On last Wednesday’s Power Down Podcast, Heather King and I talked with Megan Jordan of Velveteen Mind about the importance of establishing personal online rules, or as Megan called them, boundaries. (And yes, she’s fabulous…go listen!)
It occurred to me that I’m constantly feeding my brain information while I sit in front of the computer. I hear a bing and I respond. I see an alert or update, and I absorb. There are absolutely times when this is appropriate–respond, react, absorb, repeat!–but there are also times when I need to retreat behind a wall of my own making and regroup. How can I put things out there if I’m always taking them in? The other day, I went on a twenty minute walk after working online for hours. And in that twenty minutes, I had two new plot ideas for my current novel. I could practically hear my brain sighing with gratitude for the room to roam in its own direction.
Heather and I have been talking in general terms about powering down, but we want to offer concrete examples as well. Here are a few of mine.
I am fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate?) to be organized and disciplined to a fault. What this means: I can look like I’m holding it all together–a lot together–right up to the moment I can’t. And then it’s messy. I tend to pile too much on, filling in the nooks and crannies of my day until I’m stuffed. For me, part of powering down means lightening that load.
On a daily basis, I do the following to balance my online and off-line time:
1. I schedule email reading and response times. Personally, I set four time blocks per day to check my email. Any less, and I’m buried. Any more, and I’m a dog chasing her tail. I designate these officially in my iPhone, and wait for the calendar alert before opening gmail. This is a new policy for me; I’ll let you know how it goes.
2. I schedule a two-hour off-line block in the middle of my work day, four days per week. I engage Freedom, and step away from online everything. This doesn’t mean I’m not working. It just means I’m working uninterrupted. I use this time to write freelance articles that don’t require online research (or for which the research has been done), novel write, and free write blog posts.
3. I schedule social media time during the day. I only open a social media application when I’m ready to spend a block of time on it, and when I do, I schedule tweets and Facebook updates for the full day. This is important because social media is part of my job. But it doesn’t have to run my life. (Notice the repetitiveness of the word ‘schedule’. How I do love to schedule.)
4. I turn it all off by 6 pm. Lots of bloggers say 9 pm, or 10 pm, but I’m a lightweight. That said, you can probably find me on Twitter at 5:30 am. (I can hear crickets at that hour.)
5. I found that nifty ‘do not disturb’ feature on my iPhone, and I use it. At least half of every day, my phone is in do not disturb mode or muted. I guess I’m just too easily distracted otherwise by the shiny.
What about you? What boundaries work for you and your family? No phones at the table? No tablets in the car? No more push notifications?