“Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy”

“Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy”

I came across this TED Talk today and listened to it as I was working, and it really, really resonated with me. This is a topic that’s been constantly on my mind for a few years now.

Let me start this by saying that I truly LOVE love love what I do. I’ve been passionate about design for over 2 decades, and I’m fortunate that after all of these years I’m still doing what I love. Some of the biggest perks about this line of work is that I’m able to do a large portion of my work from home — I don’t even have to change out of my PJs if I don’t want to some days. The hours, for the most part, are flexible and that allows me to work some free time in here and there throughout the day as needed. And that brings me to the biggest perk of all — I was able to be a part-time stay-at-home dad for the last 5 1/2 years and watch my boys grow from newborns all the way up to kindergarteners, not missing a single thing along the way. I realize that not many dads out there get that kind of opportunity, and so I’m even more thankful that I have been fortunate enough to do that.

But along with these phenomenal perks come some downsides, too.

One of the biggest problems with me working as a freelancer is that I don’t feel like I truly have any downtime, ever. And it’s 1000% my fault. When I first started doing this work I was a teenager with not a lot of responsibility, no wife or kids, and I could stay up until 5am designing/coding and then sleep until 2 in the afternoon if I wanted to. So I handled all of my clients’ needs at all hours of the day, and therefore fell into that habit.

As the years have gone on I’ve had to tweak that schedule because I snagged a wife and we had some kids along the way, but I still am I’m pretty much always “on call”. With the added responsibilities and slightly chaotic schedule that comes with kids, it’s kind of gotten to the point where it’s insanely difficult to actually have a mental and/or physical disconnect from my work, and the stress from that can sometimes get kinda heavy. Not to mention, I can’t /really/ get a break from technology because I always have a device of some sort within reach to be “available” for my clients (and we know how attached we can get to our phones if they’re by our sides 24/7).

Over the past couple of years that has really started getting to me more and more. I personally find myself wanting to get away from everything. My brain wants a disconnect, my body is yearning to be out in nature actually enjoying the world around me IN the moment. I find myself increasingly wanting to get away from my phone, my computer, my laptop, and more specifically, away from the internet in general.

All of this is to say that once the kiddos start school and our days aren’t as chaotic, I’m going to enact a strict work schedule that I’m going to force myself to adhere to. And once my “office hours” are over I want to put my work away, completely. No work emails after hours. No communication with clients in any way until the start of the next business day.

And along the way, I’m going to try my best to start limiting MY screen time as well. Without the “need” to have the device next to me, I no longer “need” to be tethered to it for any other reason. Getting that daily disconnect and limiting the amount of time I spend on any device during my “personal time” will definitely help renew and strengthen my passion for my work, strengthen my relationships with family and friends, and it will in turn make me and my mind healthier and happier too.