Until recently, I wasn’t someone who had long term plans. Resolutions? Forget about it. However, some time in early 2011 I stumbled upon a MiGoals diary on the sales rack at Metropolis Books. Encouraged by my bookshop buddy, I spent the rest of my holiday in Melbourne drinking good coffee and thinking about all the wonderful things I was going to do in 2011, and “what my life would look like in 5 years”.
It’s been two and a half years since then and I haven’t gone back to look at those first goals, but I can assure you that I don’t live in a house where you can see the water, and my grasp of the French language is limited to restaurant orders and the occasional Arcade Fire lyric. Still, it pays to think about what you want to do with your limited time, and I found that just by writing some things down that one time, so many wonderful things have happened. Planned and unplanned.
Technology has been a big part of these wonderful things. Blogs, websites, smartphones have quite literally changed my life romantically, economically and personally. I used to joke that The Internet was in my Top 5 of all time along with music, food and sex (I can’t remember what else was on that list). Yet recently I’ve noticed that my time online has been affecting me. So much so that I wrote down a goal that a 32 year old man should be able to manage without having to make it explicit. My goal is this:
To use technology more consciously.
In order to do this, I’ve decided on the following rules.
1. Wear a watch
Despite being a timeless (geddit?) fashion accessory, it means you don’t have to keep digging into your pocket or bag to check the time. Plus, you can look totally boss like Leonardo, punching the clock.
2. Never more than one person on their phone at a time.
There should be no judgement, people love this one. You may be doing it now. But, sometimes during the course of a meal or a drink you will want to check the weather tomorrow, get back to a text from a colleague or find the answer to a question that comes up during a conversation. It’s so cool having a supercomputer in your pocket that can answer anything in the world. But, I’ve always felt uncomfortable being on my phone at the same time as someone else. In fact, I’m trying to completely avoid it.
3. Keep phones and computers in one place.
How much fun is it to watch TV in bed? Especially when it’s a show that you can bingewatch in one sitting or catch up on as soon as it comes out in the US/UK? It’s fantastic.
However, I’ve found that often the morning after watching the latest Homeland or Game of Thrones episode, I pick up my computer from the side table and check in on a bit of Facebook/Twitter/email. Having the phone by the bed as an alarm is the same deal! I often check Instagram before checking to see if my girlfriend is awake. That’s a problem.
As a result I’ve decided to have territories for my computer and phone. The mobile is to stay in my backpack or at the front of the house where my keys are. I’ll be able to get my messages or answer the phone, as it will make noises. As for the computer, it will be shut down and in the study, and taken out when I actually have something to do on it.
4. Enjoy boredom.
There has been some great writing on boredom recently. The link between having nothing to distract you and divergent thinking is something that I think people inherently know. Whether my best thinking gets done in the the bath or shower, on the train to work or waiting for someone, I’ve decided to let myself have these times to let my mind wander. I’ve also just started sketching. They’re pretty bad but I’m getting better.
5. Write more letters.
How good is nice stationery? It’s in any half-decent independent bookshop because we must need it, or at least fetishise a time when correspondence was romantic and not simply functional. This year I’m going to ask my friends for their addresses and they’re going to get some handwritten notes. Even if it’s just a postcard.
6. Stationary use of my phone.
London’s Brick Lane used to have padded lamposts and I was never sure if it was an art installation or a public service. Either way, walking and phones ain’t happening this year.
7. Have a purpose online.
I mentioned this before but often I find that I go down the rabbit hole of the internet. Recently, I was in the United States and laughed at walking into a supermarket, and on more that one occasion coming out with six really wonderful things that I had no intention of buying, leaving without the soap, toothpaste, or whatever I’d planned on getting in the first place. The internet is like the world’s biggest supermarket, designed to distract and attract with the milk right at the back of the store. And you don’t even have to buy anything to get lost! Of course, you could always use Freedom.
In no way do I expect to stick to these rules everyday or even consistently, but I hope that just by thinking about it, it’ll be positive habit building.
What about you? Are you able to separate your online/offline lives?
Geoff Orton is a teacher, founder of Writers Bloc and Co-ordinator of the Younger Young Writers’ program at the National Young Writers’ Festival. He’s also a tragic Boston Celtics fan.