ScreenLESS Sunday

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 that makes me sick. I don’t spend a lot of time watching TV, about one hour per day (the national average is 4 hours a day; according to a 2017 Nielsen report), but I spend a lot of time on my computer and phone working, writing on my site, sending emails, reading, and lately, shamefully, reading a lot of political discourse. If you answer that question honestly, you will probably be embarrassed too.

It has become an awful twitch for me to navigate to my LinkedIn for the 5th time of the day and to refresh my email inbox for the 100th, and one that I am not proud of. I constantly crave new information.

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, quitting cold turkey or decreasing screen time dramatically rarely works. It is better to be intentional and deliberate with a plan of attack. A plan to get back control of your life.

This is why I created ScreenLESS Sunday.

ScreenLESS Sunday is a welcome break from the dopamine rush of scrolling on my laptop and phone. Sunday is now 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 three times. And instead of watching two hours of Netflix I play Monopoly, Skip-bo, or Farkle while enjoying a bowl of popcorn.

ScreenLESS Sunday helps my wife and I get more quality time together. This helps us nourish our relationship, especially since this is both of our number one Love Languages.

I also don’t do any shopping in person or online on Sunday. After almost two decades working every-single-Sunday, this is a small sacrifice I make to honor the sabbath. I am not going to contribute to other folks having to work on Sunday!

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

Hebrews 4:9-11

So where do you begin?

First, identify three times during the day: for me it is after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner, where you are permitted to check your devices. But, these times aren’t meant to be a dopamine rush scrolling session. They are a prescribed time to check for important emails, calls, and texts to make sure there are no emergencies in your business. Whereby completely handcuffing the inner voice that says you can’t just turn off your screens and giving it boundaries. Handle everything you need to in one 5-10 minute session and then don’t touch your device again until your next scheduled time. 

This helps to calm my nerves because I know I have another session coming soon where I can make sure everything is okay. Funny thing is… Rarely is there anything I actually need to address when I do these check-ins, and last Sunday I actually skipped one because I was confident everything would be okay. If I am 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.

That’s it! In theory it isn’t that complicated to make happen. You just need to create the rules and encourage your whole family to join you. But make sure that you find other fun activities to replace your screen time with. 

My 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. We seem to be afraid of boredom, but I have found that eventually boredom can lead you to the same places you went as a child. And I find these activities to be much more beneficial and make a day seem more fruitful than just staring at my screens.

On Monday morning I slowly sip my coffee during Holy hour. I find myself venturing outside for a longer morning walk than typical and settling into a deep and mindful morning movement session. Until I flip on my laptop and check in, I am in a sweet state of contentment. A feeling that goes away quickly when the work day commences, but that I look forward to recapturing again next Sunday.

“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

In their book What really works, Paul Batz and Tim Schmidt share a creative story of how Dan Mallin from Magnet 360 has 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.””

CEO and Co-Founder of Collective Campus Steve Glaveski writes in his new book Time Rich

“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?’”

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? What hobbies from your childhood have you not partaken in for years because you are too busy? 

Comment below and let me know!

Life can be lonely at the top.

Walk with the wise and become wise. (Proverbs 13:20)

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