The world of blogging (and the world in general for that matter) has changed so much in the few years since I started my blog, and this evolution has seen a shift in just how much time we spend online. If you’re a blogger/instagrammer/youtuber (or whatever) you’ll know what I mean, and if you’re not chances are you still spend a large proportion of your working and non working time online.
Now I’m not saying that the online world is bad (that would be shooting myself in the foot!), being connected is great for social interactions and inspiration gathering, however I personally think downtime is essential for focus and relaxation. Ok so maybe you’re thinking ‘being online is your job Geneva, stop complaining’, but if you work in the online world you’ll know how taxing being constantly online i.e. constantly working can be, and if you don’t, well, imagine being at work all day and night. In addition I feel like the best (and most genuine) ideas I have are when I disconnect and let my mind wander. I’ve read this is because when you allow the left side of the brain (the analytical part) some rest, the right (i.e. the more creative side) takes over and pow, best idea of the week.
This is something I’ve been feeling for a while now, when I was writing my book 2 years ago my over-connectedness was particularly intense. I used to wake up during the night to check my emails, talk about not giving yourself time to recharge! Last January I put a few rules in to place with the aim of giving my mind a rest everyday. Call it digital downtime or whatever you want really. It’s been almost a year now (this one’s tried and tested!!) and I can honestly say, these few rules have made such a difference to my focus, stress levels and creativity.
1. No screens 2 hours before bed and 1 hour after waking
Does your pre-bed routine goes something like: instagram, facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram, facebook, tumblr until you slowly drift off? You’re not the only one. Even if you don’t work in the online world this is probably still the case – a quick survey of friends (a lawyer, teacher and HR consultant) shows that they too are glued to their phone or lap top all night. In the past, I used to work right up until I went to bed, playing around on my laptop, reading my phone, uploading to instagram. It didn’t feel like work because I enjoy it, but either way it wasn’t great for me. Getting to sleep after doing all this was impossible (have you heard screens trick your brain into thinking the sun is up?) and it used to take me more than an hour to drift off. Then, at 7am I would again be scrolling through my phone as soon as I woke up – oh joy to read my emails and see someone needed something on the other side of the world ASAP. My 8pm to 8am screen ban has changed that completely. Powering down well before bed and allowing myself to wake up and have a cup of tea without all the stress and concerns of emails, facebook messages, tweets etc has reduced my stress levels so much – I had no idea it was causing so many issues to start with! The ban might be hard at first, and you can chose what time to do it depending on when you go to bed and wake, which is why initially I used to put my phone on airplane mode or turn it off, if you let yourself check a whatsapp chances are you’ll check everything else too and then bam, there goes an hour.
2. No phones in the bedroom
Make succeeding at rule 1 easier by banning phones in the bedroom. It totally works! Buy yourself a good old fashioned alarm clock (two if you share a bed with someone and you often wake up at different times) and leave your phone charging overnight in the kitchen or lounge room. This real separation between you and phone is what will give you a clear mind overnight and by proxy (potentially) less stress. It has worked for me. Let’s be honest, the bedroom is for bowchickawowow and not for scrolling your phone – and how many times have you dropped it on your face while doing that!?
3. A day every weekend device free
Ok or even half a day. Even if it’s just a few hours, take time every weekend to disconnect completely – read your favourite book, go for a walk without your phone, do anything to provide your brain with the downtime it needs. If you struggle not to take a peek at your phone or iPad, sign up to a class where you absolutely can’t be distracted – I’m yet to see anyone reading their phone in the middle of a yoga class. If you hate to miss a photo opportunity (guilty as charged!), you could buy a little camera that you can use instead of your phone. I’ve done this and have found it great – less distraction every time I take a photo and also not so much battery depletion of my phone.
4. Try to do one thing at a time
In a world where apps and software provide distractions every moment of the day, it’s become almost impossible to do one thing at a time, without our brains flitting from back a forth between ideas and tasks. Case in point: I’ll be writing an email then go but halfway through I’ll read a whatsapp then see some shoes on instagram so look them up on my laptop then have an idea for a blog post then pin something and then check out my pinterest feed… And the cycle continues. It’s not a crime and we all do it but it does mean that important things, like writing that email, are sometimes forgotten or half done. And everything takes that much longer! One thing I’ve found really useful is to put my phone in my handbag while I’m working, and give myself set time to finish something, i.e. I’ll do my emails in 1 hour and then stick to that. A little bit of pressure goes a long way to keeping you focused.
Ok so those are my rules for integrating some downtime into my daily life, let’s just say I follow them most of the time. I think they provide a good balance between engaging and being active in the online world and being offline. In all honestly, a bit of downtime helps you to appreciate and enjoy your online time too.
Now I’d love to know, do you think downtime is important? And if so, do you have any other ways you get a bit of downtime in your daily life?