I must put this disclaimer at the beginning of this post because I do not want the reader to believe that I have mastered this. I am not particularly good at disconnecting with electronics, but I am practicing every day to improve this. Every time I take a step towards disconnecting, I can feel the calm that introduces itself to my life. However, sometimes it is simply hypnotizing to stare at one’s phone or television – and I want the reader to understand that I know, firsthand, how this feels.
I am not going to sit here and tell you how important social media has become in today’s society – because you already know. I am not going to tell you to not watch your favorite television shows at night after a stressful day at work in order to calm down – because you will immediately roll your eyes at me.
The meaning behind this post is to try and convince you to take baby steps in disconnecting with your electronics. Nearly every research topic that involves mindfulness has some sort of mention to disconnecting with these devices. After looking at all of this research, I immediately realized that I am a culprit of staring at my phone and allowing the day to pass before me. I would like to share some mindful tips that I have practiced (and continue to practice) that has proved to me that this is something that should be incorporated into your own life.
I have a good amount of apps on my phone – nothing crazy, but not bare bones either. However, I have learned to turn off notifications as much as I can on the apps that aren’t dire for attention. Without getting too technical with how our phones work, I am able to turn off almost all notifications that force themselves onto my locked screen. In other words, I simply try to only have the red badge icon that shows in the corner of the app when I receive a text, email, Facebook message, etc. This way, my phone’s screen is not flooded with notifications from several different apps. I have noticed that this has brought some stillness into my electronic lifestyle and has allowed me to look at my phone a lot less.
This was one of the more difficult practices for me – and I am still not 100% there quite yet. For the entirety of my adult working life, I have always had my work email on my phone. At first, I felt that if I was able to respond to customers/clients/colleagues after hours, they would respect me more and therefore, I would be successful someday. However, as I have tried to minimize the controllable stress in my life, I have learned that there is not too much of a difference between responding to an email at 11:59pm or 8:00am the next day at work. Perhaps a recipient here or there would greatly appreciate it, but from my perspective, the pros do not outweigh the cons.
Now, I understand that some jobs require you to always be connected to your work email. However, that is the outlier. For instance, take my former payroll position for the Gloucester Public Schools. When I started that job, I just figured it was obvious to have my work email on my phone because I wanted to be as helpful as possible to the employees. However, what I found is that it created more stress than I could handle. The reasoning behind this is, almost every email that I received was a question that could not be answered unless I was in the office with my payroll supplies/systems. So, if I received a payroll question at 7pm one night, I would unnecessarily stress about answering this person until the next day. What is the point of this stress? I cannot solve this problem until the next day, so why introduce this stress into my life now? I was losing sleep over a payroll question, and you know what? I almost guarantee that the person who asked the question was perfectly fine with receiving an answer the next day.
After realizing the stress I was handing to myself, I took my work email off of my phone (despite the fact that I still check it sometimes). I want to be the best employee, for the City of Gloucester that I can be, but if I am overworking myself, then I am not helping this city to the very best of my ability.
- At dinner, leave your phone in the other room in order to focus on eating, or talking to the person(s) next to you.
- Before bed, put your phone on silent and do not look at an hour before falling asleep.
- You have probably heard this one, but do not use your phone while driving. Think about it – when have you ever received a text, while driving, that needed an answer before you got to your location? Do not try to convince me otherwise.
- When you wake up, try to not have your phone with texts/emails/Facebook notifications be the very first thing you look at before rolling out of bed.
I have never been a fan of being at a memorable event and having one’s first thought be to take out their phone in order to take a Snapchat, picture, Facebook post, etc. Look up from that phone every now and then and be in the moment. Technology is phenomenal in today’s world, but if you are addicted to your electronics, then you are avoiding a moment that you will never, ever get back.