Wednesday was my birthday. Growing up with a birthday just two days after Christmas taught me a few things: I would never have a “real” birthday party, my friends are out of town, everyone is broke from the holidays, and I would never get cupcakes at school (this one smarts the most). So, I’ve decided to make the day about me and I always book a spa day. It’s a few hours in which I can just focus on relaxing, reenergizing, and regrouping. It’s the best treat I can give myself.
While preparing for a luxurious day at the spa (trust me, in Miami we have some of the best), I locked up my phone and put it in my locker. Spa time is me time. No interruptions, no distractions; it’s magical. This time, when I walked out into the spa area, I was struck by something: many people were on their phones! Now spa etiquette tells you no phones! In fact, they post signs all over reminding you of this. However, when I looked at the haman style chairs next to the mineral pool, I saw people checking email. In the silent room, I saw others scrolling Facebook! In this sanctuary from the world, our devices have made a pernicious entry!
What struck me after my spa day this year was that all of us need to make a conscious effort to unplug…. regularly! Trust me, I am not great at finding balance around my devices. I own…. far too many devices and I check them too often. In recent years, however, I’ve been making more of an effort to maintain a better school-life balance. Am I perfect at it? No. However, by making an effort to “consciously unplug” I’ve been able to prioritize my life while at work or at home.
What does it mean to “consciously unplug?” This means making a conscious decision to turn off your devices or not checking them. For me, I set and keep hard and fast rules for no device time. I have limits on when and where I will check my devices; not always effectively. I also prioritize my “me time.” So while I may not always adhere to a “no emails after 8pm” policy, I do take email off of my phone on all vacations. Think about it. When was the last time you got an email so important that you had to read it right away? I’m going to guess never. Why? Because if it’s an emergency, someone will call you! Here are my rules:
- I read books in analogue format or on my Kindle e-reader. No tablets or phones (with email and notifications). My phone is off when I’m reading for me.
- No devices at shared meals. I enjoy my social time with friends, colleagues, and my boyfriend.
- Phone is OFF (not on silent) at any show or event. If I’m there to watch baseball, a movie, or a play, I’m enjoying the event.
- I remove work email from my phone during vacation times. I will check work email via the web every few days.
- When in doubt, the phone is off. If I’m questioning if I need it, then I don’t.
These are my ways for consciously disconnecting. They will be different for different people. If you’re a surgeon on vacation, you probably can’t have your phone off at meals. If it’s hard for you to avoid temptation, you may want to take more drastic measures. For example, a colleague of mine just turned in their smart phone for an old fashioned flip phone because their phone was giving them too much anxiety. Now, I will never go that route, but I never question other’s methods.
So, the next time you’re thinking about your time outside of work, consider how you’re going to unplug. Do it consciously. Devices have become far too ubiquitous for us to let it happen organically. Pay attention to how your devices make you feel and when they make you feel that way. Set reasonable rules for yourself and your family (and be flexible when necessary). Also, don’t bring your phone into the spa! First, it’s bad etiquette. Second, it undermines the reason you are there!