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Jan. 6, 2019
There’s definitely an element of accountability that comes with sharing your new year’s resolutions in a column.
In my case, I’ve found it also helps to limit mine to one thing and pair it with a plan to accomplish it.
In 2018, that one thing involved time management. I’m not bad at it, but the volume of work I had to do combined with a large number of requests I get for meetings and other events meant I was struggling to keep up.
I started addressing it once I realized my productivity at work was noticeably better in the morning than later in the day.
To take advantage of that, I made a concerted effort to move most meetings and many interviews to the afternoon, keeping my mornings free for writing. I also started scheduling in 30-minute increments where possible instead of 60 and forced myself to turn down some things entirely. It now has become my standard practice.
I found myself noticeably less overwhelmed by a backlog of stories – something I also credit to becoming better accustomed to the high volume of work I now do, but also something definitely helped by adjusting my scheduling.
This year’s resolution is going to be a little trickier, but it’s going to make just as big of a difference to my daily life if I pull it off.
I’m vowing to limit my screen time.
There are all kinds of good reasons to do this, starting with the fact that while I’m obligated to spend a lot of time in front of various screens for work, I’ve come to not particularly enjoy it.
There’s mounting evidence that too much screen time has adverse effects on kids – everything from issues with self-confidence to attention disorders and sleep problems to psychological challenges.
There’s not as much study about what it does to adults, but what is there pretty much mirrors what happens in children. This is a good read from Harvard University.
Essentially, the more sedentary you are, the more health risks you have. The more you immerse yourself in social media, the more likely you are to become depressed or addicted to the neurochemicals released when someone positively engages with your posts or follows you.
The effects of this on the brain’s frontal lobe aren’t good, according to some research. That’s the area of the brain that helps us put thoughts into words, plays a role in memory and empathy, and manages attention – all areas not worth sacrificing for any amount of social media engagement.
I’m mindful of all these things, but my biggest reason for wanting to disconnect again comes down to my time.
We all get a limited number of hours each day. Most of us, me included, claim we don’t have enough time. Do I really want to spend any more than necessary looking into a screen? Imagine what I could do with what’s freed up, with comparatively small effort – sort of like cutting empty calories from your diet.
My working plan for addressing this actually starts with technology. I got an Apple Watch last year, which allows me to still receive text messages – the main reason I tell myself I keep my phone nearby – without actually being on the phone.
I also need to adjust where I keep my phone. It doesn’t need to be sitting on my kitchen counter, restaurant table or nightstand. I’ll be turning off notifications on my social media apps too.
And most critically, I need to give myself permission to disconnect. Yes, it might mean I miss a newsy item that someone shared or be later responding to an email or comment than I might consider ideal. None of these are likely going to change the course of my life or work in any meaningful way.
With the time I’m hoping to free up, I’m planning to schedule more actual interaction with people. While it can be tough to align calendars, I need to be more intentional about spending time with many different people. I’ve found at times too much of my contact with clients comes through email. I sometimes go months without seeing friends I really enjoy. I need to improve that this year, mostly because those interactions are energizing, inspiring, memorable and fun – all words I don’t generally use to describe my screen time.
If any of you have found other strategies for this, let me know. I’ll attempt to check in on how I’m doing with it at some point during the year. And I bet I’m not going to be alone. As more of us decide to try disconnecting more, my guess is all of us will find its benefits.
This year’s resolution: Limit screen time. Here’s the plan to make it happen.