Now I’m writing now from the other side, and I’m happy to report that I made it! (Well, mostly.) Overall, this break has been so satisfying, productive, and clarifying.
I’m not going to suggest that the boundaries I set for myself are ideal or possible for every person trying to make a living from their creative work. I hope instead, that you’ll be inspired by my story to figure out a way to break from technological distractions in your own way to create the space in your life to do meaningful work (and the thinking that goes hand in hand with this work).
Here are a few things I learned, paid attention to, and hope to continue to think about as I plunge into 2016 (with a smart phone uncluttered of enticing apps):
1. Let go of the pressure to post something.
I’m not a compulsive ‘checker’ of social media, but I do feel a day-to-day pressure to post something. This is, after all, what all those social media gurus say we should be doing if we want to be growing our audience and engaged with our existing audience.
But I’m not sure I buy this.
It all depends on how you measure success. Having 10,000 followers on Instagram by the end of this year would be nice, but I’d rather write 1,000 words per day.
Instead of spending time each day crafting the perfect tweet or status update, I’ll be doing the work. And when I’m compelled to share a story or a photo, I happily will.
2. Get organized.
The first few days felt a little weird without any immediate deadlines to publish a blog post or send an email newsletter. I cleaned my desk, purged digital files, and deleted a bunch of off-brand blog posts on my website. Without getting all Marie Kondo on you, I do feel that this step was crucial and set the stage for the loose creative goals I had set for myself during this period.
3. Cheat. (Or, be flexible.)
On the second day of my hiatus I felt a strong urge to check all of my social media accounts. To see if they fell off the digital cliff? (I’m not entirely sure what I was imagining.) All was boring. All was fine. Status quo.
And I must confess: I posted on Christmas day because I really, really wanted to. I don’t think this botched up the experiment too much.
4. Thumbs down to that platform that you hate but feel you should be on…
For me, this is Facebook. I have managed to hide 95% of the people from my personal feed, which helps tremendously. But I still log on and utter ugh, every time. On my very first day back on social media, I deleted a bunch of personal content from the site and have not yet felt the need to use the app on my phone. I do, however, use the Groups app and find it really useful.
I just started using Buffer in the new year, and I much prefer spending an hour or so a week to schedule a bunch of posts across several platforms, including Facebook. I pop in and out to check comments and engagement and then hop off.
5. Less is More.
I realized that I had subscribed to and followed so many brands and people and blogs that I was not actually reading them! Immediately upon tech re-entry, I un-followed a bunch of people on social and unsubscribed from a bunch of newsletters and blogs on my reader, Feedly. I’m finding now that I am actually following along with the people I want to be hearing from.
6. Get help.
I am not a social media strategist. I write, I make things, and am a mostly full-time parent. I want to approach my social media strategy with intention and thoughtfulness, and be efficient and realistic about the time and resources I am putting into this necessary promotional work. I’ve been following Meighan O’Toole for a while now and subscribe to her excellent newsletter, full of applicable social media tips. I just learned that she offers different packages for working with non-strategists like myself, and I will consider working with her this year.
7. Get ahead of schedule! Really!
Three undistracted weeks allowed me to get ahead of a blogging schedule with 6 articles pre-scheduled on the blog, an editorial calendar fleshed out, product launches in the works, and some serious momentum at the start of 2016.
8. Small daily breaks and new tech habits are now the norm.
Just because my sabbatical is over, doesn’t mean I have to go back to my old ways fully. I won’t take my phone into the bedroom, which means more reading and more actual conversations with my husband instead of us both lying next to each other on the phone. Get this: I haven’t even thought to reinstall Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter back on my phone. Instagram… well, you still have me.
9. Make Room for the Unexpected.
I am writing more on a daily basis now than I was before. I allowed myself to be open to work I wasn’t planning on, including pitching to new media outlets and landing paid freelance writing work.
By taking the time to really look at the articles and projects I had created in the past year, I am now more focused in my efforts with making things and writing. I’m more dialed-in on where I want to going with my work.
And now I’m officially hooked: I can’t wait for my next tech sabbatical.
How about you?
Have you ever tried something like this? How did it go? I’d love to hear.
Rebecca Pitts is a writer, maker, and founder of Hudson + Daughter, a blog and shop that celebrates the handmade, crafting for the young at heart, and a purposeful approach to living a life of creativity and curiosity with kids.