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Aiming for analogue - switching off my phone
Do you remember the 1970s children's tv programme, Why Don't You?
The full title was Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead? and it encouraged children to do exactly that, take up hobbies, explore, move about a bit.
It was one of the few tv programmes my Dad approved of.
Recently the theme tune started to swim around in my head. "Whyyyyyy don't you Go! Go! Go!?" and I decided that it was a hint to do something about my Internet habit.
I have a tendency to be a workaholic - I always have been.
I easily become addicted to the idea of 'busyness' and to spend my evenings rabbit holing around the internet and not getting anything actually done.
I deny this, I proclaim that it is customer service or research or vitally important Facebook lives (on whatever I NEED to know this week to get my business to thrive).
I know that it is none of these things, it never has been.
Whatever it is has, however, got worse this year. My need to increase visitors to this website means that I am trying to learn completely new technical things around Search Engine Optimisation and Pinterest Algorithms and Instagram Stories and Stop Motion Animation and on and on and on.
At the moment I have a massive problem with feeling overwhelmed, and a big part of that is constant access to too many things, too many possibilities, too many options.
I decided to introduce a digital curfew. To switch my laptop and phone off when I sit down to eat at night and not to switch them back on until after breakfast the next day.
The idea is to spend more time unconnected to the Internet than I spend connected.
I am 11 days in.
The only important thing I have missed so far is a message from my eldest daughter. When I didn't answer within my usual 90 seconds she resent it to her sister who came and told me.
As long as I can't see my phone I don't think of it.
There have been a few 'I'll just google that' moments but they are getting fewer (and everyone else in the house still has their phone on so, if it is that essential, there tends to be someone else already typing in their query).
But the main difference has been focus.
I still work in the evenings, I love my work, but it is the kind of work that nurtures - reading, drawing, journalling - rather than the 'too many tabs open' work that depletes.
If I don't have a laptop switched on then I can't check emails or orders or Facebook messages. If I don't have my phone lit up next to me then I can't scroll Instagram or Pinterest.
It has been interesting watching what makes me crave that dopamine heavy refresh of the Facebook page.
It tends to be when whatever I am doing gets difficult. I can't get a flower to look like a flower, I'm struggling to understand a chapter of a book, I discover a mistake several rows back in my knitting.
I was using that online distraction to completely sabotage whatever it was I had decided to do.
I'm now realising that a lot of my stress, this constant feeling of low level panic that has tinged this year, has been coming from the way I used the Internet. My brain is busy with several things at once when I am online, a fidgety multi-tasking; refreshing, reloading, switching between tabs - using up and fragmenting my attention.
Now I am making an effort to relax into my analogue evenings (which still include Netflix so my definition is rather loose).
I seem to have a lot more time. I seem to have time to be in the garden and walk the dogs, time to visit friends and knit and read and still watch Homeland with a glass of wine at 9.
That refresh button has been eating my time. No wonder I never got everything on my 'to do' list done.
What is working for me (11 days in!)
- Switching my phone and laptop off at a specific time - for me that is evening meal time which is a great divider between day and night.
- Actually switching devices physically off - not relying on my willpower, as that is very weak.
- Moving the laptop and phone to another room, out of sight.
- Telling friends that I'm no longer contactable in the evenings so that they don't assume I am ignoring them.
I would love to know how you deal with overwhelm and phone addiction - please leave your tips in a comment.