Unplug! Unplug? Today many are concerned with the amount of time spent plugged in, detached from the “real world.” Yet, so many of us connect for “real” reasons and with “real” people. So, how do we contain this thing, this “unplugging?” I have a few strategies that guide my time.
One strategy is to set a time limit for checking all the Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus social media type posts. Set a time limit, and stick to it. If anyone needs you, you’ll have a notification ready during this time. Chances are, you won’t miss anything, and will still connect with the people and ideas important to you.
Decide on your focus for your plugged in time. I’m currently working on some ideas about homework; I already have a ton of resources, but have specific topics like goals, types of homework, family tips, current research. I’ll focus on one or two of those, and ignore all the other distractions. Focus the time online for a purpose.
Choose an app or two on which to focus– Just check your email today. Or just check a Twitter list to which you’ve subscribed. Be picky. Perhaps just check “notifications” only. Let yourself be the one in control rather than the fear you will “miss something” or submit to check/answer every notification. After all, we don’t attend every community event, practice, meeting– be as selective with the online communities.
Work already probably consumes much of your time. Be sure to schedule and note all the things and events important to your family. Have a “family calendar” [online or off]. Make sure that time is unplugged. “Be here now” is important to model for the family.
Already, these unplugged strategies have limited the online obsessions, so think about a time for powering off and doing something for yourself or with your family without an online interruption. Pick up a hobby: rock climbing, painting, hiking, reading. And turn off your device. In the classroom, as a teacher, I’d let my phone buzz and chime in the first class period. Then, without answering or responding, I’d turn my phone off as a model for my students. My students would be aghast, and I’d say, “If it’s a real emergency, they’ll call the office.” Downtime or Off Time also develops a habit — of NOT constantly checking for notifications. So consider the times you can actually “power off.”
As noted in the introduction, our online time includes valuable time with the people and ideas important to us. Many of us have developed friendships and collaborations with people we’ve never met in person. One way to focus our online time is to schedule your PLN time. Your “personal learning network” is like a neighborhood you visit. Perhaps you engage with a hashtag of colleagues on twitter, a group on Facebook or Google Plus, or another online community. Schedule that time for these important people in your lives, check on their posts, and respond with your own. Maybe arrange a gathering in a Google Hangout or a Slack conversation. Make PLN time one of your priorities, but one you make without that constant response to notifications. I’ve many friends who post announcements of requests, and know that people will respond when they can. In other words, we’re learning how to manage our new neighborhoods and communities in real time, real life.
What are your strategies for centering your life? How do you unplug?