In my last blogpost, I declared that Sunday would be a Screen-Free Day: no computer, iPad, iPod, television or texting for 24 hours. My goal was to take a true day off, and to bring awareness to how much distracted time I spend each day doing things like checking email and social media, looking up unimportant information online, watching shows on Netflix and texting people as a way to procrastinate.
I had intended to at least take notes with pen and paper, and I really had a vision in my head of composing this entire blogpost by hand and uploading scanned image files of those pages rather than typing this out. But I never even had time to take notes — I was too busy having the best day off I’ve had in months!
It didn’t hurt that I woke up to the best weather day we’ve had here in the Twin Cities so far this year. I walked my dogs three or four times, went on a 17-mile bike ride with my wife and ate dinner at our bistro table with the windows wide open. In between all that fresh air, I finished my latest issue of the New Yorker and read the local newspaper – the actual newspaper in print! I chatted with neighbors, cooked a great healthy dinner and even did nothing for short stretches of time. It really was a great day, but the challenge was still surprisingly hard!
For the first hour in the morning, I had to constantly remind myself that I was not going to go online at all. Luckily, I had tucked my laptop away in its case and put it on the book shelf, otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have inadvertently grabbed it to look at the weather forecast or some other silly thing.
By mid-morning, I was used to the idea that I was unplugged for the day. A few times, I felt something a little bit like anxiety, wondering what I was going to do to fill all of the hours stretched out before me. Soon, though, I had learned to relax and really try to pay attention to each moment, rather than think about what I was going to do next. By the afternoon, I felt like an old pro. I had no desire to see what was going on in the virtual world, and it was so freeing not to have to check my email to see what tasks might be waiting for me there.
As evening approached, I considered my experiment a huge success, so I decided to break my own rules. At 8:30 pm, Laura and I curled up on the couch and watched two episodes of our latest series on Netflix (we’re watching The 4400 – it’s pretty good if you like SciFi!). I thought to myself that if this had been a “normal” day, I would have felt guilty about spending that time in front of the television, having spent many wasted minutes wasting looking at other screens throughout the day. But since the day had been filled with so many quality hours, I didn’t mind just vegging out at the end of it.
I plan to do more of these Screen-Free days in the future, possibly every Sunday. I am curious to see what effect such a restorative day will have on my productivity throughout the rest of the week. If you’ve tried a similar experiment, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below.