A few months ago, I decided to quit social media. In late May I decided to start a month-long digital hiatus, primarily from social media, and attempt to cut back the invisible tether to my phone. It wasn’t a total shut down since I still needed to manage my farm business online, but it was as close as I was going to get outside of work.
At the time I was feeling smothered with life, feeling like a standstill while at the same time never having enough time for my business and farm, and even more importantly my time with my family – my kids and husband. Everything felt like it was spinning so fast, yet at times it felt like I was at a crawl. I didn’t always feel like I was in this place. I’m not sure how I got there, but I was there.
Close to a breaking point, I recognized it was time to take a step back and recalibrate my life. I had started to think about making a change but hadn’t gone further than that. I decided I was going to start now, not wait for the right time, or the next big thing to wrap up.
So, I turned back to what gets me going: learning and growing. I started listening to podcasts and reading books about productivity and focus. In particular, I started listening to a few episodes by Michael Hyatt (Lead to Win), in particular #067: Destroy Distractions with These 9 Focus-Boosting Strategies, #065: 3 Actions to Beat your Biggest Distractions, #061: My Must-Have Apps for Productivity in 2019.
I immediately recognized that I needed to start managing how my time was spent, rather than let it get away from me. It was about living life on purpose. In particular, social media (and other apps) along with its ease to pull up on my phone became an obvious distraction I needed to figure out how to manage. Additionally, I was looking at other ways to be more productive with my farm business and also at home. This also meant evaluating my other commitments and evaluating future opportunities to make sure time was well spent for my work goals and also priorities with my family.
In a number of Michael Hyatt’s podcasts he referenced the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. So, like a good professional development nerd, I ordered the book, along with Michael’s newest book Free to Focus. In the meantime, I downloaded a podcast episode where Cal was interviewed, on The Doctor’s Farmacy with Mark Hyman, M.D.: 39. How Social Media May be Ruining Your Life with Cal Newport to get a feel of the theme of his book.
Honestly, I didn’t think I was using my phone and social media that much. I wasn’t like I was just sitting on the couch snacking and scanning feeds for hours on end. But, I could see how it was easy to fill in the voids of one’s day to help pass the time, even if it was for a few seconds or minutes, like waiting for my son to get his haircut, walking back from the barn to the house, waiting in line at the store and so on. But, here I was ready to make some changes and my digital life was going to be part of it.
I decided to make little steps to get started. I ordered a real alarm clock for my nightstand and plugged in my phone on a bookshelf nearby, but not within arm’s reach. No more scrolling of emails, social media feeds or news as soon as I woke up or before I went to bed. You should have heard my 5-year-old when he first saw it. “Mom what is that?!”
On my phone I turned off all notifications for all apps with the exception of text messages, forcing myself to take the time to check emails and notifications from certain apps, vs. have the phone constantly dinging at me.
Next, I squeezed out the time (yes, I made time) to go to a yoga class at a local studio. I realized I needed to start taking time for me so I could function at my highest for work, my family and others in my life. I had been wanting to start practicing yoga again, but it was too easy to push it down on the priority list. It’s made a big difference in how I feel physically, even though my work on the farm has always been active, as well as mentally. There’ve been weeks where I haven’t been able to make class because of our planting schedule or family travel, but that’s ok. I just pick back up the next class that fits. I put it on my schedule and don’t take it off for other commitments unless it’s a pressing matter.
When the book arrived, I started reading it. Right away Cal talks about taking a month-long break from technology that’s tied to our phones and then afterwards start to build it back into our lives. I liked the idea and wanted to do it, but I couldn’t get myself to start. My challenge was that I love technology and my business is dependent on the online space. I was trying to figure out how to make this work. Then I realized, I needed to just jump in and get started. Little steps, just like what I had started. So that day on my walk back from the barn to the house I deleted all my social media apps. I didn’t go full force as Cal indicated in his book, but I focused on the ones that I know were the major time suckers.
I wasn’t sure how to manage my farm accounts, so I started working on them from my desktop computer, which unfortunately or conveniently, died during this time period. I scheduled out some time to check in online during this time.
The first day “away” was hard I admit. I didn’t realize how much I’d open up my phone to pass the time, or while making my way somewhere. Then after the next day surprisingly I realized I didn’t miss Facebook at all. Yes, I admit I missed Instagram. I also intentionally kept my phone at a distance so I could be more in the moment and present in life with my family and even the simplest moments, like my walk from the house to the barn. It’s so easy to miss what’s happening around us because our phones inadvertently fill in the voids. And you know what? IT WAS SO FREEING. It became apparent there was too much noise.
Let me get back to Facebook. I do recognize the value in it from the perspective of staying in touch with friends and family that aren’t nearby or from other times in my life, along with networking and learning from farm-related groups, and, yes, running my business. But I realized that the constant pull to always check in, get social media approval or see what others was doing was creating unneeded, unintentional stress. In the book, Digital Minimalism, Cal also points out how it has the potential to become a full out addiction. I needed to figure out how to make it a part of my life, but not how it had been working. Honestly, I didn’t think it was causing that much of a drain on me. I didn’t think I was using it that much.
During my digital hiatus, I started reading at night before I went to bed as a way to help wind down and turn off my brain. Eventually I switched my bedtime reading to novels or biographies and kept my self-help and business books for other times of the day. I also focused on getting some other things done so I felt like I was making progress in life. I built the porch table I had been wanting to make for several years now and made a baseball scoreboard for my son. I also made a sizable dent in organizing the farm shop, which hadn’t really been organized since we moved to the farm. I’m not trying to say look at what I’ve done, but I am in the sense of what happens when one prioritizes their time and puts some selfcare in place.
Now that I’m past the digital hiatus time. I’ve reinstalled Instagram on my phone, along with the Facebook pages app. I’m still using my personal Facebook account through my computer and think it will remain that way. I’m still working on my personal boundaries and parameters for using social media, and even for work. I’m scheduling time to use it for work just like any other task and taking pictures for the farm for future posts, not necessarily always sharing them in the moment.
Honestly, I’m still figuring out how to keep technology and the positives of social media in my life. But, I’m way more conscious of what I’m doing. The other night I started scrolling Instagram while we were watching a movie. I stopped as soon as I realized what I was mindlessly doing and put my phone down on the coffee table. It’s a work in progress, but I feel so much better on where I’m at and where I’m headed.
What have you done to intentionally live your life? What are you doing to put yourself first? How are you managing social media use in a healthy way?
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.