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Creating a balance between your online and offline life

When I got back from my vacation in France I was immediately in the pitt fall: about 30 minutes after I got home, I turned on the computer and checked my work emails.
A day later, I already felt that little familiar stress bug. If I didn’t want to feel stressed out like I did before the vacation, I needed to make some changes.

When the wifi signal makes you weak…

While in France I was completely stress-free and happy. I was drawing and painting, taking hikes, swimming in a lake… But most importantly: I didn’t have wifi 24/7. There was a fast food shop in town and when I really needed to check my email, I went there, ordered a McFlurry and answered some emails.

There I realised I had found a perfect balance: doing what I was supposed to do during the day, and checking my email every three days. I wasn’t checking my phone constantly if I had a new email, or a new Instagram-like: I knew I didn’t have wifi so there was no need. Not checking my phone every 30 minutes gave me peace of mind.

I came up with a 7-steps-plan to fit this perfect balance in my daily life.

Going hiking is perfect for being offline

7-step plan for less internet/more living

Step 1
Delete apps you don’t really need on my phone: facebook messenger, facebook itself and twitter. I decided to keep Instagram because it contributes a lot to my work.

Step 2
Drag the email icon to a folder you can’t easily get to. I still need email, being a freelancer, but not every hour.

Step 3
All notifications off. No more beeping when you have a text message, no notifications of social media. I didn’t have the last one anyway, but I can recommend this to anyone.
The moment the light of your phone goes on, we’re in immediate need to check it. It takes away all of your concentration.

Step 4
Log out of Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts on your phone and on your computer, every time. This makes it harder to check because you first need to log in.

Step 5
No phone in bed. You can stimulate this by leaving your charger in your living room for example and charge it during nights. Research showed that looking at your phone screen at night is harmful to your sleeping patterns but also incredibly harmful to your eyes. Be wise, put down that phone!
If your phone is also your alarm clock: buy an old-fashioned alarm clock. They go for €1 at Ikea. Just saying.

Step 6
Set your phone to ‘Do not disturb’ at night.
When you have an iPhone you can even do this automatically and you can set your own time. You can still allow phone calls if you only get called in emergencies. Or your mother. Mothers always call 🙂

Step 7
Leave your phone home. When I’m going to the grocery store or pick up an errand, I don’t take my phone with me.
The other day, I was in the hospital and didn’t have it with me. I looked around and everyone was playing with their phone. I picked up a magazine about psychology in the waiting room and still enjoyed myself.

Let's Wander Offline - Marloes De Vries

Want a visual reminder of the joy of wandering offline? You can buy this print here!

A bit of app-help

And yes, after four days I totally screwed up: I logged in to facebook on my phone and there I was, scrolling again. I have to remind myself time and time again that I really need to log out, also from the computer. Otherwise my mouse will got the the address-space, type in ‘f-a’ and the rest will autocomplete itself. It’s that easy and sad.

Yesterday I installed an app called ‘Moment’ that tracks how much I am on my phone during the day. I still use that thing too much, even without facebook or other social media installed on it. My goal is to keep it around an hour a day. That’s going to be a challenge.

I don’t need the internet to be creative

I felt like I constantly needed to be entertained by cat videos, facebook updates, instagram photos, news sites. But I discovered I really like wandering around the city, or going for a hike in the woods.
I was looking for inspiration on the web, but then it hit me: most of my inspiration comes when I am walking, pondering en wandering around. No internet involved. It’s my brain that does the imagining.

Does this mean I wrote off the internet completely?
Of course not, silly. The internet is a magnificent tool to get your art out there, to connect with people, to research subjects you love. Without the internet and social media I wouldn’t be where I am today.

It’s all about finding a balance. I wasn’t happy with the amount of time I spent on the internet so I needed to cut back. I want to be outdoors more, work more on personal projects, while I was spending about three hours too many on the internet on a daily basis.
It’s totally okay to be online! As long as you don’t feel personally overwhelmed.

You have to decide for yourself what works for you. But if you feel you’re being swallowed by social media, these 7 steps might come in handy.

Thank you for reading this post and I’d love to hear if you have any tips on how to find balance in life. Do leave a comment and feel free to share this post with friends and family!

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14 reacties

  1. Mooie blog! Ik kwam laatst tot dezelfde conclusie: de balans tussen online en offline was ver te zoeken. Doorgeslagen. Ook ik delete Facebook van mijn telefoon. Maar of dat voldoende is… Interessant wel, deze disbalans. Ik ben benieuwd hoe de kinderen van nu (later) reageren op alle online mogelijkheden. Keep up the good work! Groetjes, Patricia

  2. Wonderful post and poster! I too struggle with wasting time on internet. I use lots of tricks like yours, specially out of the house because I have very limited internet on my iPhone and nothing installed! And it feels great! I look at people, the birds, I pick up leaves and pine cones and I read the newspaper. My biggest problem is at home but keeping social media disconnected really helps productivity 😀 And people, please don’t keep your phones in the bedroom, radiation is real and bad for you, we even should disconnect the rooter at night!

  3. Thanks a lot for your pieces of advice! Spending more time offline is my main goal for my personal Nee Year, actually the school Year. I totally agree with you about using the great tool of the Internet appropriately, but avoid overusing It.

  4. There is a podcast called Note To Self that did a short daily challenge (7 days..?) on limiting our phone use. I believe the challenge was called Bored to Brilliant. It tapped into a lot of these ideas and practices. It was really helpful for me to feel in control of what my does verses the other way around. All good thoughts!

      1. Thanks for adding that link! Interesting article.

        No notifications on the phone (and no voicemail either) helped me a lot on being more focused and getting things done. Checking email only once a day also helps but I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with answering in time. Though I think that if something is urgent, people will call after they send an message if they feel the reply isn’t fast enough…! (Expectation management… but that’s a different story).

        Going outside and wander without a phone is great. Although I sometimes regret not bringing it, when i see something pretty or interesting i want to capture on photo. Though that could be solved with buying a camera instead of using the phone as a camera.

        Anyways.. long story short. Thank you for sharing your experience and nice to read your blogs!

        1. A friend of mine once told me she was so fed up with the thousands of emails in her inbox, that she deleted them all. She said: “if they really want something from me, they will email again”. I never dare to do that, but in a way, she is right. If you have so many emails of people wanting to work with you or needing your help, they will come back.
          I feel you on the ‘bringing your camera’-part. Nowadays, I sometimes bring a analog camera, with film in it, just in case. It’s quite heavy, I have to add, but I love taking analog pictures.
          Hope you will find that balance!

  5. I fully agree with you. Social media is helpful for sure but it’s also a huge distraction for me anyway and I want to really reduce it drastically!