I have always loved the idea of summertime having a different vibe than the rest of the year. I enjoy it when my life feels seasonal – cozy and homey in the winter, active and fun in the spring, adventurous and busy in the summer, and slowing down in the fall.
A few years ago, I remember reading something Gretchen Rubin wrote, about wanting summer to have a different feel. She talked about people who actually live someplace different in the summer – they spend the summer at the beach or in the mountains or abroad. (Which I would love to do someday!) I’ve noticed that some friends achieve a different feel to their summer either by a) enjoying Summer Fridays at their jobs, when everyone is allowed to leave early on Fridays, or b) changing up how and where they spend their weekends, like retreating to a country home or the beach for Saturdays and Sundays.
This year, my summertime will DEFINITELY have a different vibe. This is my first summer off after starting a new job as a school social worker at my local middle school. And I am pumped. Psyched! And also, curious. Because what will it look like, to have the summer free to be home with my boys and to write and to have open, lazy days when we have no requirements for where we have to be and what we have to do?
I don’t know, but I am so excited to find out.
The vibe I want to cultivate for my family is all about rhythm, routine, recreation, and rest. I want to establish an enjoyable and healthy rhythm for our family; I want to create beneficial routines for all of us that we can carry into the next year; I want to have FUN and adventures!; and I want us all to have a good rest from the running around we’ve been doing all spring.
I love summer because it is a huge opportunity to press the reset button – to start new habits and to change the rhythm of everyday life. We have had a bonkers year – that post will be coming soon! – and it’s time for us to have a restful, rhythmic, fun-but-not-bonkers summer. I can’t wait. Which is good because it starts TODAY!
During March 2019, I took a step back from all social media. And for me, social media is mostly Facebook. I don’t use Twitter; I have an Instagram account, but I rarely use it.
It felt good to take a step back from Facebook. While I enjoy aspects of it, I really don’t like the mindless scrolling. Also, I am definitely one of those people who gets jealous and anxious when I compare my life to the news feed version of other people’s lives, and I don’t like that part of Facebook at all.
I’ve written about this in a few other posts, but in case you’re a new reader – I decided to step back from social media in March 2019 after hearing Cal Newport, the author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work, talk on a podcast. His advice is to only use social media and apps that support your values. After some careful contemplation, I’ve decided that occasional Facebook usage supports several of my values: family, friendship, connection + community, creativity, and (sometimes) books + reading + writing.
It’s pretty obvious how Facebook helps with family and friendships, right? My family uses Facebook a LOT, and so do many (though not all) of my friends and colleagues.
While I dislike scrolling mindlessly, I enjoy the times when I use Facebook intentionally. I like it when I am really and truly paying attention to what I’m reading. And I enjoy writing comments on things my friends have shared. ACTUAL COMMENTS – not just the like button!
I like using Facebook to share my blog posts, and I follow lots of people and pages about writing. I’m also in a couple of really fun Facebook groups that are focused on books + reading; I get and give a lot of good book recommendations via these groups.
But my most favorite reason for using Facebook is events. I am ALWAYS *interested* in events happening in my community, especially since having kids. I like to know if there are kid-friendly activities going on that I can bring the boys to, and I like to support and attend events thrown by my friends.
I learned a lot by stepping back from Facebook. I learned the role I want social media to play in my life. Here are the ways I want to use social media:
Connect with my community by getting info about events my family can attend.
Celebrate and share life’s moments with words and photos.
Interact with people I care about, through Messenger or posts, with intention.
Engage in communication that supports things I value, like books + reading or blogging/writing.
And, finally – here are the limits I’d like to put in place regarding my social media diet:
1. Only use social media on the iPad. (This one might be hard to follow, so we’ll see how it goes!)
2. Hide or unfollow anything that is uninteresting or causes me to feel bad.
3. Share blog posts, whenever I want.
4. Mostly focus on just checking my notifications – the little red number that tells me when someone is interacting with me directly. (I’ll still scroll occasionally, but I’m going to try to limit my scrolling to 1 or 2 times a week.)
I really loved taking this time away; it helped me appreciate social media for what it brings to my life, instead of drowning in the negative feelings it sometimes inspires.
This month has been educational and eye-opening. I really have enjoyed taking a step back from my phone, and I’ve learned a lot about my digital habits.
I’ve written in previous posts about my March 2019 experiment. Inspired by Cal Newport, author of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, I’ve spent this past month striving to maintain a digital minimalist diet. Now, since “digital minimalist diet” is probably not a helpful term for anyone who’s not familiar with Newport’s work, here are the basics of what “digital minimalist diet” meant for me during March 2019:
I tried to use my phone less.
I avoided all social media. (Exceptions did apply.)
I tried to limit my screen time overall.
I used the Screen Time feature on my iPhone to check in and see how often I was using my phone, how many times per day I picked it up, and which apps were consuming the most of my time.
I transitioned to using my iPad and my laptop for a lot of online tasks.
I took a lot of notes throughout the month. The following are my lessons learned, in no particular order:
I pick up my phone a LOT. Seriously, I cannot believe how often I pick up my phone. I used the Screen Time Feature on my iPhone to track this, and the number was often over 100. OVER A HUNDRED TIMES A DAY! I’m sure that it was over 200 on many days as well. That seems insane!
When I think about it, though, it’s accurate. It accounts for every time I pick up my phone to do anything, and it all adds up. The number of pick ups definitely went down this month, especially once I started tracking it. I’d reach for my phone, and then decide – This can wait. It made me want to be more efficient with my pick ups, too – like, if I’m going to use the phone in ten minutes to start Google mapping somewhere, then I can wait until then to see if I have any text messages.
I made a couple of adjustments to help me pick up my phone less. First, I changed my phone to grayscale. I don’t know how much this helped; I’ve definitely been using my phone less, but I’m not sure how much grayscale would help if I wasn’t working so hard to limit my phone usage in general. And secondly, I changed my lock screen – and this adjustment was DEFINITELY helpful! Now, when I absent-mindedly pick up my phone, the screen has a visually appealing image that says WHAT DO YOU WANT TO PAY ATTENTION TO? in all caps. This is especially helpful to me when I pick up the phone absent-mindedly while I’m with the boys. I mean, what do I want to pay attention to? My kids, or my phone?
This kind of critical, mindful thinking about my phone usage is brand-new to me, and it’s definitely made a positive impact on my life. I’ve been learning to pause and say to myself, Do I really need to do this right now? Maybe I’m driving. Maybe in a few minutes I’ll be using the phone for something different and I should consolidate my screen time. I’ve also been able to zero in on many of the reasons WHY I reach for my phone so often; I’ll write about that more in a different post!
Even if all I do is check in on my screen time usage using the Screen Time function, it makes my overall numbers better.My phone keeps track of how many times I pick it up each day, as well as how many minutes I spend using the phone and how much time I spend using each individual app. Sometimes, over the course of the month, I would find myself reaching for my phone, and then I’d stop, simply because I didn’t want to add an additional “pick up” to my numbers. I also would take note if I had a lot of screen time for the day; if I was using the phone more than usual, it would encourage me to put the phone away for a while and try to focus on being present in my actual day. So really, just the tracking itself helped to decrease my overall time on my phone.
Using the iPad is helping to decrease my screen time.For March 2019, I decided that I could watch as much Amazon Prime as I wanted, no limits – except that I had to use the iPad for all my TV time. I didn’t really track this, but I think it decreased my TV time a lot! Just the simple inconvenience of having to reach for the iPad instead of the phone, which is usually in my pocket or my hand, helped me to watch TV less.
I tried to also use the iPad rather than my phone for Internet and apps like Goodreads. Again this helped me to decrease my screen time, just from the inconvenience of reaching for the iPad as opposed to the phone.
I like Facebook. I did allow for several exceptions to my “no social media” rule this month. I posted on Facebook on Edgar’s adoption day, Tamara’s birthday, and my dad’s birthday. (See my dad’s birthday post here!) I also looked on Facebook once to check on a message from a friend, and once to look up fun events happening in my area for the weekend. I’ll write more about this in a later post, but I feel like the way I used Facebook this month is the way I’d like to use it always.
I definitely could use some more solitude. The definition of solitude, according to Newport, is time when you’re not receiving any input from other minds. And I didn’t have a lot of solitude this month – I still am inclined to listen to a podcast, an audiobook, or a TV show in the car or while I’m doing the dishes. However, I definitely had more solitude than usual this month, and baby steps are better than standing still.
WHEW! So much to think about! I was thrilled with how much insight I gained this month. I’m going to keep this digital minimalist thing going, and I still have a few changes I want to make, adding back in apps that support my values and evaluating the whole social media thing. More posts to come.
When we arrived at the hospital to meet our new adoptive son, the hospital staff we met would do this thing.
They would start to tell us something about infant care – diapers, circumcision care, feeding, burping – and then they’d stop themselves. “Oh, you already have a child?” they’d say, remembering that we already had a two-year-old at home. “So you know all this already.”
At which point, I would politely encourage them to continue. Because in my head I was screaming, That was two years ago! I remember nothing! Please do not send me home without some reminders if not some sort of infant care graduate level course.
It really is strange, when you think about it. I have to be recertified in CPR every two years, and I have to take 40 hours of training every two years to maintain my social work license. But to take care of an infant – which many would say is one of the most important, challenging, and serious jobs in the world – I can walk out of the hospital after a quick chat with the doctor. (Oh, and after watching about 45 minutes of infant care videos, which Tamara and I watched absent-mindedly while also excitedly texting family and friends with the good news that our family had a new adorable member.)
And now, we’re home, and we’ve been “home” with our new son for two weeks today. And you know what? It is easier this time around. We know how to do the basics – changing diapers, making formula, cleaning baby bottles. When our first son, Edgar, came home, I was terrified of making formula. It sounded complex, like it would require concentration and precision, neither of which I had much of as a brand-new mom.
This was a myth, one I created all by myself, because making formula is more like mixing some Crystal Light iced tea that anything else. And this time around, I knew that already. Though I maintain that calling it “formula” makes it sound way more complex and intimidating than it needs to be.
I’m off from work for six weeks, and we’re starting to settle into a nice routine during our days. There is something about newborn care that really helps me to be mindful and present. There is a simple rhythm to my days with J.J. – he eats, I change his diaper, he plays, he sleeps. While he sleeps, I wash bottles, make new bottles, straighten up around the house, try to tackle some simple acts of self-care. (REAL simple. Like, I might take a shower today.) When Edgar gets home from school, either Tamara or I take him outside to play. There are simple things that need to get done, and there’s not much time to do it all – so only the most basic and most important things get done.
I love this rhythm. I would love to carry it with me as J.J. grows and as our lives move back into more of a regular day-to-day routine. For now, I am thankful for the simplicity, rhythm, and joy that come with this sweet and special time of life.
You know how some people are organized and efficient? They are planners. They’re the ones who check the movie times when they’re going to a movie with friends. They’re the ones that check ahead of time to make sure you don’t need a reservation at the restaurant for dinner.
Yeah – I am not one of those people. I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be.
My favorite way to go through life is as the willing, flexible, and laid-back participant in a group of people that includes a planner, such as the kind of person described above. I am a grateful and always-willing-to-help participant – but I’m not the best candidate to be in charge of the details of an event. First of all, I’m not great at managing said details, and secondly, I HATE IT SO MUCH.
Ugh. I really do!
But, as an adult, I find myself having to plan more and more. First of all, after years of living in group housing with fun friends all around me, I am now (and have been for several years) living in my own house, just me and Tamara and Edgar. In 2008, I lived in a big building in the middle of the woods with eight amazing, fun, and like-minded roommates. Every night was a party and it required no planning whatsoever, because everyone was just THERE.
Now, I have to make plans if I want to see friends. And it works…okay. I still miss the convenience of having friends right next door, where fun could be had spontaneously and with little to no planning.
In addition to the planning my social life requires, there’s just – ugh – so much adulting to be done. And that’s where my to-do list comes in.
I constantly feel overwhelmed by my to-do list. One of my Summer Sabbatical goals is to finish every single item on my list so that I can start fresh in the fall, with literally EVERYTHING in my life taken care of. I don’t know if I’ll meet this goal, and I am okay with that. I want to enjoy this time, and get writing done, and spend time with Edgar – those things are more important to me than a to-do list.
AND YET IT PLAGUES ME. I’ve been daydreaming lately about ways to kill my to-do list forever. My train of thought starts with a conversation I had with a co-worker a few years ago.
This particular co-worker always, always, always responded to every e-mail and request immediately. If I asked her to “when you have a second” check on a note for me, I’d get my answer back within twenty minutes. I always thanked her profusely, but also let her know that I usually don’t require that quick of a response time.
“Oh, it’s no problem. I just do things right away so I won’t forget to do it,” she explained.
I had probably heard people say something similar to this before. But at this moment in my life, I was brainstorming about ways to be more efficient, and this really hit home for me. I’m a great employee and I’m a reliable person, but I am constantly afraid that I am going to forget to do things. I realized that if I did what this girl did – if I did everything that was asked of me right away – then I wouldn’t have to worry at all about remembering. Everything would just be done. (Gretchen Rubin calls this the one-minute rule – if you can do it in a minute, then do it right now.)
It occurred to me that if I could do this – if I followed a policy of doing things right away – then it is possible that someday, I would never need a to-do list. Instead of writing an item on my to-do list, I would just take care of it. No list needed.
This was eye-opening for me. Was that why some people seemed less stressed than me? Were they not constantly carrying the weight of a to-do list a mile long? It also explained why some people get so aggravated when they have a task they can’t complete because they’re waiting on info from someone else. They’re not used to having uncompleted tasks – so that low buzz of anxiety my to-do list causes me starts screaming in their ears.
I’ve never been able to fully put this into practice, and I’m okay with that, especially when it comes to work. I am a therapist who works with kids; I’m never going to prioritize responding to an e-mail over a child’s need to talk about a problem. And at home, I want to prioritize writing time and family time over my to-do list. However, lately I am finding myself completing tasks quickly and immediately whenever I can, mainly because I don’t want to add another item to my to-do list. I want the list to get shorter, not longer. It feels amazing. Here’s hoping I can keep it up!
Today I was at the grocery store and I found myself lovingly placing a discounted pack of loose leaf paper in my shopping cart.
It was 49 cents and that’s a small price to pay for the happiness I get from a fresh new pack of loose leaf paper.
There is something about a fresh, new package of looseleaf paper that makes me SO HAPPY. The paper is clean and white. When I write on the top sheet, with a good pen – Pilot Easy Touch Fine Point, for example – it feels so good.
I have always loved the physical act of handwriting. I, somewhat vainly, have always loved my own handwriting. I started journaling in elementary school, and then leveled up in college, when I started to carry a journal with me everywhere I went in case I had a thought I needed to chronicle on the spot.
Of course, times change. I don’t need a journal to chronicle my thoughts. My phone is always close by, usually actually in my pocket, and I can (and do) write an idea for a blog post quickly and easily at any moment.
In fact, I might be even more nostalgic for looseleaf these days because I recently abandoned my paper planner in favor of using a combination of my bullet journal and the Google calendar on my phone. I’ve always loved having a planner – picking out a new planner has always been a major treat to me – but it just doesn’t feel practical anymore. The bullet journal is way more flexible for my day-to-day planning needs, and for big picture things, like weddings/play dates/writing groups, using Google calendar makes so much more sense.
But it still makes me sad.
I will soothe my soul by drafting an essay on my new looseleaf paper.
Every so often, I do a little inventory, considering the impact technology and social media are having on my life. I am definitely not anti-technology; I can see so many benefits that modern technology has had on my life. I can keep in touch with old friends easily; I can research issues, become informed about topics, with little effort; I can be connected with my communities, local and global.
I also see the negative impact my phone has on my life. It’s a way that I check out of my day-to-day life. It’s a way that I cope with anxiety that doesn’t actually make me any less anxious. It’s a thing that keeps me from being fully present.
I haven’t tracked this at all, but I know I look at my phone a LOT. Sometimes it’s legit, like when I’m using Google maps – but sometimes, I look at my phone simply because I haven’t looked at it in a while, and that feels kind of gross.
I definitely use my phone way more when I’m anxious. If I’m feeling uncomfortable and not up for social interaction, I like knowing that my phone is in my pocket.
This is my inventory, and it makes me think that maybe my phone and I need some time apart.
It’s so HARD, though! There’s a lot of great stuff I get from my phone. I listen to a ton of audiobooks and podcasts, and I am newly obsessed with the Netflix show The Break with Michelle Wolf. But I don’t really think of those things as interfering with my life and my happiness.
I guess the biggest trouble spots for me are:
Social media – mindlessly scrolling and comparing myself to others.
Zoning out – looking at WHATEVER – texts, websites, my bank account, etc – rather than being present in my actual life.
This is what I’m planning to try:
SOCIAL MEDIA DAY. I’ll only check my social media one day each week – I’m thinking about Thursdays – and when I check in, I will actually engage, rather than just scrolling and skimming and clicking ‘like.’ I’ll write comments or respond to others. I’ll actually READ articles. I’ll check in on links I’ve saved. For the time being, I’m not planning to limit the amount of time I can use social media on that day – so I could wake up Thursday morning and be on Facebook ALL DAY LONG if I want. (I don’t want.)
Designate official Phone Time – meaning that all other time is NO PHONE TIME. This is so much harder to tackle, since I use my phone for so many things. (Even now, I’m listening to a podcast on my phone as I type this!) There might need to be many times in a day for Phone Time – typing a note to myself, adding an event to my calendar, responding to a text – but I really want to give myself permission to actually do ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME. The pressure to multitask is so strong. I often feel like I’m actually SUPPOSED to be doing many things at once – but I’m not. I am allowed to focus on just one thing at a time, and I’m better at everything when I operate this way.
I’m going to check in with myself about these two strategies – Social Media Day and Designated Phone Time – in my June All The Things post. Until then, I’m hoping I can take baby steps toward a more peaceful phone life.