I Took a Digital Sabbatical

Well, sort of…
It was more like a mini-one, and the first day was by accident….
Late one night, while working on my Family Matters column, my computer started to overheat and wasn’t working right.
It needed to be taken apart and cleaned, and took at least an hour just to get it opened up. So, when I realized it take a while, I had no choice but to do something else while I waited for my hubby to finish it up.
I may have been in shock initially, because at first I paced around a bit, then sifted through some papers, and finally kept returning to the computer to see if it was ready.
I soon realized, I didn’t have much choice but to wait, and that meant I would have to do something else in the meantime…It was too late to text, or talk on the phone, so I decided to read a few chapters of a fiction book. (I am an avid non-fiction reader, but don’t always make the time to sit down with a good novel, but I enjoy doing it.)
It felt so good to just sit (and not at a computer chair, but on a comfy couch). As I relaxed, and was entranced by the story, I decided I would try doing this on purpose some time.
Winter vacation was approaching…and it seemed like the perfect time. The kids and I would be home together everyday, and they would want to play with their toys, and with Mommy. Being glued to the computer and phone would make this a little difficult, if not stressful.
So, I put the phone away, leaving it plugged in on my nightstand, and did not use the computer unless it was absolutely necessary. If I was either of these, I limited it to a few things, stayed focused and got off as soon as possible.
I figured I would not be able to go even a day doing this, but I went all week!
It was weird!
But, it felt soooo gooood!
I found that by taking breaks from digital-life, I was more relaxed, more available, and more in the now in physical-life. And when I did return to the computer, I didn’t quite feel the need to do more, more, more of electronic plugging-in, but instead felt like I wanted a lot less of it; focusing on being efficient while I was there, so I could get done and go back to the enjoyment of life (i.e.; I did less internet searching, headline reading and random-link-clicking…and yes, I did way less Facebooking. I’d like to think that this made me more efficient, and gave me more time where it mattered…because instead of Facebooking ‘I was doing something’, I just did it, and enjoyed it.)
During our winter vacation, I played with the kids, took them out on adventures and felt time passing slowly, instead of blurring by. (I think I successfully savored every minute of every day.) I got back to exercising, which I’ve done sporadically for  a while, but used to do faithfully four or five days a week. I also did more housework and it didn’t seem like a chore, but actually seemed relaxing and more rewarding. I even read almost the entire book I started!
The computer is a necessity for many of us, and will never be obsolete, but it seems that it’s similar to anything else enjoyable and easy, it becomes our main focus, can transform into an addiction, and then turn out to be a major time waster .
I do use my computer a lot for my work. I communicate via email most days, client material is sent back and forth this way, and I do my writing and personal finances online. Like most people, I too reach for Google before the yellow pages and type in dictionary.com on my keyboard, before I grab the actual dictionary.
We have learned to depend on the internet and computers for so much, and it can be super helpful, but, as I learned last week, it can also be a major distraction.
I enjoyed winter vacation with the kids….and my mini-digital-sabbatical…so much, that I plan on making this a regular part of my life.
I’d heard of doing this type of thing once before. The author of a blog I follow took a month-long digital sabbatical. I found it to be interesting and wondered if it would work. It seemed she learned a lot by doing it and she really enjoyed it, though I never dared try it.
I cannot tell you how to take a full digital sabbatical (read Rowdy Kittens for help with this), but I can give you a few tips which might help you cut back:
Unplug it:
  1. I left my phone home, or in the car, when going places, and I did not carry it into each room with me for an entire week.
  2. I left my computer off, or asleep, when doing other things, so I would not be tempted to use it.
Plan other activities:
  1. Get outside
  2. Plan  to attend some events (don’t forget to leave the phone at home so you can enjoy the moment)
  3. Set scheduled time for hobbies (make the computer off-limits during this time)
Set Limits:
  1. Set a timer when online (limit yourself)
  2. Limit the time you spend reading luring headlines and articles (they are the biggest time wasters)
  3. Update and check your Facebook account once a day, instead of multiple times
  4. Pick a no-texting-hour each day (or a no texting day)
You’ve heard the plus side of this, now I the drawbacks:
  1. Since I was frequently without my phone, I did miss a few camera-worthy moments. But looking back, my memory recalls the moment and feels warm and fuzzy more so…whereas the ones I did have my camera-phone available for I don’t remember so vividly.
  2. I did miss a few text messages and had replied to some a day or two late. Though, if they were super important, I suppose they could have called.
All in all, I could have considered it a bad thing that my computer decided to malfunction, though at this point, I am quite grateful, because I think it forced me to find some balance.
Have you ever taken a digital sabbatical? How did you do it? How did you feel?

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