Does a true day “off” necessitate no phone use? How about if I don’t use social media but still text throughout the day? Am I resting? Having fun? Keeping my body healthy? I asked myself these questions and if I’m being honest, a true day off for me would mean no phone and no computer. Both keep my head down, body sedentary and don’t permit real conversation. I like keeping my head up, prefer to be active and love good conversation.
The reality is, we work on computers and even if we don’t use social media, phones connect us to our loved ones and are useful in emergencies. They are also dang handy for taking notes and making lists.
We all know how phones decrease our attention span, provide a false sense of accomplishment after scrolling (similar to having completed an actual task), and that screens are literally engineered to keep us looking. Yet, we have trouble putting them down.
With 23 states engulfed in brutal cold this week, it led to countless school and company closings. What I observed in my frozen little corner of the universe were several people granted a “day off” by their employer (not a “work from home” day) but still received texts about nonsense that really could have waited until we were plowed out. We’re not talking about organ transplant surgery or even a customer really needing assistance. We’re talking about useless, unproductive texting that forced more than one person to be on their phones all day. Without cell phones, employers wouldn’t feel as comfortable calling via a land line 12 times in five hours.
I knew of a few children who spent three straight days gaming and teens who remained couch bound, attached to their social media. No board games, books, conversation nor baking cookies. Instead, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter and so on fully consumed their days “off”.
“And it turns out that Americans check their work emails just as often as they do social media even while on vacation. The average American will check their work emails, Facebook, and Instagram nine times a day as they soak up the sun.” Source.
Research has proven social isolation, addiction, decreased attention span/inability to focus, and increased sadness are associated with media use. But, it’s not only the social media and constant distraction that hurts us. (And by “us” I mean adults, not only kids and teenagers.)
General cell phone use has been researched and subsequently led scientists to report, “adverse health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns”. (Source) Could it be related to the “minimal amount” of radiofrequency radiation emitting from our devices? For every claim that they cause no or little physical harm, there is another story claiming they do.
Snow days, vacation and days off work used to be openings for creating life memories-not watching what everyone else was doing. They tended to promote “healthier” days. If we allow it, electronics rob us of those much-needed breaks and real joys.
I’m going to periodically use my phone on days off, but I’m not attached. I crave tech-free time. I’m going to make a concerted effort to have snow days that are phone-free fun – like they were when the kids were little. I have plenty of my own ideas, but if you need some, (HGTV has a list of “Adult Snow Days” ideas.)
Having been drawn into studying this topic a bit this week, I’m going into this weekend only using my phone for communication with the kids. This way, I believe it will truly be time “off”!
But first, I need to close this lap top…
Happy Weekend to all!!
(Throw-Back Thursday: This post originally published 4/18/13.)
I had just survived a 22-hour car ride home with three teenagers in the backseat. My bottom surely expanded another two inches from the countless hours of idleness. Despite these truths and the annoying grunting by my family as they finally exited the minivan, I was mentally renewed, well-rested and highly motivated to commence a more adventurous, interesting life. It’s not like I was inspired from touring cathedrals in Europe. We were simply on the beach in Florida, but for a busy Mom, the absence of daily routine and chores was ample incentive to get moving on a few dreams that I had buried under the weekly tasks of raising a family.
Facing loads of laundry, necessary grocery shopping, and a mountain of snail mail and emails, I remained steadfast in my resolve. Tomorrow, I would break the hum drum sound of my life by reducing the number of “urgent” tasks that consume my days, and pursue “important” goals and interests that I’d been ignoring for years.
Best-selling author and management guru Dr. Steven Covey, promotes a time management theory known as the Urgent vs. Important. He states that urgent matters “press on us; they insist on action… But so often they are unimportant!” He continues his explanation of what’s essential in his national bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Importance…has to do with results. If something is important, it contributes to your (personal) mission, your values, your high priority goals.” (Emphasis mine.) I teach this theory to business students at a four-year college.
Three days into my post-vacation resolution, I had made progress by refusing to fold clothes other than my own, and I would no longer load the dishwasher. Ever. Three teenagers can certainly handle kitchen duty and their clothes are always crumpled by the time they reach the drawers anyway. The bunny food spilled. I delegated the clean up. The kitchen floor was muddy. I asked my son to wipe it down. Still, I wasn’t yet spending time on my mission or my goals.
I felt anxious to achieve something of significance, yet remained immersed in what would be considered trivial to the world-at-large. I wondered, particularly while in the trenches of motherhood, should the urgent be ignored to pursue the important? Is the urgent often equal with the important?
That third night post-vacation, after grading a heap of student essays, I scanned 124 emails and checked on the cherub-looking teens in their beds. It was 1:10am and the alarm was set for 5:45am. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morn determined to finish the “urgent” matters of kids’ school correspondence, washing hockey jerseys, baking brownies for my daughter’s class and sewing missing buttons on a lacrosse kilt. Completing those tasks through the night would free me tomorrow to finally address a few of my long-lost plans. I would query book agents (for the completed novel in my hard drive), send out a few cover letters for a full time university job (I’m part time faculty), research missions trip financing for my youngest (she’s asked to visit children in Zambia since she was seven), and quite possibly, even work on the family scrapbook collecting cobwebs in my basement!
Excited to be caught up with the menial jobs, my subconscious joy awoke me at 5:00am. I bounced out of bed, turned off the alarm that didn’t have to ring, and headed for my office computer. I envisioned the interview I would certainly have by week’s end at the “big” university in town. We would finally be able to upgrade the minivan and do some landscaping! En route to my new professorship, I found my daughter on the sofa, doubled over crying with a stomach virus. She bolted from the couch to the bathroom, with me on her heels, holding her hair away from her face while she vomited. By the time I tucked her back into bed, the others were up, lunches and breakfast were underway and “important” just became a trip to the Pediatrician.
I shuffled two of three kids and one husband out the door by 7:15am, did my hair and makeup in 12 minutes, drove to work to pick up new textbooks, stopped to retrieve packages that were on hold at UPS, then to the bank, arrived home, and left again for the doctor with sick child. My husband met us at the house afterward to care for our daughter and I went to the pharmacy. Catching my breath in line, I encountered a lovely gentleman I haven’t seen in several years. He updated me on his children and grandchildren before asking, “ahh… you were working part time as a teacher when your kids were little, right?” “Yes.” “So, what do you do now?” I sincerely felt like apologizing that I had nothing new or “important” to share. No trips overseas (his son was in Belize), or major promotion (his other son was relocating to Chicago for an exciting new job). I was still running a household, being the Mom who brought forgotten gym clothes into school by 3rd period, and hosting all kid gatherings at our house since I was the one at “home” most of the time.
Who wants to hear about the pancakes you made this morning or the clean house?
The lackluster responsibilities that make life good for my family appear very small when having those once-every-ten-years conversations with people.
Paying for my daughter’s prescription, I remained surprisingly delusional. Though discouraged by the errand-running, I resolved to at least print the final manuscript of my novel that afternoon. Then, I remembered the vacation photos still to be downloaded for the grandparents, and the recipes my daughter needed typed and copied for her girls group that night. Walking out the door of Rite Aid, I marveled at how the years had passed. While my college girlfriends were growing their portfolios, I was feeling invisible much of the time and insignificant in the scheme of the modern bigness of our gender.
The remainder of my afternoon was spent hearing about family activities, cooking dinner, caring for my sick teenager, and zooming out yet again to watch my other daughter’s lacrosse game. The last thing I had time for that night was laying next to my pale-faced vomiter when she asked me to rub her back. Yet, when her weary eyes connected with mine, there was nothing more “important”. The next morning, I called a sick friend.
Immediately following the call, my husband texted, asking me to book a hotel room for my son’s next hockey tournament. I researched the best price (very time consuming) and turned my office chair again toward my goals. As I opened MSWord to print out a cover letter for a full time teaching job, I see the kids’ summer camp forms in my peripheral vision. The deadline for signing up is fast-approaching…
Husband texts, “did you get that room yet for the hockey tournament?”
Son texts, “Mom, I didn’t finish the application for the art contest…would you please?”
Youngest daughter asks later that night, “would you help me with this project?”
Five days post vacation, it was evident: I choose the urgent.
Standing in front of my college freshman students a few days later, I felt like a hypocrite. Was I not practicing what I was preaching about stepping away from the urgent to address the important? No, I decided. There are seasons in life. My students are earning a degree, I’m raising a family. My personal achievements are centered around family and friends – for now. Though previously undefined, I realized through my post-vacation reality check that for many Moms, or women caring for aging parents, or spouses with chronically ill partners, the important is the urgent. For a season.
My Florida-pink fingernails are chipped and my spray tan has faded. The manuscript remains in my hard drive and the full-time professorship has yet to be landed. There is zero chance that I’m catching up on scrapbooking this weekend.
The hotel room? My husband was thrilled to learn that I booked a suite $60 less than the other hockey Dads scored. The art contest? My son’s drawing is published in a national magazine. My sick daughter? She says the best thing about her virus was my reading a book to her that I haven’t read aloud since she was 10.
When this Mom-urgent season in my life concludes, I will move into a new time, resurrect some former dreams, and no doubt, make a few come true.
Quotes taken from: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 1989. Stephen R. Covey.