2019 was a year of connectedness for me.
I built a well-known Instagram community – @BlackWifeLife
I also created a Medium account to help me start earning money as an independent writer.
Not to mention several other social media ventures/ideas I embarked on this year.
And the icing on the cake is that I got married this year. That is a ton of connectedness, from bachelorette parties, I had 3, family wanting to spend time, and of course, wanting to spend time with the person I am getting ready to commit the rest of my life too. Oh, and work, duh!
Safe to say, I was extremely connected. However, if I wasn’t, I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish the things that I set out to do. Growing an Instagram page to 35,000 followers in less than a year is not an easy task. But it took time and being connected, a lot.
So for my 34th bday (12/23), my Husband got us a cabin Stanardsville, Virginia. About a two-hour drive from our home in Northern Virginia. This cabin had no WiFi, no TV, and NO cell service unless you went out about 100 yards to the fire pit. You can make a call, but forget a text or searching the internet.
I mean, we had to print out dinner recipes before leaving the house so we could make the meals we were planning because there was no google.
When my Husband told his friends we were getting to a cabin with no outside connection, their response was, “What are you supposed to do for two days?”. As a society, we are connected 247, and it’s custom to us. We expect everything to be available at our fingertips, and we expect to know everything. And this is draining.
But what recharged my entire spirit, was this quick unplugged trip. It doesn’t take much to recenter. But people take disconnecting to the extreme.
For example, we all know this person – I’m deleting all my social media for XX days/months. But I must warn everyone first with a final post and then come back with another post letting everyone know what I was doing. Sound familiar?!
Disconnecting isn’t just about being away from social media. There is much more to it. And this is the part I think most people forget because I did and it took this quick trip for me to realize all of the great moments, I am missing either disconnecting the wrong way or just not disconnecting altogether.
Here are some things you should take some time to disconnect from as we enter a new decade.
Yes, I think it is great to take time away from mindless scrolling, i.e., phubbing. Think about what you could do with one day free from scrolling. Instead of taking chunks of time away, commit to saying, “Today is a social-media free day” and see what that does for you.
I love my friends. They are family to me. But they are still people, and people require energy. When your energy levels are low, the worst thing you could do is put yourself in a situation that requires more energy. If you know your running on fumes and your friends want to hang out, be OK saying no or passing occasionally. What would be better, you showing up to spend quality time and you are exhausted or showing up full of energy ready to engage.
I remember in 2018, a dear friend of mine was getting married in Cleveland. I didn’t want to miss the biggest day of her life. However, I had just finished three weeks of traveling (one of the trips was to Cleveland). Then I was starting an executive certificate program at Georgetown University the week after her wedding. I had one week to myself. I was tired. So I canceled. And it was hard. But it was the best decision for me. I knew I would not be fully present at the wedding or for the first week of classes if I over-extended myself.
Disconnecting doesn’t mean you are taking a 30-day break from them. It’s merely missing out on a couple of moments. If your friends are your friends, they will always understand. Trust me, they do.
Family is no different than your friends. If anything, it requires more energy. You have to learn to say no and disconnect. There are times where you can’t disconnect. Maybe you are a single parent, caregiver, or your spouse is out of town. These are scenarios where you have to protect the time to yourself that you do have. Instead of having lunch with a colleague, take that hour break to yourself. Spend some alone time that way when it’s time to return home, you have more energy to give.
In 2018 Glassdoor did a survey that discovered Americans only took 54% of their available time off in the past 12-months. We leave so much on the table because we are conditioned to work hard and rest later. Why not work hard and rest NOW.
So I challenge you to take time off of work. Pick a random day every couple of months and make it a long weekend. Or choose a Wednesday to boost your productivity for Thursday & Friday. Several studies show working four days a week increases productivity. Google it. How often do we take time off work to just sit and do nothing? Exactly.
And if this is still too much, take a smaller step and change your email habits when you leave the office. Last year I turned off ALL email notifications on my phone, and it has been life-changing. I naturally look at my emails, so why did I need an extra buzz to remind me to do something that is already second nature.
This means the phone, computer, gaming console, tablets, smartwatches, and yes, your TV. An entire day can pass us by, and we haven’t left the couch because we are sucked-in to being connected. There is plenty of time to veg out and binge your favorite series, but that shouldn’t be your first choice.
Remember, when you are disconnecting, you are not disconnecting from all of these areas at the same time. You are disconnecting from them at different moments in life. So when you disconnect from the internet, go hang out with your friends or family. When you are taking a break from work, spend some time catching up on the shows you missed. It’s all about balance. But start small. Because when you go BIG on something new, more than likely, you will go home. It takes 21 days to form a new habit.
So what did we do during our disconnected time in the woods?
We played scrabble. Cooked elaborate meals. Read. Took naps. Had dance parties. Talked. Built a campfire and had s’mores. And we made vision boards. I had so many activities for us to do that we ran out of time. We could have used one more day in no man’s land. But it made me realize that there is plenty to do without being connected to everyone and everything.
We returned to our busy lives re-energized and even more ready to tackle the holiday season. It doesn’t take much. Start small. And in the words of everyone’s favorite Auntie, Maxine Waters, reclaim your time this year. Put yourself first. Everyone will thank you later for it.
Happy New Year everyone! Let’s crush this next decade together.