This year, I've been thinking a lot about my relationship with technology and, in particular, my digital devices. For me, that's my Mac and my mobile phone. I wrote recently about taking the plunge and downgrading my smartphone to a simpler one.
It's through the internet that running a one-person business, serving any niche, or making money from your art is possible.
It lets us communicate with friends and relatives on the other side of town... or on the other side of the world.
For those two reasons alone, the internet is an extraordinary tool.
But I realised that I was spending all day on my laptop, mindlessly flitting around between tasks, in a near constant-state of overwhelm, distraction, anxiety and uncertainty. Just a small portion of my time was me actually 'getting stuff done' - the rest of the time it was like I was constantly tinkering/aimlessly meandering/worrying about everything I could be doing (#recoveringperfectionist).
I feel that lots of our procrastination comes from anxiety and other underlying emotional worries. That's what it feels like for me, and technology only serves as an unhelpful crux to numb/avoid/disassociate from my feelings and not get work done.
Now and then, I might even have a 'productive' day, but these were pretty few and far between and even if I did somehow manage to get some good work done, I'd feel worn out and sh*tty because I'd been sat on a screen all day, flitting between tasks, obsessing over this n that. I was definitely not working smart, but rather hopping around.
Yes, it was a challenge juggling all the things to do (and knowing when to say 'no' to things), but I certainly could have doubled-down and been more organised with my time - and felt less overwhelmed.
One of the things which has helped me recently has been to build a routine; something I've needed to do for a long time, even (no, especially) as an INFP who assumed that he didn't need so much structure in his life, and even took pride in referring to himself as 'whimsical'. Btw, incorporating a daily routine has been life-changing - I feel less anxious, stressed, more productive and just much better; it also gives me 'boundaries' for my 'work' and 'life' - and thus gives me room for a healthy dose of balance and the self-care which plays a big role within that 'healthy balance' equation.
Speaking of these boundaries, having a routine has also helped me become more intentional about my day, and somewhat taken pressure off as I'm only working towards one or two things each day rather than messily working on multiple things (aka 'whatever I feel like').
At this point, 2 specific periods of my life are flashing back to me:
1. Working in recruitment
In my days afore-mentioned working in recruitment, when I was constantly 'on' and in this constant state of overwhelmed multi-tasking, with all of the different things to do. (In recruitment, or any type of sales, there is always more to do... again, this came with its challenges for a perfectionistic high-achiever). The working day was long and the job felt all-consuming, messy, and I rarely felt good at the end of a given or day or week (even if it may have been 'productive').
2. Starting a freelance content marketing business
I went to Tenerife for a month to experience being a 'digital nomad' for the first time. It was early days, and to get it off the ground I was focused on writing content and sending email pitches... so lots of time on the laptop. There's also something weird about being away somewhere sunny on what felt like 'a holiday', but which was only supposed to be 'half a holiday'; even just sitting outside in the sun on the laptop I felt strangely... guilty. Looking back, I wish I'd given myself more "time off" to enjoy where I was and explore the island more (beaches, hikes, etc). No doubt the structure and healthy boundaries a routine would have provided would have been so helpful.
Update: I might be returning to Tenerife next year; I'll definitely want to make sure I maintain a stricter routine/boundaries, and give myself plenty of 'off' time to not be working and explore as I please. Here's the co-living place there that I really enjoyed.
Better habits / routine
I've made some significant changes to my daily routine and laptop use since we went into lockdown here in England, changes which I hadn't realised I'd needed so much.
Changes like returning to daily journalling, or leaving the house each day for a walk/stretch in the park. I start most days with writing (in journal) and/or prayer... feeling calm, grounded and in my body rather than jumping feet-first into the day ahead. It's felt wonderful.
As I mentioned earlier, I changed to a simpler mobile phone which I'll check in the AM when I switch it on, at lunchtime (it usually accompanies me on my walk, for listening to music, and then in the PM before I switch it off/back onto airplane mode).
The key is being intentional
I've also been thinking more about how I'm spending my time on my laptop, and how I can be more intentional with it. This is a work-in-progress, but here are some of the things I've realised/implemented, the crux being:
Much of my laptop time was non-intentional (e.g. web-browsing or scrolling). Same thing with my phone before I switched.
There are only 3 intentional activities I need my laptop for at this moment in time:
1. Editing/posting my writing
I hand-write each post, before typing it up on an iPad Mini... which then syncs with my laptop where uploading happens.
2. Video or audio calls/recordings
For the podcast, for my tutoring, for catching up with friends.
3. Digital conversations
e.g. emails / forums / social media
I don't feel that I need to - or want to - spend more than a maximum of 4 hours on my laptop each day (and not be on it at all from 6pm onwards).
All of this is my wake-up call to realising just how much time is mindlessly wasted, and just how little time I actually need on the laptop.
I am feeling the benefits already, and all of this feels like it just makes so much sense.
If you haven't come across it already, I'd really recommend reading Deep Work by Cal Newport which has helped me on this journey of digital intention + de-cluttering. (He also has another book called Digital Minimalism, which recommends a 30-day total digital detox as a starting point for helping you change your relationship with/use of the devices you have).
I am so excited for all of the added time, energy and wellbeing (mind/body/spirit) benefits I'll have with these new healthier habits... and just how much better I'll feel for changing my relationship with technology, and how it'll play its part in my enjoying a calmer, more balanced and intentional life, both on- and off-screen, as a result.
photo by: elnaz asadi
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