hopefully these suggestions can help you too.
If nothing else, let this serve as a friendly reminder to stay connected to the thing that matters most:
Photo provided by the author.
This article originally appeared at DelectableYou.com