May 9, 2012

Electronic Dieting: Is It Possible For A Blogger?

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?

30 comments:

  1. My comment is not about this post, although I,too, have cut down some on the computer.

    I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. I'm a 31 year veteran schoolteacher in Oklahoma, 59 this next August, and I've been wanting to retire for some time.

    Your posts have given me the courage to finally do that at the end of the next school year. Of course, money is the primary concern I have, especially since I still have a son in college.
    However, with your advice and insights, as well as crunching the numbers, I think I'll finally be able to retire, not in style, but fairly comfortable. My wife will still work since she enjoys her job very much (as our church secretary), but I see her retiring as well in 3-5 years.

    I have a question for anyone out there about discontuing home phone service. We live in a semi-rural area just outside the OKC metro area, and our only choice for home phone and internet is a fairly expensive one. Anyone else out there in the same situation? I think I can downgrade the phone service and still keep the internet and save about $30 a month. I've already cancelled satellite and gone to rabbit ears (not as bad as I thought it would be), so we're on the road to cutting as much frills as possible.

    Thanks so much for your "ministry," as it seems like that to me.

    Jeff

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    1. Jeff, I'm not clear from your post on whether you can get cell service from your home? If so, I can tell you almost everyone our age we know (40's and 50's) has cut their land phone services off without any regrets.

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    2. Jeff, first I must thank you for your extremely kind words about the value you are gaining from the blog. If something I write or one of comments from the BRITW (best readers in the world) helps you with a life-altering decision, that makes it all worthwhile. Please feel free to contact me personally by e-mail if you ever have a specific question or concern you would like some feedback on.

      To your question, I'd piggyback on Tamara. We disconnected our land line phone over a year ago along cable TV. Without the bundling discount the Internet cost went up $10 a month but obviously we saved quite a bit without the phone and cable. Cell service for each of us and we are good to go.

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  2. Hi Bob, I've struggled with this computer addiction too. I knew I needed more time to spend on pursuits like tai chi or working outside but the day always seemed to get away while I attended to my blogs and webites. An hour or two can really escape you if you sit down at the computer for "a minute."

    I was doing really well with spending more time off the computer and then I got a Samsung tablet-a new gadget to play with. I basicallly got it so I could travel and still blog but adding apps like USA today give me that much more to read.

    I've found tho that the tablet is a great way to keep up with blogging and still travel. There is a wordpress app that allows you to add your blogs to it and work on them more easily. I'll also be able to add photos and video directly from the tablet to the blog down the road. I purchased a wireless hotspot so I'm not dependent on connecting to other wireless sets ups, which may or may not be available. Verizon allows you to not use the device and not pay for it 90 days out of a year. When my husband retires and we are traveling more, this will probably become our main internet connection.

    When I was visiting my parents recently, I had to keep reminding myself I was there to visit and not play with my new tablet-lol. I guess it's a matter of figuring out priorities and then sticking to them.

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    1. Well, that didn't help...you just gave a new "must-have" device! Just kidding.

      Likewise, I find the Kindle Fire can help by putting a lot of my book and magazine reading on one device, plus the ability to check e-mail and go on the Internet if needed. But, that isn't decreasing my total on-line time. Maybe the best I can do is just stay sensitive to my use.

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  3. I too have been trying to cut back but it is so hard. I check e-mail and blogs in the AM with coffee (like now). Then I am constantly checking online throughout the day because the computer is set up at right angles to my art table. As soon as I hear the e-mail "ding" go off I am like Pavlov's dog........... Since I am selling my work in my online shop I feel like I have to take the e-mail. Then I get bogged down in Facebook, my Etsy shop etc. It is never ending. I don't like it but I don't how to fix the problem other than move the computer and there is no where else to put it.........

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    1. You could turn off the sound so the "ding" didn't occur! I disabled the notification for gmail that pops up when a new piece of mail arrive...that helped a little. But, it is like any addiction...it takes becoming aware of the consequences and deciding when the cons outweigh the pros. That is what I am struggling with at the moment.

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    2. Roberta, its not an easy solution, but I will add here that my laptop never (almost never) goes int he sewing room. Admittedly its different when you are fabric artist-large fabric projects take ALOT of space. Also, I have the dingy thing turned off.

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  4. Hi Bob,

    Well, as you know, I've been working on this exact goal for a few months now. I've set some rules in place that are helping, primarily only allowing myself to be on the computer in the morning before 7:00 AM, so that I'm off and out the door to do my morning workout activity no later than 7:45 AM.

    Once I have my workout done, I'm much less inclined to go back online because of how wonderful the workout leaves me feeling. I'm much more inclined to continue engaging in activities that involve movement of some sort. My very best days, without question, are those that involve doing anything other than surfing the internet or watching TV.

    Last night after dinner we went for a walk with our dog, then spent the remainder of the evening sipping tea and reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant brain stimulation the reading provided, and stopped several times to note how at peace I felt as compared to if I'd been on my computer or watching TV.

    We rarely fire up our computer when out in our RV, other than for essential travel information, or to pay bills or correspond with family (or going forward, posting photos of our journey on my blog) and return home feeling completely refreshed and ready to kick all our bad technology habits out the window . . . but I will admit they seem to have a way of creeping back in after a few days. So, still a work in progress here as well!

    I'm convinced that incessantly needing to remain electronically distracted is an addictive behavior, as well as a tool to initiate a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder, but the good news is that as addictions go, this one is really pretty mild and easy to break.

    Keep working at it, (as I am still!), and remember it's about forward progression not perfection. :-)

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    1. Unlike most serious addictions, I don't want to completely drop my use of the computer or cell phones. I simply want to keep their use under control. I know how hard it is, though, to continue with something in moderation with something than can be somewhat addictive.

      I took me several attempts and several years to quit smoking 30 years ago. I tried the just a few a day approach, which quickly becomes half a pack a day, and then a full pack a day. Finally, I just went cold turkey, endured misery for 4-5 days and I was done with smoking forever.

      Thanks for the encouragement, Tamara. At this point my best bet is to stay aware and alert and bypass turning to the computer when I am simply bored or looking to fill time.

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    2. Exactly!

      (Oops . . . it's 7:11 AM - time to shut down and get moving on my side! :-)

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  5. I don't have a blog but I do have a work-when-you-want job on the Internet, so I can sort of relate to the compulsion to be on the computer a lot. What I have found that works for me is to set a timer (I use a free online one, http://www.buffalosoftware.net/pctimer.htm) and then get up when it dings. I have read elsewhere that there are programs/apps that you can set to limit your time at certain websites (it shuts the website down for you LOL).

    You might try just working at certain times during the day for a certain period of time. Sounds kind of like a job, but realistically that's sort of what your blog is, isn't it?

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    1. Good idea about the ding from a built-in clock. I'll check that out.

      I do try to work on the blog during the mornings when I seem the most alert, a little bit after lunch and then just before dinner. Most evenings I try to avoid the computer and my smart phone, preferring to spend time watching a movie (Netflix can also be addictive!), reading, or practicing my guitar.

      Yes, this blog is kind of like my after-retirement job. It is making some money, but more importantly it is giving me a nice purpose and sens of accomplishment. Too bad it doesn't come with a health plan.

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  6. Come on now! Are we not Boomers (and older)? 40 years ago when you watched TV and you didn't like what was on you got your ass out of that chair and you changed the channel to one of the other 5 (and if you were like me you used pliers cause the nob was long broke) We are here because "what didn't kill us has made us strong"! Now enough of this "struggle" and "addition" talk. You get up and turn those power buttons OFF! :)

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    1. At ease, solider! What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? I started with 3 channels (NBC, CBS, ABC) and it was a big deal when PBS came along!

      OK, I'll leave the comments and walk away for awhile. Actually it is lunchtime so .............I can do this.

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    2. You know what's funny? I remember when remote controls first came out for t.v.s I turned to my husband and said, "this invention isn't going to fly -- who in their right mind is to lazy to get up, walk 3 steps and change the channel? I thought it was the silliest thing invented! Sandy

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    3. And now, show me a guy who isn't attached to his remote! I know I'm with truly liberated folks when the wife controls the TV remote.

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    4. I had that same TV Fred! The one with the knob off that you had to use the pliers for. Aaah, memories.

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  7. "I thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant brain stimulation the reading provided,"

    This is starting to get downright silly...

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  8. There is one fact in this world that can't be changed. We all have, and have always had, the same twenty four hours in each day. None of us can get more and none of us are forced to have less. It is only how you choose to use those twenty four hours that can change.

    Me, I am not into Twitter at all and only check on Facebook every couple of days. Both of those apps along with others like them just don't seem to be worth my time. I am constantly adding ideas for my blog posts but don't really spend a given amount of time on them. What I find is that there are a few times each week where I am super productive with producing blog posts. During those times I often put out a week or more worth of posts in in one sitting. I then occasionally read them over for some limited editing. Recognizing when these productive times might occur is the secret to maximizing my efficiency.

    But the bottom line is that you have to learn what is important and what isn't at this stage in your life. I am sure that your prison ministries is like my homeless shelter work and near the top of the list (after your wife and family of course). If we prioritize our activities and eliminate "the small stuff" and its really all small stuff (sounds like a good title for a book :) ) then you will have your answer. One thing that I have managed to do is to quit running to my computer to check the blog stats. I don't know why I got into that habit; vanity I imagine.

    Boy, I sat down here to pen off a short comment and ended up with a blog post inside your blog! I'm sure you get the idea.....

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    1. I'm glad you did write all you did, though now I worry I may have thrown off your day with the time it took!

      One of the nice, added complications is the blog has opened some doors to requests for me to write paid articles for other web sites at a decent rate. That means I have had to say "No" to some writing opportunities for sites that pay very little, and be very selective in accepting guest post requests. For a while I hated to turn down anyone, but now I realize I must be more selective. Saying "Sorry" to some people is just part of process.

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  9. One thing I must add: the extra writing opportunities mentioned above coupled with the extra volunteer and church work means I am not able to comment on others' blogs as frequently as I'd like.

    For that I feel guilty. If someone is on my blog roll I like them and what they do and want to support them with interaction. If someone leaves a comment here I am honor-bound to respond.

    So, for all the great blogging friends who I love and respect if I seem to disappear from your blog for awhile it is not by choice.

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  10. I enjoy your blog. It has inspired many. I have enjoyed the process of growth.
    I'd suggest before you make full decisions on what and when- you actually track every minute you spend on the blog or anything connected to it. If you are answering 100 emails a day, I suspect this is way more than a part time job.
    Next is the objective of the work.
    You have ( from all indication) always been an entrepreneur. That is certainly a good thing. Is that the objective? Is it a ministry? Is it anew career?
    After you really discern the opportunity cost I think using the electronics will become more clear.
    You could follow Sydney and go down to occasionally blogging and writing articles on the side.
    You could follow Barb and put other things in front of the blog.
    You could follow JD and blog occasionally, sell the blog and hire others to be staff writers.
    And I understand there can be a lot of money in this business.
    Personally, my blog is my journal. That is it. If someone gets something from reading it...so be it.
    I see yours as a ministry that has turned into a job. Not a bad job at all, but a job.

    It is your retirement.
    What do you want from it? After you are done with the true numbers, just like a money budget, you can really look at it objectively.
    Looking forward to your continued evolution. Life is a process of learning and changing, isn't it?

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    1. Thank you, Janette, for some excellent suggestions and insights.

      Of the 100 e-mails a day roughly 40 are of the discount-Groupon type, 10 are Google Alerts, and the rest are from other bloggers or emails to me (both personal and "professional.") I delete most of the Groupon type very quickly since I have no interest in what they are selling.

      Yes, I have always been an entrepreneur. I discovered early in my career I don't play well in a corporate structure. But, the blog is not meant to be a career or develop into a business. If I can make some money with my writing, great. But I'm not actively seeking out those opportunities, they are coming to me.

      So, I guess in one sense it is a job - I'm getting paid to write and blog. But, that money is strictly extra WAM (Walking Around Money) that isn't part of a budget and wouldn't really matter if it stopped. It is more of a validation that I have something to contribute.

      I just enjoy the whole process, watching it grow, and learning as I go along. But, I'm not obsessing about SEO content in my posts or taking a course on how to put together webcasts. That is just a different level than I am interested in at this time.

      With all that said and the feedback on this post so far, I think the answer for me is moderation and self-control. If I ever decide to pursue more writing opportunities for pay, then the blog will take a back seat. But, for now Satisfying Retirement is front and center.

      You are absolutely right, Janette. As I have come to this conclusion, it is clearer to me how invasive the electronic side of blogging should be. It is not a business. It is not a livelihood. It is a passion that is fun and fulfilling. Keep that in perspective.

      Thanks!

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  11. "It is not a business. It is not a livelihood. It is a passion that is fun and fulfilling. Keep that in perspective"

    Your comment above is what all of us bloggers need to learn. I blog because it is enjoyable to me. Being deaf it is the main way that I am able to communicate with others. Thanks for asking these questions for all of us bloggers out there and for coming up with such a nuanced answer.

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    1. Thanks, RJ. for your support and the continuing high quality work on your blog. Anytime someone can use the word "nuanced" I am happy.

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  12. I think it's all about whether you are happy or trapped. If you are content with how things are, then no problem. For me, I am starting to feel a bit too tied to the computer. I'm not in your league in terms of readership/emails/ets, but still it's a lot.

    I have recently reinstated my Sunday morning disconnect--I don't turn the computer on until noon. That was so nice last Sunday!

    But my real breaks are when I'm at my cabin with no phone or internet or cable. What a relief! As you've probably noticed, I often let readers know that I'll be away from the computer for a few days so that they aren't offended when their comments or my replies aren't quickly published. I can walk out to the road where I can pick up a phone signal and check in with the kids once a day, but other than that, I'm off the grid.

    Oddly, when I'm at the cabin, I am not anxious or going through withdrawal at all, but I would find it very challenging to recreate that at home, that is, by turning everything off for a few days. I guess my point is that if you did go on vacation away from everything, it might not be as hard as you think.

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    1. I'm looking forward to a day at that cabin! I will bring the laptop on our Oregon trip but check it only at night....so I can cut back.

      I just want to be sure I can disconnect occasionally and not feel like I am letting myself or anyone else down. Thanks for the encouragement, Galen!

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    2. Each person has to choose what satisfies them best. However, your post makes me realize how happy I am with these choices: my husband and I do not have our TV hooked up. We occasionally watch movies on DVD, but otherwise we talk to each other, read the paper, and read books,books, books. I do use email every day, but I use a blank Google page for my home page so I don't get caught up in stories. Instead I sit outside under a tree with my coffee and take in the birdsong and the deer. I've quit my Facebook account and my electronic friends, and instead every day I talk to and help my neighbors. Very connected!Anne in Ca.

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    3. You have seen the problem and dealt with it. Good for you, Anne.

      I have Facebook and Linkedin accounts but don't spend anytime with them. I have cut back on Twitter except to help promote this blog.

      We do watch a lot of movies on Netflix but otherwise no TV. Having the Google search page as my home page instead of the news page does help keep me from getting sidetracked.

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