I have an addiction; left without management, it can cause my daily routine to become disjointed and leave me irritable and frustrated. The addiction I speak of is to my beautiful iPhone 5s: to email, social media, and being plugged in at all times.
To combat this compulsion, last year I instituted a weekly practice of Digital Sabbath. Inspired by my friend Brad Feld, Digital Sabbath consists of disconnecting from my phone, email, and social media from sundown on Friday until sunrise on Sunday. This break allows me to recharge my batteries and reconnect with what's important, including uninterrupted family time, reading time, working-out time, and thinking time.
Over the past six months, my dependence on reaching for my phone has become more advanced.
This realization occurred to me one recent morning at 4 a.m. Having woken up for a bathroom break, minutes later I found myself scrolling through hundreds of Twitter posts, as if that was the ordinary thing to do at that hour.
I realized that it had become my norm to (a) always keep my phone on and within arm's reach of my pillow, (b) to check the phone until minutes before falling asleep, and immediately upon waking up, and (c) to check in on email and social media at any point during the night when I wake up. This practice has allowed my phone and all its glory to own me, rather than me owning my phone.
So, I've developed another layer to Digital Sabbath, which I call Digital Sabbath 2.0. It goes like this: During the night, I keep my phone at least five feet from my bed, I stop checking it a half hour before going to sleep, and I check it only after I've been awake for a half hour in the morning.
Evening: Placing the telephone away from an arm's reach from my pillow has allowed me to rest easier and relax when it's time to get into bed. By unplugging a half hour before it's time for bed, I no longer fall asleep with thoughts of incoming or outgoing emails in my head. I no longer get interrupted from falling asleep by the buzzing generated by a vendor's email. Rather, I'm able to spend that time reading, spending time with my wife, and allowing my brain to unwind from the day.
Middle of the Night: There is simply no reason to be checking email or social media in the middle of the night! The bright light from the screen wakes me up further, and there are no messages I receive at 2 a.m. that can't be responded to when I wake up in the morning. Simply, it's an interruption to a sleep pattern, causing me to be awake longer and lose valuable sleep time.
Morning: How many of us wake up to our first action being a reach for the phone to check email? For me, I've found it to be a terrible habit. As the opening act to my day, it's the equivalent of skipping stretching and hopping right onto the treadmill. Rather, I've found it helpful to wait a half an hour to check my phone upon waking up. Thus, rather than have my morning mental flow be dictated by what's on my phone, I can now have a blank slate when getting ready for work, and allow my brain to think clearly and unobstructed about the day ahead.
In keeping with this practice, I have found my sleeping to be more peaceful, my nights to be more enjoyable, and my mornings to be more productive when it's time to check in to the world of email and social media, because my mind is clear and ready to rock and roll.
I encourage others to try this daily practice and to share your experiences with me on Twitter (@jeremyshure) or via email (email@example.com), but don't expect responses when I'm unplugged and recharging my own batteries!