Category Archives: using time wisely

[lessons learned] from #moresociallessmedia

image via Dallas Hartwig

image via Dallas Hartwig

I spent the last month doing the More Social Less Media program created by Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of the Whole30. [Check out whole30.com and dallashartwig.com for more info on either.] I have completed one whole30 and am starting another today. I know the profound life-changing effects it can have, so when Dallas started writing about the effects on our health of social media and being constantly plugged in online, I was ready and waiting for whatever program he created next. You should check out his website for the full details, but basically the first two weeks were focused on being more engaged in face-to-face social interactions, and the second two weeks were a fast from social media and screen entertainment. Here are the things I gleaned from this experience.

 

A couple things to note first:

  1. I purposely did not remove any social media / entertainment apps from my phone.
  2. This experiment was especially difficult for me right now because my second daughter was born mid-April, so I’m currently spending my days [& good portions of my nights] with a newborn. I made the exception that I could read books on my phone when I was feeding her.
me & maya

me & maya

>> Social media and screen time has cost me too much in how I spend my time.

Moment app

I downloaded the Moment app to help me become more aware of how much time I spend on my phone. It was DISTURBING. Granted, let me remind you that I’m staying at home with a small human who doesn’t talk and pretty much sleeps all day but requires one or both of my hands most of the time. Even still, I was bothered by how much I looked at my screen, how often I absently selected social media apps, and how long I mindlessly scrolled through feeds on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the like.

In the first two weeks, while I was still active online, I could spend upwards of FIVE hours a day on my phone… [One day I even logged almost eight… *hangs head in shame*] Even though these tallies include good activities [like reading a book] and good interactions [like texting baby pictures to my long-distance family], I was disgusted by the amount of time wasted with my eyes glued to a screen. What did spending my time this way cost me? How often did I do this with my toddler playing near me? Did I miss opportunities to see her discover new things? How often did I do this with other people in the room? Did I miss out on fruitful conversations with them? How often did I do this when I could/should be doing other things? What productivity and accomplishments did I forfeit?

The second two weeks were better due to fasting from social media and screen entertainment. My average time on my phone plummeted to under three hours on average [remember that I spend time reading on my phone almost every time I feed the baby, especially in the middle of the night to stay awake!]. One day was even less than an hour and a half, which is what I would like to stay under as baby gets older. But even with the munchkin, that’s a saving of 2-3 hours every day. I cut my screen time nearly in half.

What I noticed in the two weeks fasting from media is that I didn’t really miss Facebook at all. When the two weeks ended, I didn’t feel the need to catch up scrolling on Facebook. I’ve long considered deactivating my account, but I’ve always kept it because it’s the primary/only means of contact I have with some people in my life who I want to stay in contact with. I’ve decided to keep Facebook for now but to limit my time on it.

Unlike Facebook, I did miss Instagram. I spent quite awhile over the weekend catching up on posts. I think it’s because I curate my feed more strictly on Instagram, and I find the posts more useful, educational, and inspiring as a result. I found the first week away easier than the second. I started to want to check it because I missed the good stuff rather than just out of mindless habit. Still, I’ve decided to limit how often I open the app and to place conditions on when I can do so.

And Pinterest. What can I say about my digital magazine clipping collection? I stopped buying magazines years ago for a reason, and that reason applies to Pinterest. It’s a waste of time leafing through [or scrolling through] pictures of projects I’m not going to do, recipes I’m not going to make, and stuff I’m not going to buy. I have found Pinterest to be a helpful catalog of ideas, so I’ll keep it, but no more scrolling; only searching when I want to find something specific, like a recipe or how-to tutorial.

 

>> Social media has created unnecessary clutter in my life.

Speaking of Pinterest, one of the other reasons I got rid of magazines is CLUTTER. I noticed that social media creates a great deal of clutter in my life. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally.

One [not-really-social-media-but-online] area I was able to decrease clutter was in my email inbox. I unsubscribed from all those unnecessary newsletters, flyers, coupons, and deals. It’s incredible how good it feels to open my email and find relevant messages without combing through tons of junk I’m going to delete before even glancing at it. I now only feel the need to check my email a couple times a day. I wasn’t expecting how freeing this would feel, but it really does feel like weight lifted.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 11.03.22 PM

I also became pickier about who I follow on social media. My feeds were bogged down with posts that are depressing or dumb, some that even incite anger. I don’t need that in my life. Paring down my friends list and who I follow has been a release of emotional baggage. I like the new trend “Unfollow Friday” which encourages you to unfriend, unfollow, and unsubscribe from anything that doesn’t add positively to your life. I will continue to periodically evaluate what I’m streaming into my mind and heart as much as what takes up my time.

 

>> Social media has significantly influenced how I interact with people.

art by Steve Cutts

art by Steve Cutts

It’s amazing how aware of others’ phone use you become as soon as you aren’t looking at your own. Everywhere you go: grocery lines, doctor offices, coffee shops, every room in the house. I attended the band concert of one of our teens, and the guy next to me spent the entire time on his phone, only occasionally pausing to applaud. It’s sad enough that we don’t acknowledge people on the streets around us, but to not even acknowledge our own children… But I’m guilty of the same thing. I have too often focused on a screen than on my daughter. This realization smacked me hard, and I’ve made a concerted effort since then for my daughter to not see me on my phone. She’s never been allowed to play with our phones, but I don’t want her to see me obsessed with it either. The adage is true: they grow up too fast. And I don’t want to miss it.

One of my favorite outcomes of the media fast was having conversations with strangers everywhere I went. One time I shared an elevator with a guy wearing a Camaro t-shirt. I told him I liked it, and we got into a conversation about our first cars and our favorites. It was fun to talk cars with someone again. I don’t know the last time I did that. [Turns out he has never owned a Camaro, and he was impressed that I know what a Z28 is.]

But the most important thing that came out of this experiment was that it made me more thoughtful about my local tribe and making the effort to spend time with them more often. Due to some difficult decisions for the health and happiness of our family, we left an important community of ours over a year ago, and that left us feeling very alone. It was especially noticeable as we were expecting and then welcomed our second daughter. But it turns out we have a much larger tribe of people than we realized. They are a motley crew from all corners of our life, but they are loyal and serving and upbuilding to us. It takes more effort to spend time with them because we don’t have weekly meetings where we all show up at the same place and conveniently run into each other. We have to call or send a message, schedule a lunch date or weekend hangout. We have to be intentional in seeking them out and making time for each other. But we have learned from their kind and generous examples over the last year, as they sought us out and made time for us. [One friend was on her way home after dinner out, and she dropped by just to see if we were around. She helped me with kiddo bedtime so Shaun could get back into the field to finish up planting, and she ended up staying for three hours catching up! It’s one of my favorite experiences of the last month.]

Sure, social media hasn’t always had a positive influence on my relationships, but I would be remiss to not say how much I missed people with whom I interact solely/mainly online. No one is saying that social media or all of our handheld technology is inherently bad or can’t be used for good. The More Social Less Media program was designed to help us make conscious decisions about how much to use social media because it makes us aware of how we use it and how it affects us. I’ve lived in several different states, and I appreciate how technology and social media networks have made it possible to reconnect with old friends and to stay updated on what’s going on in others’ lives. I enjoy seeing pictures of my friends’ kids and my teens’ prom and graduation pictures. Without social media, I would be completely ignorant of these events; with social media, I get to participate indirectly. It’s recognizing the artificial quality of social media that keeps these digital connections in proper perspective next to my face-to-face relationships, and this is crucial.

 

>> I love social media. 🙂

Yep! I just have a better grasp on how to use it more effectively and how to not let it use me. In the next couple weeks, I will be evaluating my return to social media and other screen time and creating guidelines for my personal use of it. Maybe I’ll write a post about them.

In the meantime, check out More Social Less Media at dallashartwig.com and [ironically] #moresociallessmedia on Facebook and Instagram. And if you want to do more reading on the subject, I’ve linked to a few articles below. Let me know of other interesting articles on the subject. Tell me how you use social media and the effects of it you seen in your own life. I look forward to interacting with you here via comments or on one of my feeds!

 

Some articles on the effects of social media &/or screen time:

13, right now: This is what it’s like growing up in the age of likes, lols and longing

Smartphones: So many apps, so much time

Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society?

Gray Matters: Too much screen time damages the brain

cultivating “interruptibility”

photo by rory finneren

photo by rory finneren

a while back, i had a dream that i was trying to paint & people kept interrupting me & i kept getting pain all over the place. i was so angry throughout the dream due to the interruptions.

sometimes i get frustrated when roo wakes up sooner than expected & i have to stop whatever i’m doing.

i’m trying to cultivate a lifestyle & mindset of “interruptibility.” i really don’t have much choice! but i’d like to intentionally welcome it,be okay with it, maybe even glad for it. after all, interruptions are often the spice of life & bring the most delightful detours. some of the course changes in my life have become my new purposeful path. i think the Way of Christ is always fraught with what we may deem as interruptions. holy interruptions. opportunities to serve others, to spend time with God, to share Christ with someone. but we often bypass them because they’re inconvenient & we “have better things to do.” we have schedules & to do lists & deadlines & goals & meetings. we don’t have time to… fill in the blank.

but i’ve found that these very interruptions i don’t have or make time for might be the most important things i could do all day. it makes me think of the rock/pebble/sand illustration on priorities — where you can fit much into your life/vase if you properly prioritize [put rocks in first, pebbles next, & sand last] rather than filling up your life/vase with the same amount of sand first & then not having enough room for the pebbles & none for the rocks. interruptions can be the larger stones, but what we often choose over them is just sand. years ago, when we were working in campus ministry, shaun did a series of devotionals about time. he taught that instead of “making time” we need to use God’s time wisely. still sage advice.

i’ve said for years that the “theme” of my 20s, God’s overarching lesson for me, was letting go & letting God. cliche, but true. [cue your favorite version of the song “let it go” now… you’re welcome.] it usually takes me some time to figure out the next lesson He’s prioritizing for me. i’m starting to wonder if this concept of flowing that i’ve been focusing on this year is what He is prioritizing in my 30s. to flow, cultivate interruptibility, set right priorities. to stop worshiping my schedule & to do list. to have goals centered on Him & His plans for me. i’m not sure what concise catchy cliche i could sum all that up into, but i’m sure He’ll inspire me when the time is right. i was 25 before i recognized the big picture lesson He was trying to teach me in the season of my 20s. of course, i wasn’t looking for it then, so it took a while to open my eyes. now i’m looking for it, wondering, anticipating. i love learning. it’s not all easy lessons or reading good books. God specializes in “field work” & learning by practice, trial & error. it’s difficult, but never dull! and as far as i can tell, He seems to really love “pop quiz field trips” that throw a wrench in your whole day, your plan. interruptions. if i’m going to learn about Life, to be His student, i have to be ready & willing for these interruptions. even excited for them. as if they were the real “to do” for today.

how do we intentionally cultivate interruptibility — godly vision to see what’s most important in the moment? i am not sure. but i’ll keep you posted on what i learn. have you tried to create margin in your life for interruptions? what has worked for you?

words to LIVE by #9

quote

 

wise words. they have helped me keep my sanity since becoming a momma staying home with a baby everyday. in some ways, i’m more productive than ever because i feel the importance of every free ten minutes that i have the use of both my hands! but i’ve struggled with getting my “work work” done because i need more than ten minutes together to make progress on some projects. i have to remind myself that in this particular season of my life, i’m just going to have to accept this new disjointed schedule of ours. 

i’ve started breaking some big projects down into small 10-15 minutes bites. roo can usually entertain herself with a crinkle toy or looking at a ceiling fan for that long, so i can sprint my way through a simple task. and it doesn’t matter if i get it done. if i don’t, i leave it in progress & return to it the next 10-15 minute chunk i get. i repeat to myself often, “i can doing anything for 15 minutes.” and i can. i can waste it with tv or twitter. OR i can clear off one surface in my house or reply to a couple emails.

i’ve also started using donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule. [you can find it here.] only one week in, & i love it already. it’s working for me in ways nothing else has. storyline breaks up my day into projects that i need to prioritize with a secondary task list. it doesn’t have me put timeframes on my projects, which is important for me since i never know quite what each day, each hour, each minute[!], will hold with roo’s needs. it helps me create a structure that eliminates lots of unnecessary distractions but still allows important interruptions [like feeding the baby — ha!]. i absolutely recommend it to anyone who sets their own schedule each day. but i also always recommend that you find what works for you, & that may not be what works for me.

most importantly, today, i want to emphasize that you can’t do everything! so stop staring in despair at that impossibly long to do list. [i say to myself.] however, you can do something. maybe even lots of things. so do that. take baby steps. you’ll be surprised how much you will accomplish over time with this mindset & method. i am now a stay-at-home mom to a three-month-old [today!] sweet girl. and by just doing what i can when i can, i’m able to take care of roo AND: work on my book, work on this blog, coordinate a major ministry at my church, keep my house functionally & presentably clean, do 2 loads of laundry [cloth diapers is always one of those] including folding & putting it all away, cook dinner, go for a walk or run, read for pleasure, catch up on twitter, & usually watch an episode or two on netflix — every day. [disclaimers: i only cook dinner 3 times a week usually! i don’t go for a walk or run every day, but try for 3-5 times a week depending on the weather & roo. i might spend 15 minutes on ministry one day & 5 hours on it the next; same with writing — it depends on the priorities i set each morning. and it helps that shaun is the best dad to roo & hogs her to himself most evenings!] i should also mention that to do all this requires me to get up 2-3 hours before roo each day, which is around 6 a.m. [disclaimer: i usually snooze until 6:30 though.]

last thing i want to make sure we cover — ignore what you can’t do!!! focusing on what you can’t do is called worrying, & worrying is zero helpful. actually it’s in the negatives against helpfulness. it skews your priorities, it diminishes your productivity, & it cheats you of enjoying the current moment & season of your life. that’s another thing i appreciate about the storyline productivity schedule — it gives you a place to ponder “if i could live today over again, i’d…” which is a great place to write “worry less” & “focus only on what i can do today.” having this mindset from the beginning of the day makes a difference in how you live it. the schedule also has a section to record “things i get to enjoy today.” i love love love this part! mine for today is: seeing ness!!! [my sister flies in today], eating at pei wei, taking a run outside, & taking roo’s 3-month pictures. simple pleasures that are really the most important parts of my day & what i’ll remember about it in 5 or 50 years. i want to be intentionally present during these moments, these things that i can do, rather than missing out because i focused & worried about all the things i can’t get done. it’s making all the difference in my day, my attitude, & even my productivity.

what mantras & methods to you use to take baby steps & be productive?

how do you keep focused on what’s really important each day?

for every season, present

it was over three years ago that i was at lunch with a dear friend talking about my cliche crisis in approaching age 30. she knew about my embracing the nickname “student of Life” so she used it against me! she said something i’ve never forgotten since: “i don’t think a student of Life would dread being 30 or pretend to stay 29. i think a student of Life would embrace their current season, whatever that might be.” was i ever knocked down a peg. in a good way. after that conversation, i vowed to myself i would do just that — embrace my current season. i actually enjoyed turning 30, in part thanks to my friends & family making it such a fun milestone to celebrate. but i think i mostly enjoyed it because my point-of-view changed, & i started to look forward to this new chapter with new adventures & experiences, rather than lamenting the ones bygone.

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i think that’s one of the keys to preventing ourselves from wishing we were still ___ — fill in the blank. still in high school. still in college. still young. still married. still living wherever. still thin. still rocking small babies. still working at that job.

we have a hard time letting go of past seasons because we weren’t fully present & paying attention to what we had when we had it. i’m not talking about a nostalgic walk down memory lane. i’m talking about being consumed with thoughts of our past, maybe even trying to recreate parts of it. i have lots of seasons that i wasn’t really present during, & i regret that. i wish i could go back & better imprint each experience, each relationship, on my mind & heart. i wish i could relive “the glory days.” but i can’t. all i can do is not repeat the same mistake with the season in which i find myself now.

the season i happen to be in currently is motherhood. with my very own baby girl that i carried & birthed & who lives in my home 24/7. in so many ways, i have put off this season for years. a decade actually. two main things held me back from pursuing children sooner. one, i was afraid becoming a parent would compromise my effectiveness in ministering to teens, one of my greatest passions in life. i know all too well that merely being a parent, no matter what kind of parent, made you automatically different in the eyes of teens. but i finally realized that while my relationships with them would change, it didn’t mean they necessarily had to be ineffective. the other reason was i kept waiting to want a baby, but the plain fact is i’m not a baby person. i like babies; i’m comfortable with babies; i have held day-old newborns, changed diapers, & babysat oodles of wee ones. but i’m just not that person who ooo’s & ahh’s over & wants to hold every baby i see. i’m just not a baby person. once i came to terms with that being okay, that it didn’t mean i couldn’t be a mom & have babies of my own, i was ready to have them.

people say it will be different with your own baby. it is, & it isn’t. i’m still just not a baby person. but i do love each moment while i have it, all the while okay with each moment passing & her getting older! people also tell me all the time to enjoy it while i can because it just goes too fast, they grow up too fast. i believe it. and i’m trying to make a point every day to embrace being a momma, memorizing what roo is like today, enjoying the cuddles & naps & feedings & baby talk. i go a little stir-crazy sometimes, but i know one day she’ll be too big to sleep on my chest, she won’t need me to feed her, & she’ll have a mind & mouth all of her own! and hopefully i’ll embrace that season, too.

my focus for this year is flow — i want to cultivate eyes to see God working in, around, & through me each day, in all the “small” things. and i want to explore faith from a daily standpoint — learning to experience God, worship, & wonder in the everyday simple moments. i figure with a baby coming, this will be pivotal amidst the diapers, feedings, & messes! i don’t want to miss God & the wonder because of the mess & sleeplessness. [read more here.] i want to notice the “appointments” that God sets for me, holy interruptions in my day. i want to find Him in the weather outside, meet Him while i wash the bottles, talk with Him in the laundry room, & walk with Him through my neighborhood.

how? here are two exercises i use daily [albeit imperfectly, inconsistently] to help keep me focused on the present.

1. daily prayers — morning, midday, & evening. i have been using common prayer for ordinary radicals to structure these prayer times throughout my day. i say my morning prayers [a different one each day of the year] before i get out of bed in the morning. i love waking up this way. the midday prayer is the same every single day & takes only a few minutes. i keep it on my phone & in my locket so i can recite each afternoon [at 3:00ish] no matter what i’m doing — feeding the baby, making a bottle, at the office, or out doing errands. each evening, there are prayers that cycle every week that include a time for confession. sometimes i say evening prayers at my prayer desk; sometimes while rocking roo to sleep; sometimes in bed right before i drift off. each of these points in my day help reorient myself, today, & this moment around God, His Presence, His will. 

2. quick pics — this is something i actually learned from a pregnancy book called body, soul, & baby. the purpose of them is to intentionally pay attention to yourself throughout the day. a quick pic is simple a minute or two where you pause whatever you’re doing, take a few deep breaths to center yourself, & ask yourself how you’re doing in this moment, physically & spiritually. how does my body feel? do i need anything [food, stretches, a walk, etc.]? how does my soul feel? do i need anything [a break, a chat with a friend, letting something go, etc.]? i also add a third pic of my productivity from the last hour or so. am i using my time wisely? am i working on things that need to get done? is there anything i’m avoiding? i do quick pics once an hour throughout the workday. i have a soft chiming alarm set on my iphone that reminds me to stop & focus. these periodic pauses to pay attention to how i’m doing help bring me back to the present if i’m stressing about something from the past or in the future; help remind me what’s really important & necessary.

again, i must stress that i don’t do these things every day perfectly, but i do some of it every day, & that makes a huge difference. i’m still learning. always will be. and in this season, i’m learning that being present in every season can make all the difference in life, in experiencing abundant Life.

words to LIVE by #7

strive quote

 

i’m trying to cut myself some slack lately. now that i have a bitty one [roo], my schedule isn’t really my own anymore, & i can’t get as much done in a day as i’m used to [or as i’m used to trying to].

one thing that didn’t get done during my pre-roo nesting is cleaning & organizing our bedroom. i know i’m going to want a bedroom that feels like a refuge from the chaos that is gonna hit our house as she gets older & as other kiddos come along. but i just can’t tackle such a big project now. so i decided a couple weeks ago to set my timer for 15 minutes each day — either during a roo rest or with her hanging out on my bed — & just work on it bit by bit. my room is now clear off all the stuff that had been piled up from when we first moved in & never got around to putting away where it belonged. it feels great! next step is organizing things, like my closet & vanity. but for now, at least my clothes are hanging up & my makeup is all in one place! progress.

i also want to get back to writing, & i usually make ridiculous grand plans to blog 5 times a week & write a chapter a day. for now, my one goal is to start each morning by journaling for 3 pages. about anything. i don’t make it every day, but usually i manage at least four times each week. progress.

it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at work, especially after maternity leave & going back only one afternoon a week for however long. my best friend / sister / co-worker, rachel, has this quote [i think she got it from momastery] to “do the next right thing” to help prevent that drowning feeling that makes us all want to give up & hole ourselves away on the couch with a tub of ice cream & netflix on a loop. do the next right thing. progress.

i know from past experiences, when you strive for perfection, you’re more prone to shutting down & getting nothing done. i’d rather get something done than nothing, so i’m striving for simple progress here on out. join me. we’ll take baby steps together. one step at a time, & we can take over the world. or at least the laundry.