I have to begin by saying that I am no expert. As a matter of fact, I am about as far from an expert as I could be in this area. That being said, I have come a long way over the years. Some googling could probably take you to some really great thoughts by people who are so much better at this than myself. However, maybe I can save you a little bit of time by sharing some of my rookie lessons learned so that you can push ahead on your journey.
First, as I mentioned in Intoxicated by Connectivity there was a transition that needed to happen for me before the practical strategies for disconnection would even be useful. If you are not at that place of peace and trust yet then I would urge you to stay there wrestling with those truths and praying for that kind of peace. Without it, nothing here will be of any lasting help.
Okay, so here are a few things that I have done over the years which have been significant on my journey of learning how to disconnect:
- Silence The Ding. I do not allow email to interrupt me. Whether on my computer or my phone, I have silenced all of the notifications for email. This keeps me in charge of checking it when I am ready. While I’m spending time with family I am not going to be pulled away by the sound of a new email arriving.
- Silence The Ring. I will often turn my phone off during specific times of the day. Or, I will keep it on silent so that I can glance over to see if a missed call has come from a family member (in case of emergency). Again, this keeps me in charge rather than my phone being in charge of me and my time. I can return calls when I have set aside time to return calls.
- Prioritize Email. I have multiple email addresses which serve different purposes. One address can be checked every few days. Then, others are once per day and one which is of highest priority. This allows me to have one email address on my phone which only represents the highest priority. So, I am not looking at a phone with hundreds of emails coming through each day.
- Silence Social Media. I do not get any notifications or emails when anything happens on social media. I do this because I may be in the middle of a meal with my family and then see that I have been mentioned on Twitter or tagged on Facebook and then my mind is consumed by wondering what that is all about.
- Forget Your Phone. I know what you are thinking…. but what if there is an emergency? I remember a day when we made it through emergencies just fine without mobile phones. I’m not advocating a mobile phone genocide here but just reminding us that if we are going to the zoo with our family on a Saturday, we could leave our phone behind and not only be okay, but maybe make a deeper investment in our family.
- Exercise! How is exercise related? I have found it deeply related. Exercise is a necessary mental stress relief and distraction which helps tremendously with disconnecting. A good scientific explanation is above my pay grade but God created us for movement and the things that happen inside our bodies when we exercise are a huge help in our disconnection journey.
I know these are so simple. It is the simple things that can change our lives. There is so much more to be said on this subject. There are other specific things I do as a pastor that helps me in this area that I have not mentioned. There will be specific things for you as well. Stay-at-home-moms will have some very specific and unique things they can do that will be helpful here as well.
Who is in charge? Does your phone or your social media decide when you turn your attention away from your spouse or children or do you make that decision? Are you even aware of when it is happening?
Do you have any specific strategies that have helped you learn how to disconnect?