Fellow blogger, Barb, wrote recently about her attempts to get her life back under control by limiting her electronic habits and enjoy her satisfying retirement. Among other things she has stopped checking her e-mail first thing in the morning and using her laptop while watching TV. Apparently we are on the same wave length because I planned on this post about two weeks ago but just finished it up last night.
As someone who is "connected" at least four hours a day by various computers or the smart phone, I have been struggling with the same addiction that Barb wrote about. As blog readership increases I feel more pressure to produce more content that is more engaging. I receive at least half a dozen requests a week for permission to write a guest post for this blog. The number of e-mails has increased to close to 100 a day. I am offered opportunities to write for other blogs or web sites both for free and, increasingly, for a decent fee.
All of this produces an onslaught of electronic interruptions that seem to demand immediate attention. A good example happened just a few days ago. You may have noticed the advertisement for a company wanting to find participants for an on-line survey about flu vaccines. An urgent e-mail arrived just before noon asking if I would sell them some space. The only catch: the ad had to be on-line within an hour or two or it wouldn't be worth the money to the research firm. Obviously, I had to make a decision quickly, firm up details, and get the text and link up over lunch time. If I had not checked the e-mail alert on my phone until later in the day, that opportunity would have been gone. Was it worth it?
At the same time, Betty and I are serious about taking more frequent vacations. While most will be just long weekends, there are two week long trips here and there. If we follow through on our interest in an RV, month long adventures will beckon. If I can't get my electronic use under control, will going on a vacation make much sense? Picking a destination because of its WiFI connections indicates a problem.
I am not prepared to scale back the blog to once or twice a week posting, not answer comments, let e-mail go unchecked for a day or two, and allow phone calls to go into voice mail. So, that leads me to conclude that electronic disconnection or even a digital fast is tough for me at this time.
What can I do to make sure I am using electronic tools to benefit me and my lifestyle, but not allowing them to control me? Not as much as I'd like, but here is my starting point:
1. Sunday has become a no-Tweet day. I do not look at my Twitter feeds or add any new tweets. While not a big deal, it saves about 30-45 minutes and is one less part of my electronic tether.
2. Now I only check e-mail three times a day (unless it is from one of my kids): at breakfast, lunch, and close to bed time. That means someone might wait longer for an answer or a reply to a comment on the blog. But, I have eliminated the almost incessant checking that comes with a smart phone.
3. Instead of having the Google home screen up all the time, now I only check the top news stories on the Internet twice a day: breakfast and bed time. Otherwise, the computer screen has a slide show of our vacation pictures.
4. Because the puppy wants attention in the morning after being away from us all night, I do not turn on the laptop first thing. Instead I give Bailey my attention for at least 20 minutes before booting up to start my "work day."
Not much of a diet is it.... more the elimination of a few snacks. But, I'm not sure what else could go. I truly enjoy the blogging and all that comes with it, but I also enjoy the other parts of my life and need to be sure they don't always get skipped. There are some bloggers with a much bigger readership than Satisfying Retirement who have gone on a week-long digital sabbatical. Frankly, I don't know how they do it. isn't the pile that they come back to so large that it takes a week to catch up?
So, help me. What steps have you taken to not allow your life to be consumed by electronic gadgets and the Internet? Do you see something I am missing that I might try? Where could I cut without harming what I have worked so hard on these past 23 months?