I knew something needed to change when a friend said, over coffee with double shots of espresso, “Every time I see you, your eyes are more bloodshot than before.”
I couldn’t disagree. Over the last few months, I’d watched my eyes redden, my social circle dwindle, and my quiet time with God disappear entirely. I felt disconnected and unfulfilled, but my schedule was packed with essentials like work and exercise and writing. I hadn’t allowed myself to watch TV or movies in years, instead saving them for nights with girlfriends and popcorn so I could classify watching a movie as quality time.
While I left the coffee shop without a solution, the question weighed on my mind as I went about my days. My hours had become the socks that disappear somewhere between the hamper and the dryer, and I wanted to them back.
So I got real with myself and recorded how I spent my time—down to the minutes. And let me tell you, it wasn’t fun. Much like food journaling, I found myself treating 15 minutes here and there like the spoonfuls of peanut butter I never wanted to write down. But I did it, and here’s the biggest thing I observed: I spent a sickening amount of time on my phone. And I’m not talking texting or calling friends and family.
Each morning, I picked up my phone an average of four times to scroll through social media or email while getting ready for work. When I walked in the door at night, I’d spend approximately 40 minutes catching up on everything I’d missed throughout the day. And then, I’d scroll through Instagram or Pinterest to help me fall asleep at night. And that’s not counting the minutes upon minutes I spent on apps and social media throughout the day.
While the process was painful, becoming more mindful of how I wasted minutes that turned into hours helped me to embrace a daily practice of unplugging that felt less like punishment and more like a way to fit what I loved into my day.
Here’s how unplugging has transformed my life:
- It’s made room for reflection and prayer. Before, I would spend every second waiting, whether at the grocery store or in front of my laptop, on social media. Now, without my phone in hand, I spend those minutes talking to God or reflecting on my day or thinking through the last chapter of a book I just read.
- It’s helped me to be more present with loved ones. No one feels loved or listened to when you whip out your phone to scroll through Facebook or finish a text during conversation. The absence of my phone has nourished my relationships. Now I listen thoroughly and laugh whole-heartedly while out with friends. Now I relish the smiles and inevitable spills while making dinner with my boyfriend.
- It’s opened my eyes and ears to the wonder of God’s creation. This part is hard for me to admit, but every time I opted to check my email instead of making eye contact or smiling at a stranger, I was devaluing human life little by little. Strangers had become disposable to me. I could walk right by someone without looking up from my phone. Now, with intention, I’m able to see people around me for they actually are: unfiltered and wonderfully made by God.
How do you spend your days? Have you thought about unplugging for long or short periods of time?
Elizabeth Hudson is a copywriter for LifeWay Women. She’s also a reader, writer, and wayfarer who hopes to explore every country in the world at least once.