Five screens. That’s the number that are usually in front of me when I’m working. Five! I have so much power at my fingertips at any given moment. There are days when I’ll finish working and then stay right where I am and start playing a game. Even right now I’m staring at my laptop while writing this post, my phone is sitting comfortably in my pocket, the television is to my left, and my headphones are playing a relaxing instrumental loop. Always there, always waiting to entertain.
Tell me if this sounds even remotely similar to your day:
6:00 AM – I wake up, roll over and grab my phone. I pop open the game that I’ve been enjoying for a few months now. I knock out my ‘daily quests,’ setting me back about 30-45 minutes.
6:45 AM – Roll out of bed, get changed, do my daily exercises, make some breakfast, take a shower.
8:00 AM – Head downstairs and start working for the day. I stare at at least two screens the entire time, sometimes three or four.
Noon(ish) – Run upstairs and grab some lunch. I usually eat for a few minutes and then head back downstairs and play a game for a bit before I have to go back to work.
1:00 (ish) PM – Back to work.
5:00 PM – Shut down my work computer… boot up my Playstation. Play for a little bit before heading upstairs to make dinner, or eat what my wife has prepared. I’m also guilty of occasionally tinkering with my phone while eating.
7/8:00 PM – Dinner is done, time to turn the TV on and sit down to watch a few shows.
9:00 (ish) PM – Time to head to bed. I check my game one last time, maybe watch a few Youtube videos, drop the phone on the charger. Go to sleep.
Rinse and Repeat.
That’s a lot of time staring at a screen. That’s a lot of engagement. This weekend I found myself needing something different, something… less. I needed to let my brain rest. I sat on the deck and I closed my eyes, just listening. The breeze, the birds, the distant lawnmowers. Still, I longed for that engagement, longed to put in headphones and listen, longed to make progress in the latest game with which I’ve been enamored.
I know I need to disconnect, but I’m terrible at it. I need to let my mind rest, to breathe. I need to let it recharge. I need pen and paper, I need quiet.
This post isn’t a scathing condemnation of our society for pushing the constant need for engagement. It’s not even me getting on a soapbox, saying we all need to do better about disconnecting. It’s just me admitting I’m terrible at doing it, yet confessing that I desperately need to. Maybe it’s just for an hour. Maybe it’s a full afternoon. Maybe it’s a full day. I don’t know, but I know I don’t have the mental margin I’d like to have.
I’m a worse writer when I allow myself to become overwhelmed by the constant stimuli. I’m a far worse husband. I’m a worse employee, friend, brother. I don’t say each of those things to shame myself (though me 3 years ago would have been all about that) but as a confession. By saying it, by putting it out into the wild I have to be more aware of it. Not ‘back of the mind’ aware of it, but ‘in my face’ aware of it.
What is it they say? Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery? Ya, well I’m admitting I have a problem. I’m addicted to screens, but deeper than that I’m addicted to staying engaged, to that constant dopamine hit that comes from clicking open my phone, to hitting that next level.
I won’t be perfect going forward, but like I’ve said a number of times now, it’s about taking small steps forward.
This is my small step forward. This is me closing my laptop