As of a week ago, I have developed two daily habits to reclaim my life from a distracting digital world:
- meditation in the morning, before breakfast
- shutting down my computer at home in the evening two hours before going to bed
The meditation habit is one I have wanted to develop for years now, but had not. Before around 2007, I was meditating every day for a year or two, but then I fell off the practice, and eventually stopped for long periods of time, and then just a year ago, thanks to a weekly meditation practice set up at Carnegie Mellon University, I began attending that (and Abby started meditating for the first time then).
I always felt guilty during the entire past year when noting that I wasn't regularly meditating at home. I knew that “I'm too tired” or “I don't have time” are never valid excuses to avoid doing something one feels one “should” do. Those excuses almost always mean that something has gone wrong with priorities.
The fact is, I was caught up with a huge number of projects, and became more and more unbalanced, especially when I lost the CMU practice for two months since it was no longer happening (thanks to the CMU academic calendar).
Last week, Abby and I decided that we would meditate in the morning before breakfast, and keep it at ten minutes. Who doesn't have ten minutes in a day, especially for something that, for me, gives me benefits that last the entire day? So we've established this new routine.
More on the morning routine
In conjunction with the new meditation routine, I also decided that I would not check email or the Web generally until after meditation, and unless there was an emergency, I would not deal with email until after breakfast.
Also, I have decided to significantly reduce reading the Web (through my blog subscriptions or Twitter feed) in the morning, so that I keep my morning focused. Now I'll check the Web mostly at lunch time.
Evening information diet
Furthermore, I have cut out a good bit of computer time from my evening also, in order to promote better sleep as well as doing other things, such as reading paper (gasp!) books.
This has been a difficult cut, but I have managed so far, and yes, there have been repercussions. I have been doing less blog writing (because that happens on the computer), less Web reading, less tweeting. I have a large backlog of interesting Web articles that I've simply bookmarked without reading, and I have to confess that I'm not happy about this situation.
I have yet to figure out the best balance to achieve in this digital age given my thirst for fresh ideas and information that are so easy to come by online, but I know for sure that I do not want to sacrifice essential calmness, exercise, sleep, and social time for the sake of addictive information overload that in the long run is not as beneficial as one might hope. What do I really need to know about? And how much of it can I apply? And even given that I have received much of value online, what is the opportunity cost of not using the time spent online on pursuits off-line? These are very hard questions for me to answer, so I'm taking my information diet one step at a time.