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This blog post really should have a much longer title:

“How working from home as a recovering workaholic who recently earned her PhD and left academia to develop her coaching business and write books full-time during the pandemic forced me to finally set boundaries around my technology use OR ELSE.”

What’s the ominous “or else”?

Unbridled access to my phone and my laptop means a lack of boundaries around how often and how long I work, not to mention blurring the lines between “work” and “not work.”

I’ve written about how my experience with recovery from alcoholism is similar to my experience with workaholism. Once I start, it’s hard to stop. I chose to stop drinking entirely so that I could save myself from the hellish and actually unrealistic experience of moderating how much I drank. But I can’t simply choose not to work, and in the process of developing my business, the siren call of a scarcity mindset means sometimes I feel pressure to work MORE and MORE.

When it comes limiting my work, I choose to set strict boundaries that are rooted in my values and in my personal non-work goals. My PhD program had built-in deadlines and assignments, so I could dole out my labor across a day or a week or a month, take breaks, and be sure I’d finish on time, if not early. I knew when to pat myself on the back because I knew what a “job well done” looked like. But now that the world is my small business oyster, I am striving to set intentional boundaries around when and how much I work… which looks like drawing a hard line for my tech use.

So what are the new boundaries?

  • No checking email between 5pm and 9am.
  • No checking social media between 5pm and 9am.
  • Download Instagram a couple times a day to see what’s new, then delete it after ~10 minutes of scrolling.
  • Delete the Instagram app from my phone after I post so I don’t repeately check the stats of likes/follows/etc.
  • Charge my phone in my office and use an old school alarm clock.
  • Don’t check my phone between waking and 9am.
  • Experiment with a paper to-do list and calendar so that I pick up my phone less.

Why those ones now?

In addition to intentionally setting boundaries around my work, I was craving more non-tech presence. I recently completed Jen Carrington’s Homecoming guide, which prompted me to reflect on what I want my life and my work to look like. It was hard to miss the ways my values of connection, presence, and slowness showed up in my answers.

My excessive and addictive tech use is an impediment to the proliferation of those values in my life. I decided to act, because:

  • No one else is going to put down my phone for me when I talk to my Sweetie so I can truly be present and savor our connection.
  • No one else is going to stop me from answering one more email before I go to sleep.
  • No one else is going to prompt me to practice yoga, play with paints, try that new recipe, all for fun, instead of falling in a phone hole.

What am I doing with my newfound time?

I have so much more free time now that I have strict boundaries around when I work and how I use my tech devices. I’ve used this time to do some productive tasks at home, like baking, cooking, dishes, and tidying, but I’ve also been leaning into creating, resting, and playing. Here’s some ways I’ve been spending my time…

  • playing Animal Crossing
  • painting with watercolors
  • reading
  • doing yoga
  • reading my Sherlock Holmes letters that my pal Allison signed me up for as a gift
  • going for walks
  • sitting around being deliciously bored
  • standing at the back door and watching the squirrels eat their treats
  • playing We’re Not Really Strangers with my Sweetie
  • sleeping more and feeling great because of it
  • taking baths
  • meditating
  • breathing exercises
  • daydreaming

While this tech boundaries experiment may not last forever, and while I’m still figuring out what tech use on the weekends should look like, it feels perfectly right for the season I’m in right now. 

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