Noise is the most impertinent of all forms of interruption, it is not only an interruption, but also a disruption of thought.Arthur Schopenhauer
Every morning I wake to a cacophony of sounds. My morning chorus consists of seagulls, sea lions, the resident marina duck Heather, my boat creaking against the slip, as well as the odd fisherman who decides to take his boat out for a morning sail. These sounds are calming and welcoming as they are my community, my happy place.
However, I am also woken up by a very different set of sounds, some metaphorical: red alerts, blue circles, numbers, texts, emails, social media notifications. These sounds, unlike those of nature, are painful to my ears, head and heart.
We are so used to being woken in this way now, immediately submerged into the sea of notifications, that sometimes we forget that we don’t have to. We have a choice. We can stop and ask ourselves, “How do we quieten this noise? How do we go back to the tranquility of the sounds that we want to be woken by?” I could sit here and preach, reminding you to remove technology from the bedroom or the first hour of your day. Discuss statistics about how bad screen-time is. Recommend you not have an iPad, computer, or phone, to remove every device in our lives right now. But that wouldn’t be practical for most of us.
What can we do to rationalise our heart and head, to have a morning chorus that we want to wake up to, as well as to continue with that mindset for the whole day?
Upon stepping back, I realised my problem was that my devices controlled me, they dictated how I lived my life. I was always on my phone. For me, my phone is my computer, my photo album, my alarm system, my thoughts, my way of contacting people, and more. How could I put that down? What would happen if people couldn’t get hold of me? I can tell you…….absolutely nothing! That’s right, nothing. I put it to the test. At the beginning, some people found it difficult because it didn’t make sense to them. With devices glued to their hands, they wondered, “Why wouldn’t I respond immediately? What was wrong?” Once I explained that I wasn’t going to hold my phone in my hand 24/7, that I didn’t have a computer, and that I no longer had internet on my iPad, it cleared a huge amount of noise from my life. And the digital community around me adjusted just fine.
I’ve come up with several practical solutions that enable me to be in control of my devices and not the other way around. In order to help others achieve sound clarity like I have found, here are some of the practical questions and answers I addressed.
- Alarm clock. Does it need to be on my phone? I now have an old fashioned alarm that makes a lovely noise. I bought it in a vintage market and it makes me smile as soon as I wake up. This stops me from automatically reaching for my phone and being sucked into looking at everything else on the device, scrolling first thing in the morning.
- Schedule. What do I have on the list for today? I now have this all written down in a handwritten diary. Obviously the more you have or the bigger your family may be, this needs to be on a bigger schedule. I personally enjoy seeing it written, as well as the simple joy of crossing finished tasks off. Seeing it all together also means I don’t put as much into one day as I might have if it was squeezed onto the endless phone calendar.
- Social media, yes or no? Do I need to see what other people are doing or should I focus on my own day? We are used to sharing everything online. It’s become the “normal” way to exist. I realised I didn’t need the world to see my happiness, to validate it in a way. I know how happy I am. With the social media pages for my two companies Mother & Daughter Entertainment and Medicine with Words, I now have a dedicated team that make the social media posts and monitor the accounts, reposting where needed. I only go on my personal account now once or twice a week. I just don’t need to share with the world anymore. By removing any pressure to post, like or comment all the time, I can keep myself focused on the here and now. I spend more time talking to my daughter and my dog. Without wasting hours on end scrolling, I can spend my days being more creative, writing whatever is on my mind first thing in the morning, and playing with ideas and concepts throughout the day.
- Do I need to take that photo and share it with the world? My family live 6000 miles away, so yes, for me, it is good to have memories or moments to show them what I’ve been up to. There are positives to technology and the bridge it creates for distance. However, I now only take a photo of something important once. No 100 takes until the light is just right. Stay present, in the moment. I’ll then add the photo to a shared album for the grandparents/family to see. Connected to point #3, these photos are only placed into a shared album with people that are relevant, not constantly posted for the masses, for all to see. This also stops me from going onto my social media apps in the first place, avoiding getting inevitably pulled in for endless scrolling.
- Texts, WhatsApp’s, convenient replacements for a real conversation? How useful are they? We’ve all experienced that awful moment where our written word has been totally misconstrued, no matter how many emojis were added. We also tend to respond immediately as if it’s a conversation in real time. I now see a message and take time before I respond. More often than not I call people and speak to them. It is much easier to get emotions across with inflection, which we can’t always accurately show in text. We do not have to have a culture of immediacy. Just because my phone is sitting next to me doesn’t mean I need to answer every time on the first ring. Instead, I will complete the task I was working on rather than drop everything. I have also turned off many notifications and sounds. I allocate specific times to check my phone or emails, unless something is important that I’m aware of or maybe expecting something crucial. Otherwise, it’s okay to not monitor every notification 24/7.
- News notifications, extra groups/communities or pages that we joined. I removed all of this from my phone, so I have to login if I want to see or read something. This means I’m less likely to just mindlessly check and click buttons. I told myself the other day that every time I mindlessly head for my phone, I need to learn a new word in a foreign language or teach myself how to play the ukulele. Just by consciously knowing this, it’s stopped me from reaching for my phone so often.
- Dating sites. Mindlessly swiping left or right and starting pointless conversations again and again. Now this is a personal preference, because maybe you’re looking for the one, and maybe you know someone who found their soulmate on one of these sites. That is your right and I totally respect that. I just realised that upon taking inventory of my time, swiping was just taking up too much of it. I have so many wonderful things to do in my life, so instead I’m spending that time on me and the people that already exist in my day-to-day life.
Now, it’s not that easy to change these habits overnight. Find your own rhythm. Really think about how much your devices control you. I can only speak for myself and my changes, but my life is so much more peaceful, quieter and calmer now. These changes have given me more time in my day. Precious time to be reallocated to what truly matters to me.
Be kind to yourself and start slow. Do what works best for you.
It’s amazing what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.
Main photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com