How much time do you spend staring at your phone, laptop, e-reader, tablet, and TV each day?
I average over eight hours of screen time per day… Ugh! Just typing this made me sick. I don’t spend much time watching TV, it adds up to only about one hour per day (the national average is 4 hours a day; according to a 2017 Nielsen report), but I do spend a lot of time on my computer and phone working, writing the newsletter for my site, sending emails, and reading. Do the hours I spend reading on my Kindle count too? I hope not.
If you answer this question honestly, I think you might be embarrassed too.
It has become an awful twitch for me to navigate to my LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter ten times each day and refresh my email inbox hundreds of times. I’m not proud of this habit, I constantly crave new information and it’s hard to break.
The father of the digital minimalism movement Cal Newport writes in his book by the same title Digital Minimalism, “The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.”
Just like when trying to quit social media (which I failed to do), quitting cold turkey or decreasing screen time dramatically rarely works. It is better to be intentional and deliberate with a plan of attack. A strategy to get back control of your life from your screens.
This is why I created ScreenLESS Sunday
As much as I enjoy Taco Tuesday and guacamole, ScreenLESS Sunday is much better for my health and is a welcome break from the dopamine rush of scrolling on my laptop or phone.
Sunday has become a sacred day of rest from all screens. Instead of reading the news on my phone, I read my local newspaper. Rather than refreshing my email for the umpteenth time I only check it and handle business three times: After breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And instead of watching one hour of Netflix I play Monopoly, Skip-bo, or Farkle and enjoy a big bowl of popcorn.
Sunday has become a day full of outdoor activities such as having a picnic down by the river, taking long walks, going to the beach, playing tennis or frisbee, visiting with neighbors on their porches, and sitting on our screened in porch reading (as long as none of my neighbors are leaf blowing…)
ScreenLESS Sunday helps my wife and I get more quality time together.
This nourishes our relationship because we share the same number one Love Language of quality time (She is 37% and I’m 40%, our second highest is 23%.)
Do you know your love languages? Take the quiz here.
This isn’t exactly part of ScreenLESS Sunday, but we’ve decided not to shop online or in person on Sundays.
After almost two decades working every-single-Sunday at my retail stores, I like to make this small sacrifice. I didn’t like having to work on Sunday, but had no choice. So, I’ve decided not to contribute to other folks having to work on this day.
“I try to open a media site only when I have need to post or respond. I don’t open it because I’m bored or have a spare moment. Those spare moments are reserved for staring at walls, which is infinitely more useful. This is to say, I try to treat social media like work. I go to it once in the morning, once in the early afternoon, and once in the evening to put out content that I think will help someone or to engage with someone who is responding in a healthy way.”Justin Whitmel Earley, The Common Rule
So where do you begin?
First, identify three times during the day where you will be permitted to check your devices (for me it is after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) But, these times aren’t meant to be a dopamine rush scrolling session. They must be a scheduled time to quickly check for important emails, calls, and texts to make sure there are no emergencies at work.
This completely handcuffs your inner voice that wants to say you can’t just turn off your screens and gives it boundaries. Handle everything you need in one 5-10 minute session and don’t touch your devices again until the next scheduled time.
This helps calm my nerves because I know another session will be coming soon and I’ll be able to verify everything is okay. What’s funny is that rarely is there anything I actually need to address when I check my devices. If I’m being honest with myself, most of the time I can handle whatever pops up on Monday. Someday I hope to be as brave as Jonathan Levi from SuperHuman Academy and only check my email twice a week.
In their book What really works, Paul Batz and Tim Schmidt share a creative story of how Dan Mallin from Magnet 360 created a ScreenLESS environment which fosters positive connections:
“What’s happened to the value of good, old-fashioned, uninterrupted face-to-face connections? And how do people find balance between their meaningful relationships and friendships and the constant barrage of immediate e-communications? Dan Mallin has found a solution that works for him. He and his wife have created a technology-free zone for their family and friends in their North Woods cabin, which they affectionately call ‘Log-off.’
When Mallin and his family and friends need to get away, they visit his northern Wisconsin lake home, where no one is allowed to plug in or log on. There is no TV. At the entrance to the property is a large pine log with the words ‘log off’ carved into the side. “Even though I have grownup completely comfortable with 24/7 communication technology, I still appreciate the time with family and friends where we shut the gadgets off,” he explained. “‘Log-off’ is an attitude as much as a place.””
With your screen turned off it’s time to have fun
It isn’t that complicated to make ScreenLESS Sunday a part of your routine. You just need to create rules, boundaries, and encourage your whole family to join you. But it’s very important that you find other fun activities to replace your screen time with.
Understand at first you might become bored and unconsciously reach to turn on your closest screen. Sherry Turkle writes in Reclaiming Conversation, “I’ve talked so much about virtuous circles; here is a vicious cycle. Knowing we have someplace “else” to go in a moment of boredom leaves us less experienced at exploring our inner lives and therefore more likely to want the stimulation of what is on our phones.”
I seem to be afraid of boredom, but I’ve discovered that eventually boredom can lead me to the same places I went as a child. And I find these activities to be much more beneficial and make a day more fruitful than just staring at my screens.
ScreenLESS Sundays allow me spend more time taking long walks, playing tennis and board games, cooking, reading my Bible, having happy hour with my neighbors, and they allow me to embrace boredom. When was the last time you sat on the couch or danced around your living room while listening to your favorite music, while doing absolutely nothing else? This has become a common option for me to pass the time on Sundays.
What did you like to do as a child? Try incorporating those activities into your Sundays.
“Buyoed on by the digital minimalist movement, I decided that I would make my phone my slave, rather than submit to it as my master. I’d use it intentionally, simply to make plans with friends and occasionally share useful content with them, rather than converse ad infinitum. I call it digital essentialism, rather than minimalism. So what is essential?
As my daily screen time slowly decreased, I realized that I was short on genuine human connection, and I wasn’t living life as much as I should be. I wasn’t fully living up to a question I often like to ask myself: Will I remember this in five years?’”Time Rich, by Steve Glaveski
ScreenLESS Sunday helps positively kick off the work week
After completing a successful ScreenLESS Sunday I wake up on Monday morning and slowly sip my coffee during a positive Holy hour. I find myself venturing outside for a longer morning walk than typical and settling into a deep and mindful morning movement session.
I’m in a sweet state of contentment until I flip open my laptop and check in at work and I look forward to recapturing this feeling again next Sunday.
Compare that to the weeks I skip ScreenLESS Sunday and you’ll notice I grab my phone right away when I wake up and check my email, send off a couple quick messages, start scrolling on social media, and before I know it my morning is completely wasted.
When I practice ScreenLESS Sunday I get more quality time with my wife, spend more time outside in the sunshine, and I get much needed rest from the whirlwind of my business, social media, and the wide world around me.
The difference is clear. When I spend Sunday away from my screens I’m significantly more productive in the week to follow.
What about you? Are you ready to create space in your life for boredom? Do you want to improve your close relationships and spend more time in deep conversations? Do you want to be more productive in your work week by giving up one full day for rest? What hobbies from your childhood have you not partaken in for years because you are too busy?
Comment below and let me know! I’ll read and reply to every comment.
Feature image courtesy of Quin Engle.