Creative Independence

How I Manage my Time Online

Sketchbook and pencil on a desk

Raise your hand if you’ve tried to reduce your time online or at least your phone.

I know I have. For the longest time. 

I hated that I couldn’t do it. I hated that I read all these books about how terrible our technology is for our brains. How our brain pathways are being re-programmed. How I can’t function without Google.

Changing any habit is a real challenge. Millions have been made from our lack of willpower, our compulsions. I get angry when I read another article about people disconnecting for a lengthy amount of time. Like they are suddenly more virtuous.

The problem I think is that we treat it as an all-or-nothing situation. We feel that we have to unplug completely to prove we are free. 

The trick is to find a few ways to not give in to the temptation. 

And these ways have to feel good. We need to feel refreshed after taking such breaks. If your attempts at disconnecting create feelings of unease, maybe it’s because of the way we are doing it. Are we following somebody else’s advice?

These are the ways I limit the use of the Internet, so when I do use it, I almost enjoy it. 

These are things that work for me and suggestions only.

I don’t sleep with my phone in the bedroom. 

This wasn’t a hard rule I imposed myself. It just happens that I’m a privacy nerd. And as we become more and more aware of all the ways Big Tech monitors us and blatantly spies on us, I felt particularly creeped out to keep my phone by my bed at all times. When I go to bed, I read. All the devices remain downstairs.

I delete Instagram from my phone from Friday afternoon until Monday.

I spend way too much time on Instagram. It’s pure compulsion.  

I was striving to get results for my business, and Instagram was a big part of this feeling of “must-do”. These days I treat it more like a mini-magazine of my creative projects. I no longer care about metrics. But at one point, I was undoubtedly consumed by them.

Drawing on the iPad during a no-modem sunday

During the weekend, my creative work soars. Sometimes I want to cave in and not delete the app. I want to keep checking and engaging, but I’ve realized how little I miss and how much freedom I regain.

No-modem Sundays.

Since September 2019, my husband and I unplug the modem every Sunday. Breaking free from the Internet makes us incredibly productive in other areas of our lives. We do all the pending bits around the house, we go and take long walks. Some days we do nothing. But every Sunday afternoon, my ritual is the same, a glass of wine, snacks, and experimental creative time. Since September, I’ve had many breakthroughs. I work with pure abandon, no expectations using my materials. I read magazines, books that have been on my to-read list are slowly getting their turn. 

What is most amazing is that it’s not that hard when you physically remove the source of the Internet. Of course, you still have your phone and your data, and you could easily bypass the no-modem day, but would you?

In the beginning, I would put my phone on Airplane mode as well and put it away, but I realized that it wasn’t so wise in case of an emergency. So what we do is just put it out of sight. If someone needs to call us, they can. 

No Social Media apps on my phone.

No Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, no news apps. All these are limited to the computer. I keep Instagram only from Monday to Friday. 

I turn off cellular data for most apps.

Especially Instagram. I know myself. I will be scrolling my 30-minute ride on Public Transport. Instead I edit photos, I read a book or just watch people.

We never have devices at the table when we eat.

I am super strict about that. Even if my husband and I are having a conversation, and we need to check something important, like our calendars. We have to wait until we’re done. Same thing in restaurants. I refuse to be that couple. Each on their phones eating like zombies and not talking to the other person.

And yet…

I still feel I spend so much time online. I jump from site to site, I check Twitter or my Facebook Groups, YouTube, and News Sites several times a day. I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music. My online time still feels out of control at times.

Winter Landscape with footprints

I know If I didn’t have these “rules” for myself, I think I would be truly miserable wondering where the time went. Adding projects, plans, dreams to my never-ending lists but never getting around to doing anything.

Self-Taught Artists, we are vulnerable here.

Since many of us take online classes, look up tutorials and how-tos, it’s particularly essential to curb the intake of online content. We need time to marinate, apply, and experiment with what we learned. Plus, the comparison is particularly cruel in the early stages.

I used to binge-watch classes, just adding to the pile of things I wanted to do in my work. Never posing the question, when will I put this in practice? I felt like I would learn just by watching. 

With these buffer times you think about your work differently. You get quality time for thinking and doing. If you never give yourself a break from consuming content, you can’t put anything into practice. We need this distance to claim our creative independence. That’s all it’s about.

So, you can try some of these tips to reclaim your time online or come up with your own. There is no need to declare what you are going to do. Just do it. Nobody misses us when we don’t show up on the feed for a couple of days. Instead, what we PRODUCE can surprise us and refresh us.

Books and reading

There is no need to go nuclear with social media, it is possible to use it, enjoy it and put it in its place from time to time. 

Do you have rules or tricks to help you step back from the Internet? I’d love to know! Write to me or send me a message on Instagram.

Hand drawing on the ipad