I recently spent four days at a campground in the Black Hills National Forest with spotty access to cell phone service or Internet, and I was agitated. Instead of spending my time connecting with nature, I was anxious to connect to wi-fi.
This is a story of managing modern gadgetry mindfully, so it stops robbing you of peace.
Before my summer holiday, I had been working long hours and was eager to fly home, spend quality time with my family, and put my feet up. I wanted to smell the ponderosa pines and hike through the winding trails of the bucolic Black Hills Forest. But when I arrived to our serene campground, I was anxious.
I wanted to text my friends, work on my blog, and tinker with my website. I checked my iPhone every five minutes to see if I had reception, and I was anxious about not having enough connectivity to upload my next blog post.
I realized that this self-made anxiety served as a great reminder to spend more time living in the present and to allow modern technology to add ease to my life – not rob me of peace.
On the second day of the trip, I packed away my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook in a place that was out of sight and out of mind. Then, I focused on spending time with and being present for my family. Because very often being present and modern gadgetry are mutually exclusive: if your nose is stuck in a gadget, you’re not being present for loved ones; and likewise, if you’re being present for loved ones, your nose is not stuck in a gadget.
People who know me well are aware of my ability to space out. When I was 12 years old, I played the Legend of Zelda for a whole summer (I could pass the entire world on one guy), and I think that led to a Nintendo-induced strain of adult Attention Deficit Disorder.
With this in mind, a headline from The Onion¹ recently caught my eye that read: “Man Browsing Internet During Phone Conversation Advises Friend To Definitely Do That.” After I chuckled, I realized that was me. I was the friend who tuned out when someone else was talking and said during a pause, “Yeah, do that.”
Who wants to be that friend? I don’t. So every day, I make a conscious effort to live in the present moment – which means being present for others, not criticizing myself for what happened yesterday, and not stressing about what needs to be done tomorrow. I try to live in the only moment there is: this moment.
When you live in the present you automatically turn into that friend you’re grateful to have. The one who actively listens when you’re talking and doesn’t interrupt you, finish your sentences, or offer unsolicited advice.
“The whole life of a man is but a point in time; let us enjoy it.” -Plutarch
The fact is modern gadgetry is here to stay, and that’s not a bad thing. After you buy your first smart phone, you’ll never want another flip-top. But it’s up to us to allow the gadgets we use to make our lives easier and not to become addicted to or distracted by them.
The following five steps can help you manage your gadgets more mindfully.
1. Turn off all sounds and vibrations that indicate you have an incoming email. According to a recent study by Nokia, cell phone users check their devises an average of 150 times in a 16-hour day.² That’s almost 10 times per hour! We all have adult responsibilities, but few of us need to know the second a new email arrives in our inbox.
2. Limit the number of times per day you check email. If you pick up any book about being more organized or increasing productivity, they nearly all offer this advice. Checking your email multiple times per hour not only diverts your focus from accomplishing real work, it takes time away from being present for loved ones.
3. Put your gadgets where they’re difficult to reach. If your gadgets are close by you, it’s tempting to check them early and often. Put them where they’re difficult to reach – especially when you’re at home. And in those seconds when you’re reaching to retrieve the devise, ask yourself, “When was the last time I checked this thing? Is it really necessary to check it again?” If the answer is no, do something else.
4. Allow yourself a fixed number of minutes of Internet surfing per day and stick to the time allotted. I allow myself to iPad surf for 30 minutes before I go to bed at night. This is when I check Twitter, play my opponents in our roiling online-Scrabble games, and read the latest posts of my favorite bloggers. When my 30 minutes are up, I close my iPad and prepare for dreamland. The reason why I surf right before bed is because I know that sleep means more to me than surfing.
5. Do the things that make your heart sing. I know that you’re a busy person with little spare time in a day. But if you spent less time checking devices and surfing the Internet in a day, you’d likely be able to create more space for doing the things that bring you true joy.
If you put these principles (or even just one) into practice, you will become more present for your friends and family and have more time to do the things you feel passionate about.
Being present and managing your gadgetry mindfully takes a conscious daily effort. But there’s no better day to start making the effort than today.
Post a comment: Are you addicted to your gadgets or to mindless surfing? Is it robbing you of peace? What have you done to keep technology addiction in check?
Take action: I challenge you to take the steps mentioned above and to spend more time in your day being present and doing the things that make your heart sing. Do you know anyone with a gadget or surfing addiction? Be sure to pass this post along to them.
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Remember, it’s the little changes you make in your daily life that brings greater peace to the whole.
¹ The Onion is an American satire news organization