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Screen Free Weekend

By accident, I almost made it all the way through (Personal Time) Screen Free Week. It turns out that staying screen free over the weekend was easier than anticipated, because it was incredibly busy. I’ve also noticed an unexpected benefit, which is that I seem to have slept better. *I think* that not looking at a screen for about 5-6 hours before I went to bed allowed a more solid night’s sleep and I’ve been waking up a few hours earlier each day. Overall, this experiment had pluses and minuses. I enjoyed spending more time outside and making plans with local friends and I felt a little disconnected from the friends and family who don’t live in the area. It was nice to put work away in the evenings, but I stressed constantly about not finishing all my projects. Regardless, I slept better, which means I had more time in the morning to work. I read several books (list below) and I didn’t watch any television until Sunday. After a few long days at the store, when I arrived home last night, all I wanted to do was watch a few episodes. I’ve also enjoyed the therapeutic juxtaposition of blogging about Screen Free Week. I’d say something cliché about all things in moderation, but, without these Screen Free Week restrictions, it will be interesting to observe how quickly technology habits resume. Is it necessary to go completely screen free or is it possible to simply and conscientiously restrict usage? Is technology a choice or a crutch?

Thanks to the reps over at Random House for inspiring this experiment! Did anyone else participate in Screen Free Week? Thoughts? Comments? Self-analytic confessionals?

Screen Free Week Books:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth

The Laura Line, by Chrystal Allen

Gingersnap, by Patricia Reilly Giff

True Colors, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvatter

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Screen Free Week Day 5

IMG_2684I have had a record number of walk dates with co-workers (and one very small baby) this week. Not sure if I should credit Screen Free Week, spring, or the amazing weather, but it’s always great to get to know everyone a little better outside of work. During yesterday’s walk, I was delighted to discover an enormous rock. Other Falmouth residents are probably familiar with the big rock in Beebe Woods, but in all these years of visiting, I have never seen it before. When my family first started coming to the area, I was 4 years old. I have memories of playing on what I thought were gigantic rocks in the woods near the cottage. I went back to visit those rocks years later only to discover they were shorter than my knees. The Beebe Woods rock could not possibly disappoint lingering childhood memories. It seemed as humongous to me yesterday as it probably does to every kid who stumbles across it for the first time. I bet people all over Falmouth have stories about this particular rock. Don’t worry. I’m not asking for them.

~sara

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Screen Free Week Day 4

After day 3’s rant, I decided I really needed to turn this experiment around. I was feeling so overwhelmed with everything that I wasn’t getting done. I was starting to stress out that I might just be making everything worse for myself by testing Screen Free Week. Then something interesting happened. I had so many things to do yesterday and was worried that I might not finish all my projects by 5. Since I really do want to finish out this experiment, I ended up being motivated to sit down, focus, and get all my work done. I finished by 4:30. I then met another co-worker for a walk and we took the two dogs down to the beach.

I read an article recently about how hard it is for employees to be continually productive for 8 hours. It’s true. We all need breaks. Sometimes I feel like I work 8 hours a day but over a course of about 12 hours. I’ll stop to have a long lunch. Sometimes I’ll run errands. But I might also still be still working at 9 or 10 pm. I realized yesterday that if I sat down and kept focused, I could actually finish my work by 5 and then have the evening free. I wonder if I could do that every day, or if I was simply inspired by the novelty of this week’s experiment. The problem of course is that the (publishing) world doesn’t stop just because I do, and I find myself missing out on some of the news and conversations. But I definitely enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing that I had completed my tasks for the day and that I could relax guilt-free for a few hours. I even called my mom.

~sara

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Screen Free Week Day 3

Something has gone amiss. Yesterday I had a work related meeting in the morning, worked at the store in the afternoon, then had another work meeting in the evening. By the time I got home, having had barely any time to touch base with my personal life, I had messages from my mother and one of my best friends. Surely Screen Free Week isn’t meant to keep me from connecting with friends and family. This development *has* to be in direct conflict with an event that explains, “On April 29-May 5, people around the country (and world!) will turn OFF TV, video and mobile games, and other screens they use for entertainment, and turn ON the world around them! Think, read, play, daydream, explore nature, enjoy family and friends–do all this and so much more when you spend 7 days unplugged.” First, 7 days! Arg. I was only planning to go through the end of this work week. Second, the event presumes that your family and friends are physically nearby and that technology keeps us stationary.

I move around a lot and mobile technology is perfect for helping me stay in touch with people who no longer live in the same city or country that I do. I love that my sister can send me photos of some weird thing that the dog is doing. I love sharing Cape Cod winter sunsets with friends who only ever see the summer editions. I love seeing updates or getting texts from friends around the world that I haven’t seen in a few years and probably won’t for a few more. I’m not ready to give up on Screen Free Week just yet, because it has inspired me to stop working earlier each day and get outside a bit more. It’s been a beautiful week, and I’ve made connections with more people who live nearby. And sure, I’ve read a few books (finished The Laura Line and just started The Scorpio Races). But I seriously contest this notion that unplugging brings you closer to friends and family. Such a thing might have been true when being plugged in meant actually having to stay physically close to a power source. Or when technology wasn’t social in the way it is now. The reason I really appreciate mobile technology is that I now feel like I can go anywhere and, yes, turn ON the world, while still being connected with everyone (near and far) that matters to me.

~sara

Screen Free Week Day 2

I’m loving having an excuse to stop work at 5 and do something else. I tried to recreate Monday’s walk and take some of the pictures that I had missed. Unfortunately the duck I saw on Monday did not return and sit in the setting sunlight on the pond in precisely the same way, so I did miss that photo opportunity. But being out in the setting sun is definitely preferable to watching the sun set from my desk.

Even though I purposefully opted in to Screen Free Week, I’m getting a little caught up in my own arbitrary rules. Am I allowed to check my calendar? What if my aunt sends me a text? Or my mother tells me to check my email? Do I ignore them? Stick to my plan? I’m finding myself trying to cram all computer related tasks into the working day, and realizing that I just can’t get everything done. It’s also interesting to see how much of my life is tied up in my various devices. This idea is nothing new, but you don’t really think about it, until you try to step away. I’m assuming that Screen Free Week started with TV, so technically you could still talk on the phone, use a planner and your camera, but now doing any of those things feels a bit like cheating. I’m enjoying this experiment, and I’ve even made 5 pm walk dates with some of my co-workers for the rest of the week, but it was very obvious last night that my resolve was already showing huge cracks and it was only day 2. ~ sara

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Screen Free Week Day 1

I’ve been inspired by the Random Acts of Reading posts about Screen Free Week. I decided that it wasn’t realistic to go screen free during work hours, but wondered whether I could manage it during personal ones. In a fit of enthusiasm, I turned off my computer at 5 pm yesterday and decided to go on a walk. The walk went something like this: I’d check my back pocket to make sure my phone was still there, freak out because it wasn’t, remember that I had intentionally left my phone at home, relax, and then repeat every 5 to 10 minutes. The walk was lovely, which is to be expected. This area is always beautiful, but spring has definitely sprung and all the soft greens and flowers are amazing. My biggest problem was that I wanted to take pictures of everything! I was so annoyed that I didn’t have my phone. I figure that’s a good excuse to go on another walk today. Normally I work for a few hours after dinner and then read for maybe an hour or so. Reading for 5 hours was such a luxury. I finished The Miseducation of Cameron Post, one of this year’s ALA Morris Debut Award Finalists, by Emily Danforth. I had a slow start with this book, but then I couldn’t put it down and was most impressed with Danforth’s writing. I’m starting to get excited about all the books I could read this week. I still have a pile to finish before the BEA conference at the end of May. I admit I did check my phone messages one time before I went to bed, but managed to avoid email and all the assorted social media sites. So far so good. If nothing else, Screen Free Week is reminding me to stop work from bleeding in to my evening, and I’m already looking forward to tonight’s walk.

~ sara