The first text message I ever received was when I was a senior in high school. I couldn’t get this silly envelope icon to disappear from the top of my one-inch screen and it was bothering me. I ended up in a new section of my phone that I had never seen before and there was; what seemed to be, an email. I opened it and it was a message from my buddy Brent from 2 months ago, “Hey! What u doin?”
Goodbye MSN messenger…hello text messaging!
Did you know that when notifications go off on your phone it releases dopamine, the same hormone as methamphetamines release? Well, you can stop beating yourself up for not unplugging now!
Staying connected has been praised by companies who demand email responses almost instantaneously. Parents have succumbed to this pressure and adapted their personal lives to match as they request their children to have their phones on them 24/7 and respond immediately. Slowly though, we are starting to become aware of the unhealthy habits we’ve created and learning to unplug.
But how can we, as parents, set the stage to unplug regularly in order to create a healthy, engaged family?
I am no stranger to unplugging, but when you throw a whole new life at me…I’ll show you struggle. Like so many parents, COVID-19 forced my husband and I to work from home full-time while also homeschooling our 5-year-old and caring for our toddler. Every second I was able to find, I needed to squeeze in some work.
Some days that meant staying up until 1:00 a.m. and other times it meant typing away while my kids napped next to me. I became much too “attached”, if you will, to my computer. This became apparent when my 5 year old said “I know you love your computer, but will you play with me?” Oh sweet girl, how you teach me everything.
But, I still need to work. I still need to provide for my family. Yet, I was sacrificing both by trying to be too many people at the same time.
So, I knew in this new life of constant change I needed to change a few things and reprioritize how and when I unplug. Here’s how I did it.
A shareable calendar to help you unplug.
Prior to COVID-19, we’d both leave for the day and all go to our separate places for 8+ hours and come home to reunite. I didn’t need to know Eric had a meeting at 9:00 a.m. with his team and that he had another with a student at 11:00 a.m. He didn’t need to know I had two client meetings back to back at the same time. Well, now we did.
We started discussing his schedule and my schedule and added all of our meetings in our shareable calendar. It took partnership to a whole new level. What we learned is that this enabled us to communicate our work priorities and truly unplug after hours to actually be with our family again, uninterrupted. We could put down our phones, shut our computers and tune in to who we were working so hard for.
I started taking breaks from social media and e-mail.
Social media and email are consuming. Add running a communications consulting firm whom has a social media presence to that, and it becomes all too consuming. Weekends have always been my “unplugged” time where I share on my personal platforms only if I feel like it, and I completely unplug from business. I realized I needed even more dedicated times where I did not allow myself on any sort of social media and where I didn’t even have my phone on me, so I decided to do tech-free unplugging for longer periods of time.
As a business owner, achiever, and driver this was hard.
But it was also the most rewarding thing I’ve done in a very long time.
I allowed the moments to matter more than the to-dos.
The number one regret of someone on their death bed is that they wish they hadn’t worked so hard. Every time I remind myself of that, I remember what matters most: moments.
- They don’t happen when you are bogged down with e-mail.
- Or when you are trying to squeeze in that one last call.
- Moments don’t happen when you are scrolling Facebook.
Moments happen when you are present. I was missing those because of the current pressure we were under as a family. I felt like I had no choice, but I did have a choice as we always do. I was choosing to work every second I could instead of working when I could and taking in the moments that I was presented with. Pandemic or not, we are always going to be faced with pressure. This was my chance to slow down and embrace the moments.
Simple ways you can unplug today:
- Go for a walk with your family tonight and leave your phone at home.
- Attend a fitness class while you leave your phone in your purse.
- Set up a “charging station” in your kitchen and leave all electronics there from 8:00 p.m. until you wake up the next morning.
- Buy a standard alarm clock – don’t use your phone so you can leave it in the charging station.
- Schedule a staycation with dedicated “no technology” hours.
- If you’re working from home – take lunch breaks like you would if you were in the office and use that time FOR YOU!
Happy unplugging! Trust me, you won’t regret it!