Unplugged but not unhinged | Polka Dot Cottage

Unplugged but not unhinged

Posted November 11th, 2009 by

25/365

Recently I’ve been doing something nearly unheard-of for me.  I’ve been shutting down my laptop around 8pm and enjoying the rest of the evening unplugged.

Turning on the computer is one of the first things I do in the morning, and until recently, turning it off has been one of the last things I do at night.  Being portable, it is with me in nearly every room, and is an invaluable productivity and recreational tool.

I use it to manage my checklist throughout the day.  I maintain the family’s schedule.  I do business.

I listen to music through it.  I keep in touch with friends.  I express myself through my blog.

It is active all day long, on my lap, or plugged in to the corner of whatever room I happen to be busy in.

Honestly, I like it this way – easy access to the outside world makes me happy and more productive.  And yet… it’s the easy access that can transform the computer from a handy tool into a mind-sucking time vortex.  At the very least, it can be a big distraction.

26/365

I’ve been known to pause supper preparations in order to answer the call of my beeping Gmail Notifier.  I’ve hopped onto Facebook for a quick status update, and looked up two hours later to wonder what on earth I’ve been doing all that time.  Not to be down on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the like – social networking sites can be a good use of computer time, if done mindfully.  And I think that’s the key – don’t be lured in just because it’s there.  Use it as a tool for what you want/need to do, and then put it away.

This post on Simple Mom is what started me on this path to unplugging.  I realized just how much of a distraction my inbox can be throughout the day, so I stopped leaving myself logged in.  This was a big shift for me, but it’s been a good one.  You don’t realize quite how much you are at the mercy of that beeping notifier until you start ignoring it.  I still check my email often, but now I am in control, and that makes more difference than you might think.

One Friday night a few weeks ago, I had a knitting project I needed to complete, so I made the decision to avoid distractions and turn off the computer.  Normally, I’ll just set the laptop down next to the couch on the floor while I’m otherwise occupied, so that it’s still there if I want to look something up, or if somebody sends me email.  I’m not sure what made me turn it off completely, but I was unprepared for how different I would feel without it.

It felt good.

Surprisingly good.  Like my world had gotten much smaller, and more cozy.  I never thought that having everything at my fingertips was a source of stress for me.  In fact, I truly thought that being unplugged would make me crazy – unhinged – like easy access to the internet was a life-line of sorts.  To find the opposite was an eye-opener.

Sewing the Binding

I still keep the laptop on all day – much of my daily routine requires it, and I don’t have a problem with that.  But now I’ve been turning off the computer every night that I don’t have some specific need for it to be on.  I’ve read a book, finished up some knitting, and hand-sewn the binding onto a quilt, all in the last few days, and all without glancing over at the laptop every few minutes to see if something new has popped up. I’ve even managed to have a conversation or two with my husband.  Imagine that.

How about you?  How does your computer fit into your everyday life?  Is it within arms-reach all day long?  Do you impose limits on yourself?  Do you struggle with the amount of influence the internet has over your day?  Or are you comfortable with the role of the computer in your daily life?

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  • gerri says:

    the first thing i do in the morning, after breakfast, is get on the computer. i try not to stay on it all day. i used to just check my email once a day, but now with facebook comments i check it more often. one thing i’m trying to change is getting into the studio before i read facebook and twitter. it doesn’t always work, because i like to finish my tea routine which goes with the computer. but when i have had enough tea, i’ll go down to the studio. i’ve been amazed at how much more productive i am without the computer during the day. plus the morning is my most energetic time, so it’s better that i use social media in the evening when i’m tired.

    i never actually turn OFF the computer though. i don’t even like to reboot.
    .-= See gerri’s latest blog post: beauty in nature =-.

    • Lisa says:

      That morning tea period is my biggest downfall! I put the kids on the bus and kick back with my breakfast and the computer – sometimes I don’t come up for air for another three hours!

      On the days when I am good at limiting my breakfast reading to under an hour, I find that I am so much more productive.

      Sounds like you have a good system that works for you :-)

  • Kathi says:

    I get up, have my coffee and read the paper, then I turn on the computer. Sometimes I schlepp it into the studio with me, but the last couple of weeks I have found I am way more creative without it. So mine is off in the morning, then I check at lunch, off again, check before supper and shut off for the night by 7 or 8. I can get so sucked in if I don’t do it this way
    .-= See Kathi’s latest blog post: I found a new blog =-.

    • Lisa says:

      I’m intimately familiar with the “getting sucked in” scenario.

      I’m finding there’s a fine line between staying on top of things and getting bogged down by them. I’m still straddling that line, but it seems you have found something that works for you – that’s great!

  • Tanya says:

    Both my husband and I are pretty attached to our laptops. We recently started a no laptops during dinner rule. It was really hard at first but we’re actually talking more now and it’s been great! We have the similar no-screen (computer or TV) rule one hour before bedtime, too. The goofy half-awake chats we have are rather entertaining!

    • Lisa says:

      We don’t have to worry about laptops during dinner, although we do watch tv as a family while we eat in the living room, so we’ve got whole other problems in that area, LOL!

      No screens before bedtime sounds like a great idea, in terms of connecting with your spouse. I’ll have to take that idea one screen at a time – I’m not ready to give up pre-bed tv yet, LOL!

  • Dennis says:

    Very well put. It’s hard to imagine life without the Internet (how did we ever manage?), but it’s also easy to waste a lot of time online. Newspapers are dying, and I still don’t have a Kindle (I’m a holdout), but I hope technology improves our lives.

    • Lisa says:

      I don’t have a Kindle, either. Most of my reading is either online, or glossy full-color craft-related publications that don’t come on a Kindle anyway.

      I definitely think technology has improved our lives. The trick is to use it responsibly.

      • Dennis says:

        Lisa, first off, your email went to my Spam email. I’ve been checking my Spam folder because, well today’s a slow day. Just so you know for other followers of your blog.

        Second, I have to make dinner (eating alone tonite). Write later.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I’m waaaaaaaaaaaaay too connected to a computer all day. However, a recent reshuffle at work made it more difficult to be within arm’s length of a computer for long periods of the day. I realized that I was relaxing a little more without feeling the need to return emails instantly.

    Regarding the social networks, I just cannot buy into them. I’m going to take that as a blessing. I just, for me, don’t understand the need for all this virtual graffiti. Plus, I don’t like THAT many people having THAT much access to me. I love email because of the control over who you are communicating with.

    I’m a fairly tech saavy senior (have a bb, ipod, facebook account,etc.) but some of it I have opted out of. If I’m not comfortable with the need of it I’ve given myself permission to opt out of….

    My two cents. Thanks. Great post, Lisa.

    :D

    • Lisa says:

      Opting out is perfectly valid. I’ve deleted my accounts on a few sites after feeling spread too thin. Never thought I’d do that, but lately it’s just felt like too *much*.

      I joined most social networks for business purposes, but soon found I enjoyed the personal connection, too. The good thing about sites like that is you only need to participate to the level that you are comfortable. I recently set my Facebook preferences to stop sending me email every time someone commented on something of mine. It was surprisingly liberating! Now I check it when I have time, instead of letting it summon me there every few minutes.

  • Marty says:

    I need to disconnect a bit, too. I don’t always have the laptop on during the day, but it comes on in the evening while Hubs and I are watching TV. There’s really no reason why I think I have to have it on all evening, except for those doggoned Facebook games. I won’t mention quitting to Hubs, he hates me on the Internet anyway, so I don’t want to give him any ammunition. I’ll just fade it out without any fuss.
    .-= See Marty’s latest blog post: …And the rest =-.

  • Naomi says:

    I too need to unplug :)

    I’ve always found the internet very addictive, and I try really hard to make sure I am not online ALL the time. But there is so much to see! So much to find!

    I’m weaning myself off it. My family, garden and craft all appreciate it lol.

    • Lisa says:

      LOL, yes, I can see how they’d appreciate that! I’m getting mine turned off by around 8 or 9 most nights, but my goal is to be disciplined enough to get so much of my computer work/play done during the day, that I can turn it off right after supper and have those few uninterrupted hours with my kids. I have to work up to that one.

  • Mary-Heather says:

    I purposely no longer have a laptop for just that reason. My computer is in my and my husband’s office, well away from the rest of the life (and the studio).

    I like the internet, and facebook, and email- so much so that other things I want to do may end up taking a back seat.

    So, I don’t check my email every day. I do spend time drawing, painting, or making beads, knitting, or whatever it is that I am working on. At the end of the day, I have tangible fruit of my labors, and a sense of accomplishment.

    My email can wait a day or two.

    Heather

    • Lisa says:

      Having a business that’s entirely internet-based, avoiding the computer for long stretches really isn’t an option for me. But I love that you have found a way to make that work for you. That sense of accomplishment at the end of the day is so much greater when you have something tangible to show for it, isn’t it?

  • Elaine says:

    (I wrote this big post with what I did but realized I had worked hard to improve the last few years so… not so useful)

    I guess the telling point – as with any compulsive behaviour – is: does your usage result in negative outcomes? Are you late with work? Do you take shortcuts on family times? Are you skipping ‘healthy’ routines like exercise, cooking real food, doing house work?

    I’ve screwed both of those up in the past by playing games – video games online and card games offline in college. Or by socializing – long coffee talks with other procrastinating friends at work and long IM’s and facebooking online.

    So in the end I made it game like – I get to check blogs, email, facebook, twitter, etc. on a schedule and I compete with myself to see how quickly or well I can handle it.
    .-= See Elaine’s latest blog post: The Shop: I Love Beads =-.

    • Lisa says:

      I would definitely say that my computer time has negative outcomes, when I over-do it. At least by keeping it on during the day and turning it off at night, I’m destroying my ability to keep the kitchen clean, as opposed to destroying my relationship with my husband, LOL!

  • becky says:

    i find that is soooooo what i do :( i need to be better about turning it off and not going back to it.
    you have encouraged me…. thanks!
    .-= See becky’s latest blog post: You are the Best =-.

  • Jan says:

    Over the last few months, I have decided that internet time costs me too much personally.

    I do have a FB account, a blog, and email but the time required to maintain those things is very high and the return is rather low. It occurred to me one day that I am exchanging my life for those items…especially when one gets sucked in to the internet! Now my laptop stays in one place in our home (upstairs) so when I am busy with real-life things, I don’t see the computer or spend time on it and my life becomes filled with more meaningful things.

    I schedule time for the computer and do everything in my power to avoid spending too much time on it. My family is more important! This development is new to me and I’m much happier with my own productivity.

    It was good to see your post. I feel like I’m in a minority on this subject. Maybe others are beginning to feel similarly.

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