It's a crazy, love-hate relationship I have with technology. It fascinates me; it confounds me. It solves problems; it causes problems. It saves time; it steals time. I'm lost without it; I get lost inside it. It steals my attention; it provides instant answers. It entertains me, it angers me. It educates me, it blinds me. It helps me, it harms me.
It's been more than 25 years since the Internet became a commonplace thing, starting with electronic mail in basic DOS. Since then, we have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on smartphones, smart TVs, smart watches, smart cars, smart doorbells, smart cars, and more. How amazing it all is, and yet what's so stupid is how obsessed we've become with it all. Most technology is now simply and mindlessly commonplace and "necessary." But some technology is just a wild beast, too easily allowed to get out of control and do more harm than good. For me, my phone is my beast.
I am constantly attached to my phone, physically or wirelessly, to get messages, emails, weather alerts, news updates, calendar reminders, delivery notifications, answers, directions, wake-up alarms. I use my phone to read books, do math, manage contacts, track the kids, play music, store coupons, log work time, manage money, see what friends are up to, find creative inspiration, keep my golf scores, make me laugh, store my boarding passes, play games, watch movies, take pictures, keep to-do lists, listen to podcasts, access my health records. You name it. I can do pretty much everything on my phone except eat and bathe. It's no wonder I'm so attached.
Most of these are good reasons to be attached. But when does an attachment become an addiction? When does it cause harm? When does the attachment become unhealthy? When it's the reason I don't get things done. For me, it's when it prevents me from being active, when it keeps me from being productive, or when it's causing unbalance and unhappiness. My phone is like a wild beast, and sometimes it's on the loose. How in the hell do I manage a beast I can't realistically live without?
I need a plan. I need to take steps to contain my beast. My beast needs very strict boundaries -- I'll call them VSBs. Here are 7 steps I'll take to set these VSBs.
Remind myself that my beast is not my pet. My beast needs to have VSBs to keep me safe. Having a beast on the loose can harm my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Recognize what happens when my beast is on the loose. >> How does it get out? [Answered an email > clicked on an ad > shopped > etc. Or played a game > lost > played again > know I can do better > played again > etc.?] >> When it's out, what does my beast trample on? [Work, activities, volunteering, cleaning, groceries, errands?] >> Who, besides me, is impacted when it's out? [Spouse, friends, others I could be helping?] >> How do I feel when the beast is out? [Frustrated, anxious, cornered, out of control?]
How bad, really, is my beast? How is my beast affecting my overall physical, mental, and spiritual health? I set up a rating system: 1 = I have VSBs for my beast, and it is well controlled. I lead a very well-balanced life, and I'm very happy. 2 = My beast gets out of its VSBs fairly often, but I can corral it back in easily. I'm fairly balanced and happy, or if I'm not, it's not the beast's fault. 3 = My beast gets out often, and I let it wander. I know it's doing damage, but I tell myself I'm totally fine even though I know I'm fooling myself. I'm not. 4 = My Very Strict Boundaries are only Strict Boundaries. Actually, they are just boundaries. OK, my beast has a one-sided boundary, and it's when I'm sleeping. My beast is pretty much in control. 5 = My beast has no boundaries. I know it probably needs them, but my beast and I are so blindly in love that nothing will come between us. Not even the real world. My beast is my world. For me, my beast is a misbehaving 3. Once in awhile it's a 1, sometimes a 2. Lately, though, a 3. Hence this blog.
Set a goal for optimal mental, physical, and spiritual health. I want to be at 1, but I'm going to shoot for a consistent 2. When I reach that, I'll reassess my beast and shoot for 1.
Set my VSBs -- Very Strick Boundaries for my beast -- in writing. Your boundaries may be defined in another way, but I ask myself: >> What causes my beast to get out? Why do I get so distracted? >> When and where do I need to have boundaries set? >> How will I recognize when the beast is pushing up against my boundaries? >> What will I do to contain it and refocus my goals? >> Under what circumstances will I unlock the boundaries?
Commit to the VSBs and start now.
Recognize the nature of my beast. I know the beast is always here, and it can so easily get out of its VSBs. Go back to #1 and repeat.