“I’m an analog girl in a digital world.” Ahhh, a favourite line from an Erykah Badu song. I think to be an analog girl is a worthy goal in life when it feels like my smartphone owns me more than I own it.
My iPhone weighs less than 4 ounces. But the mental weight that comes along with it every single time I pick it up? That’s harder to calculate. I may pull it out only to check the time, but along with that come badges and pop-ups reminding me of calls to be returned and emails to reply to.
So many of us are looking for a balance between being connected and stepping back. We feel guilty about offering our kids and partners half of our attention. I too long to break the tyranny of technology over my life. As a doula on call for births, I always have my phone charged and handy. There is no turning off my wifi at 10p.m. or leaving it downstairs when I go up to bed. In fact, I sleep with my phone a foot from my pillow, for those inevitable 3a.m. calls that a baby is on it’s way.
But there are ways to put some space between us and our devices throughout our day, and interrupt the near-non-stop pull on our attention from our devices. We can be less distracted and more present with the people and events before us.
Returning to pen and paper
I was finding that keeping my agenda, projects and notes digitally wasn’t really working for me. Saving them there felt like a big chore, rather than a convenience. I rarely went back to creative projects or ideas I stored there. Then a yoga colleague shared an online article about returning to pen and paper agendas with the Bullet Journal.
The Bullet Journal is a simple notebook system that was actually designed by a web developer who creates project management software, when he wanted something faster and easier. I figured if even he was frustrated with digital, returning to a journal was worth a try. (If you want to know more, here’s a short video tutorial.)
Going old school with paper and pen was a liberation. And not just because I’m the kind of person who salivates over stationary and office supplies. Using a notebook means that when I go to my to-do list for the day, or review it before bed, I’m doing that, and only that. When I pick up my notebook, I’m not picking up everything else that is attached to my phone, without online ads or Candy Crush invitations.
Remembering my past love affair with Filofax, I considered going back to a paper calendar, but opted to stick with my Google calendar, since I deal with so many scheduling changes. I’m not proposing that we all ditch our phones and pick up slate and chalk. This is not all or nothing. Find the small shifts that work for you and your life, on any given day.
Looking for low-tech (or even no-tech)
I began to look for other ways I could use digital devices less. I started wearing a wrist watch again. During a birth, I can now note the time of birth or check contractions – without it looking like I’m checking my Facebook feed. That change started me to think about what other low-tech choices I could be making in my life. Once I prompted myself with the mantra of “analog not digital”, I saw opportunities all day long to slow down and simplify.
Making some low-tech choices in your day can help you gain control, stay grounded, get you out of your head and into your body, and foster real connection. Next time you reach for your phone, ask yourself if there might be a low-tech or no-tech alternative. You will probably come up with something that is less expensive, better for your body, the earth, your relationships and your state of mind. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
- Hum, whistle or sing to yourself instead of popping in your earbuds.
- Go for a stroll with your family after dinner instead of proceeding directly to Netflix.
- Make water your beverage of choice instead of bottled juices and softdrinks.
- Drop off a handwritten note instead of an email or text.
- Grab a piece of fruit instead of a processed and packaged snack.
- Shop local, by choosing products created and sold by the people who live close to you instead of shopping online.
- Before bed, read a few pages of an inspirational book rather than scrolling through your feed.
What ways have you found to stem the digital tide in your life, and take back some control? Share in the comments below ways you’ve found to “go analog”.