Last week, in Part 1, we shared how more and more people in our time management training express how technology is affecting their lives and their wellbeing. We looked at how much we rely on our technology and specifically how much our children rely on technology for entertainment. We have decided to chance our family’s relationship with tech, and embrace the bold new habit of ‘Screen Free Sundays’. The first step was making the decision but you might be wondering how it all panned out and what we’re taking away from this experiment- well, you’re in luck, this is exactly what we’re looking at in Part 2, below.
What happened when we let go of all the electronics?
Well, after the first few tricky weeks where all of us really struggled (some early assist from OffTime and ScreenLimit helped with that), we’re getting back to all the other things we used to love doing, and that we’d been missing. For instance, the tactic of shoving a quick breakfast and a tablet at a child who wakes up early, in order to get a bit more of a lie-in was no longer available, so that meant that days started early. Brutally so.
But I’ve gratefully traded that extra hour or so in bed for some mega early morning LEGO project sessions with my daughter – which many times have gone on well past that initial hour!
The trick seems to be to keep everyone, especially the small people, busy.
Playdates are a good move. More friends are being invited around to play at home on a Sunday. Though sometimes their adults are a bit confused by how early we are willing to start – “are you *sure* you want to come and collect them at 9am?!”. It does threaten to fall apart slightly when your playmate for the day needs a quick briefing on why the two of you can’t play Minecraft, but they seemed to adapt.
More trips and activities are getting plotted in.
Our occasional National Trust dabblings got upgraded to a Membership. That’s a hefty investment, so we’re making sure we use it! But there’s also a ton of cheap/free stuff out there when you start looking – we’re rediscovering little neighborhood events on our doorstep (Nextdoor is good for that), getting to galleries/shows, cycle skills courses, finding craft afternoons, and local litter picking walks etc.
Our daughter has rediscovered and reinvigorated her love of sports
Always an active pre-schooler, this had started to wane a bit in the last few years. She’s now an enthusiastic Volleyball Club member and has even competed in her first tournament. Yes, this means as adults we’re also getting less of our own sofa and phone time – but I’ve gladly traded that for renewed quality interaction with my daughter, and seeing her embrace new activities and achievements.
We’re all rediscovering reading
And in long form, not just news articles or blog posts on our phones. You know, actual books. But we did decide early on that reading on Kindles was allowed, as long as it was an actual eReader and not the App on a phone/tablet. Our daughter is a confident reader technically, but she’s never really been into reading for recreation/pleasure like I was when I was her age. But we’re seeing some progress on that too now, which I’ve been delighted by.
We’ve also added a weekly subscription to the utterly awesome Pheonix Comic which drops through the letterbox on a Saturday, but we hold back to Sundays. That can easily fill a good 30 mins when otherwise the internet might become tempting again. It’s even inspired some home-drawn comic creating.
We’re all doing more than we would have done previously on our ‘days off’
But come Monday and time for work and school again, we’re finding we’re actually better rested as a result. Who knew? And that better energy has mindset translated into more exercise for the grown-ups too.
I’ve signed up for GoRow Indoor classes (which I was delighted to discover were starting up just 10mins stroll from my house) and my wife has established a daily Yoga practice, using this series of online videos.
We’ve been working on this now for 4 months
There’s a danger that this can all sound a bit worthy and self-congratulatory. Or of exaggerating the transformation. And I don’t want to give the impression that suddenly we’ve got it landed perfectly. We haven’t. It’s a work in progress, and some days we do better than others. Some weeks we slip up completely. But there’s always the next week to try it again. We also know when to break our own rules – for instance, when the little one is poorly, or one of us is. This new routine should after all be a pleasure, not a punishment.
Making some of the changes I’ve talked about has had all sorts of benefits – some are the ones we were hoping for, and others were an unexpected discovery.
And we’re starting to notice the new habits are extending out to the rest of the week with somewhat reduced screen time on other days too. But even that which remains we feel better about knowing we’ve had a break from it over the weekend. The moment about 4-5 weeks in when it was the first Sunday morning my daughter didn’t immediately plead to go online but just said “Dad can we do a breakfast storytime like we did last week?” was a real heartstring puller for me. That’s when I knew we’d made the right move – and although I suspect she’d never admit it, I think she did too.
Feeling inspired? Screen Free Week 2018 is coming up on April 30th to 6th May – but feel free to start with just a day rather than a whole week!
By Lee Cottier
Lee is Think Productive’s Productivity Ninja for Wales and the South West of England.