Over the past few decades, the internet has encroached further and further into our everyday lives. With almost every fashion, beauty, craft, tech, and grocery store online nowadays, we use it to do most of our shopping. Between social platforms, email, and video chat and text, we use it as our primary way to communicate. Between Youtube and Netflix, games, blogs, recipe websites, and educational websites, it’s replaced our libraries, museums, theatre, and other offline ways to entertain. Not to mention, for many of us it’s our primary tool for work, research, and studying all week long.
Between all the options we have at our fingertips, and the constant notifications, streams of information, and digital noise, it’s very easy to get burned out. And when that happens, our creativity and productivity suffers along with our sense of well-being. But the good news is, we can control what we consume and how we choose to spend our time. Here are just a few ways to break that 24/7, round-the-clock cycle of staring at our screens, and instead live, learn, engage, and experience life – in real life – so we can come back feeling refreshed, inspired, and more fulfilled…
Use the internet, then get off it. This may sound simple, but how many times do we finish our work for the day and then leave the laptop open (or reach for our phones), only to see what else we can explore during our breaks or down-time? Instead of keeping devices around to fill in times of boredom, use them strictly as tools for getting these done, and then put them away once you’ve finished your work or to-dos.
Hmm, well then what? If you find yourself staring at a wall wondering what to do next, try to seek out hobbies offline that you enjoy. You can try an exercise, art, or cooking class, go hiking or biking, journal in a diary or bullet journal, or read real books! Visit libraries or art museums, see concerts or plays, visit friends or family, or take trips to your favorite parks, trails, or cities. Write up some ideas so the next time you feel tempted to reach for your laptop out of boredom, you’ll have some healthier alternatives to give your brain a break.
Distraction-proof your schedule. Most of us have to use the internet daily for our jobs or studies, but we don’t have to be slaves to it, constantly checking for new messages and likes and responding to comments, emails, and texts right then and there. The world can wait.
It’s as easy as setting limits within your daily schedule where you can. For example, instead of jumping on your phone first thing in the morning and consuming a flood of tiny bits of information, schedule out a good 15-30 minutes to yourself of mental solitude. Instead of consuming, meditate or exercise in quiet, or better yet, create something. It can be as simple as making your own breakfast, drawing or writing, or trying out a more creative makeup look.
During the ‘peak performance’ hours of the day – whether it be super early in the morning, or in the wee AM hours for us night owls – block these hours off on your schedule and turn off all notifications during these periods. For example, if you’re a morning person, set a rule not to check social media before lunch time and keep your phone tucked away in your bag until then.
At the end of the workday, set a hard stop time and try to keep all screens tucked away in another room from that point on. And to avoid the temptation of pre-bedtime scrolls through emails or Instagram, keep your phone in another room altogether (and get yourself a real alarm clock!).
Schedule your social posts. If you’re a blogger and/or run a business and need to keep up with regular social media posting, carve out 1-2 hours each week to write and schedule all of your social media posts for the following week. For scheduling everything from Twitter to Facebook, I just started using Buffer, and boy does it save time – no more having to switch tasks, log into each account, and craft one-off posts all throughout the day. (By the way, they allow you to use their service and have up to 10 posts in your queue before they prompt you to go with a paid account, so you can test it out for yourself for free!) Of course I’ll leave room for more spontaneous, in-the-moment posts, but frankly even this I try to limit since I find the simple act of logging into Twitter can send me on a downward spiral for about an hour or so if I spot something interesting.
Leave your phone at home every now and then, especially if you’re going out to eat or to an event – believe me, it will be 10x more enjoyable when you’re not busy taking photos of every single plate that arrives at your table, or ‘photo-worthy’ shot of the place. Heck, I’ll admit that I’ve done that before, but I very much regretted it afterwards. From my experience, it completely removes you from the moment, leaving you with fewer memories of the food, company, ambiance, and experience, and more of how the whole thing turned into a photo session (and probably pissed off everyone else at the table!) Anyone else remember the Instagram Husband video? 😛
Leave a little mystery. Have you heard of the saying ‘less is more‘? In a digital world where everyone seems to be over-sharing, I personally find those who leave a little mystery to be the most intriguing. It tells me that they actually have a life outside of what I see on social and they don’t feel the need to share it, which makes me all the more curious. For example, my favorite Instagrammers only post about once a week on their feeds, and a few times a week on their stories – if that. And yet, I still pay attention. And when they do finally post, each photo or share becomes that much more meaningful. With that said, if anyone tells you that you need to post X amount of many times each day/week to keep people interested or ‘up-to-date’ with what’s going on in your life, don’t listen to them. Post as many times as you feel comfortable. And don’t ever feel like you need to capture every moment, or post simply to post.
What are some ways you try to limit time spent on the internet?