By Aaron Bailey, Pastor of Executive Ministries (and all things technology)
If you’ve known me longer than 15 minutes, you know that I check my phone frequently. I am responsible for Left Hand’s social media as well as also doing communications work for a few clients. I think I need to be online, constantly, to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Late last year, I realized that this “always on” habit (or some might say addiction) was becoming a serious problem — lower energy levels, mild depression, problems with my partner and my friends.
In 2019, I have been attempting to fix these problems. I still have a long ways to go, however here are a few solutions I’ve attempted to implement so far.
Track Your Usage
I turned on my iPhone’s “Screen Time” feature and watched in horror as my phone told me I was online for an average of nearly 6 hours 45 minutes a day. Some days, I was using my devices for more than 9 hours. I was picking up my phone an average of 97 times a day and getting an average of 180 notifications a day. YIKES!
Now, a good portion of that time was actual work, but merely seeing these stats has helped me to realize exactly how much of a problem I have.
Relentlessly Unfollow, Unsubscribe and Turn Off Notifications
Because I still need to be on social media and my devices for work, I can’t delete my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. But I realized that I was following too many people, subscribing to too many email newsletters and getting notifications from too many apps. I spent a few hours relentlessly unfollowing/muting many people (sorry if you’re one of them!), unsubscribing from dozens of emails and turning off notifications from nearly all apps on my phone and iPad.
My iPhone also now has do not disturb turned on 24/7/365.
Separate Function from Device
Remember when we had different devices for each task — phones to talk but not surf the web, music players just to listen to music, digital cameras just to take photographs, GPS devices that just told us directions and nothing else?
Back then, it was easier to just carry the device that we needed in that moment and not be distracted from the others.
I’m attempting to return to that approach by separating each type of work onto its own device. Hardcore work gets done on my laptop, social media and web surfing happen on an old iPad.
I’m still not convinced this is fully possible, but I’m experimenting with different types of setup to find which forces me to focus the most.
Journals and Paper Books
Perhaps the most shocking change I’ve attempted is to re-start using paper in my daily routine. I start each morning with a paper journal, deciding what needs to be my priority for the day. I’ve mostly ditched my Kindle for paper books that don’t require a power supply. I might even start reading the newspaper again!
I hope these tips will be helpful to you and perhaps get you to think about your own technology usage. As Christians, I don’t think we’re called to retreat from the digital world, but I do believe we need to be more healthy about our involvement in it.