It’s May! At last, in New Hampshire, flowers are starting to bloom. The trees are changing colors–light greens and yellows, deep reds, are starting to emerge in the vast forests along the interstate. It’s the time of year to be out in nature, to rejoice in the sunshine and the promise of warmth. It’s also a time when it’s easy to get distracted from your financial goals, to let the warmth and ease of summer melt away the self-discipline and resolve needed to make it through winter. (Figurative winter, we’re talking about. Spring is a time, apparently, when I wax poetic).
There are about six weeks left for me in the school year, and I’ve begun to reflect on this past few months as summer approaches. Professionally, it’s been a great year.
I don’t feel like such a novice teacher anymore, since I’m now in my second year as an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher. I’ve been teaching at two school districts for the past few months, which is a good thing, since we’ve been getting estimates for replacing our roof, and it won’t be cheap. I have, however, spent increasing amounts of time on my iPhone. I bought a used iPhone 6 on eBay at Christmastime, and I scroll through it a lot.
On days when I make a conscious effort to plug my phone in and not look at it, I’ve noticed several things happening: one, I hang out with my family more. Games, fort-building, and the like. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I’m tired and I just sit in a chair counting down the minutes ‘til bedtime. But if I put my phone away after I get home from work, which happens to be when the kids get home from school, I’m better able to focus on the stories of their days, might be convinced to play Uno or take a walk.
Also when I don’t scroll through my phone before bed, I can read, and am more likely to finish a hard book. For some reason, I picked up Reality is Not What it Seems at the library. It’s a “layman’s guide” to quantum physics. Ok, that is not exactly strengthening my argument, is it? I also sleep better, which is the real advantage, and I tend to go to bed earlier (for what should now be obvious reasons–contemplating the bend in space-time is apparently a real snoozer).
As I talked about in my last post, having access to so much information creates information paralysis. We have so many articles, opinions, news stories, and just plain access, that we are in a near-constant state of information overload.
Our brains can’t process all that information at such a rapid pace.
For many of us, who work in office places, the amount of emails we receive in a day is mind-boggling. I personally receive around fifty emails per day from three email accounts, most of which are “To All Staff” emails, marketing emails, or otherwise don’t pertain to me. Mr. ThreeYear probably receives 50-75 daily emails that do pertain to him and his team. That’s a monstrous amount of writing, information, and decisions to read and process. We need a break from that information stream.
Also, when we put our phones away, we can benefit from being more present. The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman describes how as we age, time seems to speed up because we have less novel experiences and so we pay less attention.
That’s one of the reasons I like travel so much. The seven days we just spent at the beach seem like much longer than a week because everything we were doing was new and different and so I remember it more vividly. Burkeman poses a question in his article, “what if you could increase the attention you paid to every moment, no matter how humdrum?” If we can do this, it will seem as if we have more time.
It would definitely be awesome to feel like time wasn’t flying away from me at quite so rapid a pace, and for me to notice all the cute/hilarious stuff my kids won’t be doing for very many more years.
So Are You Really Dropping Your Phone in the Toilet?
To help me with my goal of combatting information overload, and being more present, I am going to adopt the following practices for the month of May.
I’m not actually going to drop my phone in the toilet, of course, although that takes me back to the days of First Born Three Year, who dropped my Blackberry not once, but twice, in our commode (yes, it somehow miraculously survived the first drop. Rice works). It’s a figurative toilet dunk:
- Limit social media to before 3pm. (Sometimes, I need to be on social media for reasons that don’t have to do with zoning out , like promoting the blog, for example, so I need to build space into the day to do that). After 3pm, I’ll plug my phone in its charger and leave it alone. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Put my charger in my office, not my bedroom. That means iPad and iPhone now live beside my desk, not my bed, therefore (hopefully) removing the temptation to mindlessly scroll. This creates a small problem, of not having an alarm clock. But I’m going to borrow my son’s robot alarm clock that he doesn’t use and try that.
- Go to the library regularly. Gotta get myself some good reading material in a regular fashion. And let’s face it; sometimes, I’m not going to want to read about Quantum Mechanics, so I need to have some “junk” books to read, too.
That’s the plan for May! I still don’t have a plan to limit my scrolling during doctor’s visits and the like, but if I can tackle the big, end-of-the-day brain suck, I can give myself a little mindless scrolling while at the doctor’s. And hopefully quiet down some of the noise in my life this month.
Ok, readers, I’d love to hear from you. What’s the hardest part for you about electronics? How do you manage your devices?