Couple Social Media with our smart phones and the equation comes to a bombardment of constant connectivity.
Add to that our business and personal emails, any and all online games we play and the actual fact that our smart phones are actually exactly that, PHONES!
We pick up the phone to make a call and see we have a notification on FB that turns into a perusal of our news feed and then maybe a stalking or two of our connections. Then we realize that there are messages on WhatsApp and that we haven’t checked upon or our game status for a while. Certainly we remember that we need to check how many likes our pic on Instagram received and we want to know how many people saw our snap chat.
And it goes on from there.
Ostensibly the family sits down for dinner or watching TV but actually everyone is riveted to their smart phones or tablets.
Being a single working parent no one is more aware of how necessary it is to keep the phone close by and how terrible the effect of its constant usage can be to the communication line between your children and yourself.
A couple of years back I quit my full time job to be able to spend more time with my daughter who is old enough to be flying the nest soon. Setting up my own business and going from working 10 hours a day to 2 was a huge transition with its own challenges which I won’t discuss here. Suffice it to say that pretty soon I realized how annoying my phone was. Weaning myself off it took me months but I finally did it. I’ve chalked down a few pointers below, as these were the strategies I adopted to unplug myself and I’m proud to say that even though I currently have a very demanding project which demands my attention 24/7 I’ve still managed to keep my smart phone at bay.
- Mark a cutoff time on your emails.
Sure it sounds tough but reality is that your email can easily wait till the next day. Nothing will get done by exchanging emails till late night and any issues that need to be resolved can easily be addressed the next day. So no matter how much you want to read that reply, wait. Because if you start reading you will definitely respond or end up thinking about it. Instead focus on your home, your family and yourself. Anything except your inbox.
Also remember if it’s an emergency the person will call instead of emailing!
- Put your phone away!
So you are home after work or if you don’t work and your spouse is now home you can easily put that phone away. One habit I inculcated was that when it is 6 pm I consider the work day as ended. Put your phone away. Leave it on a safe surface in your bedroom and walk away. Believe me once your conversations don’t have you constantly typing on the phone you will start hearing what you are listening to.
If you become anxious about being away from your phone (believe me you will have panic attacks) ensure that your close family and friends have your landline number. Also if your work entails important late calls, give your landline to the key people who might want a decision out of you in an emergency. Warn them to use the phone only in emergencies and relax.
I always soothed myself knowing that if there is an emergency I will get a call otherwise I can relax. Believe me 90% of people will not call your landline and will leave a message on your cell instead. Try it.
For those of us living in a joint family environment it is even better as your kids and family are nearby. Someone in the family will have a phone close by (doesn’t have to be you) and if there is some news it will reach you. No worries
- Brace yourself for criticism
We are so used to getting through to everyone after a few rings that you can be sure that everyone will make a ruckus when they can’t get through to you immediately. Be ready for that!
For people at work be polite but firm and point out that whatever needed could as easily be discussed next morning. If your job means 24/7 availability rely on the landline or sneak a look every 45 minutes or so. Another way to tackle clients and colleagues is to tell them to leave a text message and you will revert. You will be amazed as how soon the incoming calls on your phone will taper off.
With extended family or friends just casually say that you think you need to unplug after a certain time and that they can leave a message. In case of an urgent matter to call you on the landline. But when a call from family or friends does pop on the landline keep it sweet but very short. Soon everyone will know what good times for you to take a call are and aren’t.
- Set ground rules
Set ground rules with your kids and your family. For example:
- Never respond to a text or check phones while eating. Make this a compulsion for everyone.
- When out for dinner or coffee or a long drive make sure everyone puts their phones away and only the head of the family has their phone close by.
- When talking to your kid NEVER take a call. Wait and finish your talk. They will emulate it.
- Keep your social media usage timed.
Example, I will give 15 minutes to Fb in a day and 10 to Instagram and so on. Resist to overshoot that and keep tabs. Soon you will lose all interest in other people’s life and start living your own and that is when the fun will actually begin.
All the above might sound a bit too far to carry the unplugging but believe me that once inculcated you will love the freedom of it. Suddenly you will start noticing that the TV is not just sound, something is playing there. You will want to read books or stream movies or just develop the habit of holding actual conversations with your beloved and that is when you will realize what a healthy choice it is to wean yourself away from your phone and laptop.