From time to time this year I’ve found myself feeling anxious and questioning some of my key professional / career decisions. I’ve also noticed that although I’m not working extraordinary hours, my work pattern is a long way from ‘9 to 5.’ I enjoy the flexibility that comes with working in my own business. This means that I can take a mid-afternoon exercise break, or do personal errands any time I choose. It also means that I work in bursts or blocks of time spread out over the length of the day. I work between two and four hours on most weekend days. In short, I rarely take a full day break from work. I also use devices for a range of personal activities every day. Not to mention being on use my phone to squeeze in an email or social media check amidst my personal blocks of time, away from my desk.
Recently my teenage daughter has been monitoring her screen time. As a result she has cut back her phone use, particularly social media and messaging apps. She has replaced screen time with more exercise, reading books and knitting. Like anyone who has reformed a bad habit, she notices and points out how high my screen time is. In a generational role reversal, she’s been urges me to get away from my phone.
She has a valid point. I checked my weekly screen time on my iPhone mid-last week. A a daily average of 2 hours 17 minutes. Add around 8 hours on a computer every weekday. That’s a lot of time interacting with or via a screen. There is a lot of research that points to the negative impact of high screen time on both physical and brain health. I suspect that there is a link between the my recent bouts of anxiety and high screen time. There is also a negative impact on relationships. One of the reasons my daughter nags me about reducing screen time is that she would like to do more with me. That’s a mutual wish.
An email hit my in-box mid last week from The Minimalists. It included an infographic about Screenless Saturday. Although the thought of it induced a mild sense of panic I decided to give it a try. My version of the experiment:
No iPad (not even to write in my journal in Evernote).
Phone use restricted to phone calls and text messages.
I stumbled early. Gave myself some wriggle room and spent an hour on my computer wrapping up some loose ends from the working week. In my defence, having done this I felt satisfied and safer turning off the computer and putting it in a draw for the day.
I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself all day. It was easier to find things to do than I had thought:
Cook a nice breakfast.
Read a book.
Take my grandmother out for coffee.
Clean the house.
Wash the dog.
Go for a long walk. (I did listen to a podcast but technically wasn’t looking at a screen for most of this period.)
Cook a new recipe for dinner.
Watch a movie
Have an early bedtime.
It was easier than I thought it would be. Although I didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy, it all felt special to me. Even the cleaning, which gave me a sense of peace. Unsurprisingly, I felt more relaxed, better balanced. I didn’t feel like checking my phone as soon as I got up on Sunday morning, wanting to prolong my calmer state of mind.
I checked my iPhone usage again today. 1 hour 53 minutes daily average for the past seven days. Down 21% from the previous week. Screenless Saturday could be here to stay.