April resolution wrap up and an introduction of May’s resolution

The first three months of 2011 were extremely hectic, and in response I decided to declare April as a Super Simple Month. This was the right choice for me, and I embraced the austerity that came from this decision. I re-read a few of my favorite books, I spent as much time with my family as I could, I refrained from making any non-essential purchases, I was in bed before 10:00 most nights, and I declined many invitations that would have added stress to my schedule.

As much as I would love to keep a Super Simple Year, I know it isn’t the right choice for me. I like to travel, I enjoy having a more robust social life than I did in April, and there are new book titles calling to me from my Kindle. I’m not planning to jump back into a hectic lifestyle in May, however. There are many wonderful lessons learned from April’s Super Simple Month that I will continue to carry forward with me. Instead of simple, I’m aiming for calm for the remainder of the year.

For May, my public resolution is to be more mindful and deliberate about my media intake. I’m not against television, magazines, newspapers, or the internet (obviously), I think they are wonderful forms of entertainment, education, and information distribution. I’ve simply realized that it is more difficult for me to disconnect from media now than it once was, and this doesn’t sit well with me. I have a constant desire to continually be “plugged in,” and I want to be more conscientious about how and when I am.

I haven’t fully figured out my plan for cutting back on my media intake, but there are a few steps I know I will follow or continue to follow:

  1. Except for major breaking news, do not watch television programs when they are initially broadcast.
  2. Record programs of interest on the DVR and view no more than an hour of television each week day, two hours of television on Saturdays, and no television on Sundays.
  3. Set a timer for 10 minutes whenever I am at the computer or using applications on my smart phone for reasons other than work. This includes personal email, checking social media sites, and general roaming around the web. (This does not include phone calls.)
  4. Do not sit at the computer or use applications on my smart phone for reasons other than work for more than 30 minutes total in a day.
  5. Unsubscribe from all magazines I’m not reading cover-to-cover during the month printed on their covers.

Do you limit your media intake? What guidelines do you have set for these activities? I’m interested in learning what you do and why you have made your decisions. Share your strategies in the comments.

Erin’s 2011 monthly resolutions: January, February, March, and April.

25 Comments for “April resolution wrap up and an introduction of May’s resolution”

  1. posted by Katha on

    For me the freeware application “LeechBlock” has been a godsend on my home computer. (I think I heard about it on this site).
    I have set it to block almost all sites (except for my online banking application and PayPal, to not be caught out cold in the middle of a huge transaction) after half past nine each night, and after no more than, I think, about 70 minutes each day, less on Sunday.

  2. posted by Natalie @ Scarlett Notions on

    I don’t allow myself to stay up past my “bedtime” just to watch TV (thank goodness for Hulu and DVR). I put my iPhone several feet away from the bed so I can’t reach it. I put all electronics on silent by 9:30PM!

  3. posted by Susan in FL on

    We do not have cell phones, broadband internet, or cable tv. We do not subscribe to any magazines or newspapers. No Facebook. No Twitter. No streaming video. Sometime during the night of May 1 President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden. We found out about it around 11:00 AM on May 2 when I connected to the internet. We slept right through it all. We do not feel at all deprived.

  4. posted by Ashley Terry on

    We actually got rid of TV all together in our house a few years ago. We have never missed it and it has been amazing! We download (or you can watch online) the TV shows we love…but it is done on our schedule and not according to the TV schedule. Not having cable eliminates the mindless TV watching that inevitably happens when you are bored.

    We also have a no iPhones in bed rule (unless listening to audiobooks) and we try to read real books instead of ebooks to keep things simple and less interrupted than reading on a computer or phone (not sure that this a problem for kindle).

    Finally, I recently changed how I get notifications on Facebook and Twitter so that I have to actually go to the site to see the activity instead of being interrupted by social networking while I am preparing for my boards (I am currently in medical school and I love distractions from studying — hence the need to decrease them :))

    Hope these ideas help! Also, maybe you could have a regular “power down” or “off the grid” day where you are not connected at all? We have done that before and it is very refreshing — turn phones and computers off (unless of course you have kids that may need to contact you) and no TV either…just good ol’ fashioned non-digital fun!

  5. posted by Tricia on

    To control my media intake, I recently took a “thought vacation”. I figured that my brain was full from all the tips and information I had been reading and since there was no life altering changes or plans in the works that I didn’t already know about for the next few days, I could afford to take a vacation from it all. I marked all items as read in my reader, I abstained from most of the media I usually partake and I attempted to push deep thoughts from my mind, telling myself that it would all be waiting for me on Monday. It was very relaxing and eye opening, and much more convenient than a real vacation – I usually unplug to go on vacation, so why not unplug without going anywhere?

    For TV, I choose 1 favorite show (if you are a big TV watcher you could choose 2) per season and then only watch it if I am available when it’s on. Having a backlog of TV shows saved seems stressful to me, there would be a subconscious pull as if I had to make time to watch.

  6. posted by Nana on

    The mention of an “off the grid” day reminded me of what Orthodox Jews do…no electricity use on Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). Some people say that “the Jews have saved the Sabbath” — others say that “Sabbath has saved the Jews”

  7. posted by ecuadoriana on

    @ Ashley Terry- your “off the grid” day is an excellent exercise! I try to do that once a week. It is very refreshing!

    @ Tricia- Love the “thought vacation” concept!! Awesome! I know what you mean about information overload- sometimes I feel like my brain will explode if I read one more tip on the “fabulous miracle uses for vinegar”!

    I don’t even own a television! Haven’t had one in over 30 years. No one can believe it. I am constantly asked (in shocked disbelief): “What do you DO at night???” Hmmm… can’t answer that. It’s between me & my honey! But seriously, I never could get on board with the idea of watching other people being paid a ton of money to act like they are having a wonderful life in a cardboard studio when I can just go out & live a wonderful life for myself! Oh, and if one more person tells me “But you can watch the Nature Channel, it’s so educational” I will scream loader than the antelopes being taken down by the lions! I KNOW that polar bears eat seals and animals mate- but I don’t want anyone watching ME eat or mate (unless it’s the one I’m sharing my table & bed with!!!). My experience of watching the marital dissolution of family & friends over the years has led me to surmise that there is a correlation between how much television some one watches & how little real intimate time is being spent with our loved ones. People seem to know more about the lives of celebrities and the plots of tv shows than they know about the people they are sharing their homes with. Classic example are my girl friends who could rattle off the unbelievably complicated lives of characters on tv shows- along with who’s sleeping with who and which character’s kid is on drugs, and yet they are in shock when they discover their own spouses have been cheating on them & their own kids are on drugs- right under their noses!!!

    Okay, stepping down from the soap box…

    Like Erin, I set monthly goals (which of course are broken down by the week & day). Met most of the goals for April- a bad lung & kidney infection at the beginning of the month set me off course a bit so when I got my strength back I focused on the most important goals & decided to leave the little ones for May. Also, by being forced to put things off, I saw that some of the smaller goals I had set (and not met) weren’t really all that important- my life didn’t crash & burn by not getting them done. Good lesson for re-setting priorities. I can see that a lot of the little goals are really just filler.

    I hope everyone enjoys the month of May!

  8. posted by Zac on

    I haven’t owned a TV in over 12 years. That is about to change as I am moving into my GF’s place and they have TV/cable etc. Still, it isn’t my natural instinct to turn on the boob tube. I am curious to see if my behavior changes. I generally find TV programming horrifying (although I DO love to watch football & boxing). I will be mindful of it this month as well.

    I get most of my internet surfing done during the day, off and on, at the office. I go through my regular list of sites, read the news and by the time I get home, I don’t want to check into the web at all and I only read magazines when I fly or go to a day spa.

    The iPhone is a bigger challenge. Its rare that I don’t check facebook, twitter, words-with-friends and a few other apps when I have down time. Perhaps it is only because I havent had the phone that long (I gave up smart phones a couple of years ago and recently caved in). I will have to examine that usage this month.

  9. posted by Emily on

    I’m seconding Katha’s recommendation of Leechblock. I’m still tinkering around with my settings, but I’ve got it down to a pretty good level. I’ve got 8 sites I’ve found I spend 90% of my internet time on – they can be a big time suck if I don’t pay attention. The leech block is set so I can spend no more than 25 minutes of every half hour on them. This gives me a good ‘screen time’ break plus a jolt back to reality if needed – in the 5 minute lockout I often find something more important I should be doing.

    Additionally, I added a setting that limits me to 60 minutes total per 6 hours on the days where I am home during the day. I figure if I can get by without them when I’m at work, I don’t need to be on constantly at home either.

    It’s really been a huge time management help, I found after a few months I rarely get to the lockout point as I have adapted to the new routine.

  10. posted by Pamela on

    For calm, I don’t watch the news. I get major news info from twitter then go to a major online paper like nytimes for more info. So much calmer without all the who shot whom stuff.

    Also, got netflix. I can watch interesting stuff without the jangle my nerves commercials.

    I’m single so twitter is my “family” time. I keep up with it throughout the evening and is fun to comment on with folks. Especially if some of us watch the same thing, for those occasions I do watch regular tv.

    I read real books when I go to bed so I’m forced to put the phone down. haha.

  11. posted by laura m. on

    Everyone should shut their phones off by 9pm (unless it pertains to their job or they’re on call) and turn them on in the morning and let the answering machine do the work. Saturday eve 9pm phones stay off until Mon. morning. Cell phone is pre paid only for emergencies or travelling. Cable TV I try to watch educational (History, Nat Geo. etc) We are retired and use the internet but no social websites like twitter or facebook;and very little email. We quit magazines years ago.

  12. posted by Pammyfay on

    A question for Susan in FL:

    With all of the media avenues you’ve said you’ve “turned off” in one way or another, do you have regular, basic local stations TV? Are you a radio person–NPR, maybe? Do you look at NY Times or other online newspapers or magazines when you’re online?

    I’m just interested in knowing how you make your decisions when you vote in elections, esp local races? Where do you get your information from?

    There are so many forces reaching for a piece of our time and attention. What specifically is your recipe?

    I didn’t know about bin Laden until about the same time you did–and I don’t feel deprived at not knowing earlier, either. No Twitter for me, no Facebook for me. I just don’t need to know friends’ or others’ business 24/7 (like “in line to get a great cheeseburger!”– wow, really? well, for some people, if it works for them, whatever…)

    And I am in love with Tivo. It means I have a lot more time to go play with the dog or read, and then I can set aside other time late at night when she’s sleeping to watch the shows I’ve saved. (Truthfully, I could spend time just watching her sleep–so cute. I can’t imagine having both a pup and children!)

  13. posted by Emilie on

    I don’t subscribe to magazines or newspapers. Honestly, I get a lot of news from my better-informed Facebook friends.

    One thing that has helped me (and my insomnia) is staying away from the TV and computer starting 1.5 hours before I’m going to bed. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.

  14. posted by April on

    I have no magazine/newspaper subscriptions, we rarely watch TV (less than once a month), no Twitter, no smart phone, and my husband has configured our router to block my computer’s Internet access during the daytime hours I’m home to help me not waste time (otherwise I’d be on Google Reader and Facebook all day). So, basically, I’m only “plugged in” during the evening hours, and that’s just the Internet.

  15. posted by Martin P on

    I go through media fasts occasionally because much of what is out there is mindless and numbing. Commercial radio lost me a while back and TV really holds no interest except for local news. I dont have a smart phone but do have an ipod touch and use it at night to listen to Pandora, a podcast, or Moody Radio. I dont want to be tied to electronics so I don’t do social media. We had to explain to our teenage daughter that electronic formats don’t encourage real “relationships” just quick fixes for some people to bounce in and out of the lives of others as they choose. I read a lot and occasionally get into the internet on sites like this or DrudgeReport. As far as cable is concerned, I like to watch movies on Netflix and get irritated the few times I’ve sat down to try to watch a show on tv and get 3 min of that and 10 of commercials. My time is more valuable. My suggestion – Turn off the TV and smartphones, eat dinner around the table TOGETHER, talk, laugh, and realize the important people are those around that table with you, not out in cyberworld or some fake ding dong sitting in NYC telling you how you should live your life. Like Nancy Reagan said “Just say, NO”.

  16. posted by Renee on

    This Leechblock program sounds wonderful. I will have to check into that.

    My downfall was to waste time researching all the actors and actresses in a good movie I just saw. Realized this past month that is a waste of time. No matter how noble the character was in the movie they were in, their personal life is almost always disappointing. I would always feel sad, so I just determined not to do this anymore.

    For TV: We went about 12 years with no TV at all when our children were young. (1986-1998) We used to rent a TV for the Olympics. Ha. We think this was one of our best child-raising decisions. Our daughters are so amazing and there are many reasons for that, but one is that they had no TV as children. Now we have a TV, but we do not have cable. We can get Retro TV and 4 PBS stations plus the major networks. I limit TV to 2 hours a week. We do not watch the news. However, I admit I did watch about 10 hours of Royal Wedding coverage. 🙂

    I do not subscribe to newspapers and only to one magazine.

    I try to limit facebook and personal email to 30 minutes a day.

    My “normal” plan is to work on my list of things to do until 8 p.m. then stop and have a piece of chocolate, read 20-30 pages, then spend time with my husband. Nice and relaxing evening.

    I must admit I usually don’t know where my cell phone is and miss half my calls. Let’s see – is it in the laundry room?? My close friends know to email or call on the land line.

  17. posted by Susan in FL on

    @Pammyfay. My Hubby and I get local tv thru the air via an antenna on the roof. We buy the local Sunday paper when we are in town shopping. We use the public library a lot. Candidates for public office send lots of mail to folks registered to vote. Candidates and the League of Women Voters have web sites (I have dial-up) and they also host meetings at which the candidates speak. We generally choose to vote for the folks who most closely mirror our own agenda and opinions.

  18. posted by Caroline D on

    I know I watch too much TV. I depend on the DVR,and get a lot of satisfaction from deleting something I’ve just watched and seeing the percentage of available recording space go up. At the same time, it does exert subtle pressure on me to get the watching done, rather than do something more productive. Consequently I often fall asleep watching, then revive and rewind, sometimes several times (took me 3 hours to watch last week’s 1 1/2 hour episode of “Glee” last night). I typically go to sleep at 1 or 2 am because of this bad habit, so I’m chronically under-sleeping (6 hours/night tops). But I can’t help it – especially during sweeps, there’s just too much I want to see. (Not to mention I’m also a big reader so do put down the remote if there’s a good book I want to get through – which causes even more DVR back-up!)

  19. posted by priest's wife on

    We don’t have tv- but husband and I watch too many movies- and I am online too much—I need to copy you, erin!

  20. posted by Barbi Walker on

    Thanks Erin for this post. It is timely for me for two reasons.

    1) I have been contemplating the same thing about my over-connected life.

    2) Like you, I am a journalist, and I am currently researching a story on this exact topic so I am happy to know this is one of universal interest.

    I’ll be using a similar set of rules for myself, including unsubscribing from all nonessential emails or ones of true interest.

    Best of luck and happy un-plugging.


    Best of luck,

  21. posted by Karen Hagee on

    I have no Internet cell phone, cable TV, or Blackberry. I try to limit my computer time to 90 minutes per day, 30 minutes on Sunday.
    I have a history of impulse shopping, though. If I am shopping on-line I will put my items in a “Wish List” to look at later. If I am shopping in a brick-and-mortar store I must take a list and stick to it.

  22. posted by Claudia Field on

    If you haven’t already unsubscribed to your paper magazines, please consider donating instead until the subscriptions run out. I subscribed to about 6 magazines while working, and just skimmed them or failed to read them at all. I then donated them to my nearby senior center and noticed that all of them found homes immediately. Now I do it with all my magazines, including the one I continue to renew. My life is much simpler and others are enjoying the stories and articles.

  23. posted by katrina on

    I’m using a computer for 8 hours at work, so I only use it at home for a few hours on the weekend. My friends are used to me not reading personal emails until the weekend and know that snail mail or a phone call are faster.

    To avoid overloading myself, and because I’m not interested in it, I’ve avoided twitter, facebook, live chatting, and iphones. My mobile/cell phone is deliberately the most basic one I could find and has no internet connection and no screen.

    At work I read the newspaper at lunchtime and listen to the radio news and political analysis in the car on the way to and from work.

    TV is a few shows I really like, recorded and watched on a night that suits me.

    I gave up reading magazines over a decade ago

  24. posted by Susan on

    I like your idea of mags cover to cover in the month on the COVER! One thing you have not touched on and that comes into play for me is: There are days or times of the day when my brain is not absorbing new content or involved thoughts…. but I still like to “be entertained” so I have different levels of reading, etc.

    Fact is many of the things we use to read have been dumbed down….. I really don’t think it is because I have become more brillant….. and to be mindful of that and eleminate them, ugh…

  25. posted by Jenna on

    We canceled cable (including the DVR service) about a year ago and now only have local channels, plus a few extras. I used to watch several shows regularly (thanks to the DVR), but once I lost that luxury, I found I didn’t enough about the shows to schedule time to watch them live. Aside from Jeopardy and the occasional PBS program, we don’t watch much TV. I get my news from NPR during my commute and don’t feel the need to check the news any other time.

    One of the big things I’ve done recently was pare down my email newsletter subscriptions. I unsubscribed to things I never read. For the rest, like store coupons I wanted to keep receiving but didn’t really need to see everyday, I set up filters so that it goes directly into the appropriate folder, bypassing my inbox. The emails are there when I need to do some shopping, but I’m not having to read and organize all of them as they come in. Plus, it minimizes the temptation to shop a sale when you don’t really need to be shopping! This is still a work in progress, but what I’ve done so far has made a huge difference already.

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