Digital detox

July 14, 2012

in what else is on my mind

My name is Angela Watson, and I’m an internet addict. That’s not a new revelation or a recent phenomenon–I’ve spent too much time online for years now, and though I’ve long been aware of it, I’ve recently been taking bigger and bigger steps to spend more time away from the computer.

A few months ago, I started observing a day rest of from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown: no computer use at all (though I will read on my iPad sometimes) and even thoughts about anything work related are off-limits. This day of rest has been transformative for me and from the first time I tried it, I knew it would become a lifelong habit. I love knowing that there are 24 hours each week in which I can rest my mind and feed my soul without feeling guilt or that vague nagging sense that I should be doing something productive.

The benefits of rest had already been swirling around in my mind when it came time for my husband and I to take our annual vacation to celebrate our anniversary. I considered scheduling out my Facebook and Twitter posts in advance and lining up guest bloggers to post for me. But in the end, I decided not to. Am I really so important that you all can’t live without my posts for 2 or 3 weeks? Will I lose all of my followers, stop selling books, and plunge into complete obscurity because I dared to turn off the computer for part of June and July?  No. At least, I hoped not.

I left my blog, social media profiles, and (gasp!) email mostly unattended since June 27 and began resuming everything slooowly this week. And the world did not come crashing down. My web hits and book sales were still steady. No one hacked my Facebook page. Spammers didn’t destroy my comment section. The world continued to turn without me, and that is a really, really good feeling. A relief, really, to know that I can step away and take some time for myself without having an enormous amount of mess to clean up when I return.

These past few weeks, I was someplace where it’s nearly impossible not to gain a more healthy perspective of one’s self: Alaska. Following the ISTE conference in San Diego, I flew up to Vancouver to meet my husband, and we took a one way cruise from there up the inside passage of Alaska. We then rented a car and explored the Alaskan interior.

Alaska is getting about 18 hours of daylight this time of year and we really packed it in from sun up to sun down. Our days were spent ziplining, rappelling, horseback riding, hiking, glacier climbing, riding in sea planes (which take off and land in water), jet boats, trains, seeing museums, parades, lots of native heritage demonstrations and exhibits, long drives in the mountains, and eating fresh salmon daily. I took over 1200 photos and have just started going through them all, but I wanted to share a few images to give you an idea of how beautiful Alaska really is.

My plan was to get right back in the swing of things in preparation for launching my new book on the 15th (which, wow, I’m realizing is now TOMORROW.) But it’s summertime. You all are enjoying your break from school. Hopefully you’re sleeping in sometimes, spending time with your family, eating some good meals, and getting to relax. There’s no rush to pull you back into the world of school and work right this second.

So this past week, I decided to enjoy a few more days away from the computer. I went to visit a friend who had a baby while I was gone, had lunch with two other friends I rarely get to see, and had dinner with yet another friend and her family before they leave the country for a few weeks. Then my aunt came in to visit me from Virginia and I spent some time just talking with her and catching. It was really nice to focus on my “real life” relationships without the distraction of constantly checking my phone or hopping on the computer whenever I had a spare moment.

I love helping teachers and I’m passionate about my work–if I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do so much. But I know that taking a break is a good thing. I hope you’re getting to enjoy one, too.

How is your summer going? What are you doing to relax and rejuvenate yourself before the new school year begins?

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Angela was a classroom teacher for 11 years and currently works as an instructional coach and educational consultant based in New York City. She's created a webinar series on pro-active behavior management and has written 3 books for educators. Check out the blog and free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel Friedrich July 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm

What a gorgeous place!!!!! I am so glad you took some detox time. My turn is coming soon.

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2 Angela Watson July 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Thanks, Rachel! Glad to hear you are also getting some time to rest and have fun!

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3 Jenny July 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I am so glad to see pictures from your trip! It looks like it was fabulous. I’m quite jealous of you and your husband and all the amazing things you managed to do during your vacation.

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4 Angela Watson July 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Thanks, Jenny! We plan and save up for this annual vacation all year long. I am a huge bargain hunter and always manage to find deals. We had the Alaska Toursaver book so we got to do all those different excursions at a buy-one-get-one-free rate! :-)

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5 April Brown July 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm

The pictures are amazing. I can’t wait to go in three weeks on the same trip. I am told this is an amazing vouyage that everyone should take at least once in their life time. Mine is coming up quickly.

What a great idea to unplug for a 24 hour period. I’m just trying for about a 3 or 4 hour stretch. I’ll work towards the 24 hour period. Thanks for the beautiful photos and I can’t to see the Alaskan and Canadian coast line in person.

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6 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

April, that’s awesome! You’re going to LOVE Alaska! Enjoy! If that place doesn’t get you to want to unplug, no place will. :-)

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7 Rebecca July 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Totally beautiful! I like the idea of a 24 hour tech free zone. Might have to try that one. Have you ever tried the app Self Control?

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8 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

Thanks, Rebecca! I will check that app out!

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9 Asiyah July 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

What a great post. I have a quilting blog that I have all but abandoned because, hey! it’s summer. Anyway, I just passed my Praxis II exam and, while I’m hopeful that I will become a teacher soon, it’s more likely that I’ll return to the doldrums of corporate work albeit temporarily. (sigh)

Congrats on your book!

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10 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

Thank you, Asiyah! Congrats on passing the Praxis and all the best to you in finding a job!

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11 Sunny July 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Great pictures! I hate being cold but WOW, those gorgeous pics might allow me to tolerate it just a little :)

I’m with you. Sometimes I get annoyed when bloggers think they need to have “guest bloggers” if they are gone every single day. Not that I don’t appreciate the things they share with us on the internet but no one is so important that we can’t go without them while they ENJOY A VACATION! I have learned, big time, to step back and take care of myself. I am not quite perfect at that “day of rest” yet but I am trying because not only do I need it, but my kids need it too. They need to be able to see their mom!

My summer has been non-existent. I am teaching summer school (which I will never, ever do again!) so I haven’t had much down time. I also just published a book this summer and working on everything that goes with that has left me more tired than I would like to be. Only 8 days of summer school are left though and then I have 3 weeks of bliss until I have to prepare to go back to school :)

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12 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

Hey, there, Sunny! You know, it wasn’t actually that cold, except when we were near the glaciers. In fact, in Anchorage, it was around 70 degrees!

Congrats on publishing your book–that takes a lot of guts to share you story, and I know a lot of people will be touched by it!

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13 Joan Young July 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Angela,
All I can say is “wow!” Your pictures are breathtaking and your face is glowing in every single one of them. I am about to leave for a trip to Hawaii to see a good friend get married. I will definitely be unplugging..and your post gives me an even greater impetus to do so. I know that I am addicted and I really need to consider a 24 hr free zone like you have. During the school year, though, I do manage to disconnect from the compulsive checking of email, social media when I am with my students so it’s better then.
In any case, thank you for inspiring us and for sharing the amazing pictures. I hope to see you again soon!

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14 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

Thanks, Joan! Your Hawaii pics are also a WOW! I decided to write more about the 24 hour free zone here: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2012/07/connectivity-addition-taking-a-weekly-day-of-rest.html. Hope that’s helpful to you. :-) Safe travels!

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15 Mary Alise July 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I agree with all the previous posters about your photos and the pure look of enjoyment on your face, but am even more greatly intrigued with your 24-hour technology rest period. I often use the weekend to “catch-up” but think there needs to be a better way! Congrats on your accomplishment!

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16 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:22 am

Hi, Mary Alise! Sorry for the late reply, bit I wanted to actually have some info to give you before I responded. I wrote about the 24 hour tech rest here: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2012/07/connectivity-addition-taking-a-weekly-day-of-rest.html. :-)

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17 Elisa Waingort July 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Hi Angela,
Thank you for writing this post. I, too, feel way too connected to the internet and am trying to find ways to get away for a while. I used to check my email on my phone at stop lights but now I’ve decided there is something seriously wrong with not being able to drive from one place to another without the need to check email! So, I’ve stopped. I like your weekly 24-hour moratorium. I might just steal that idea! And, I am taking the leap and unsubscribing from any blogs that just don’t do anything for me except to clog up my inbox. Not to disparage anyone out there but I need to be picky about what I log into or else my whole life gets consumed with catching up on other people’s blog posts. I need some time to produce, as well. BTW, the pictures of Alaska are beautiful. Sounds like a well-deserved trip!

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18 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:24 am

Hi, Elisa! I totally do the checking email at stoplights thing. It started because I thought I was multi-tasking. Then I realized it’s a better use of time to not constantly overload myself with information and to just sit still and listen to the radio for 90 seconds. What a revolutionary concept! Hah! I wrote more about the moratorium here: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2012/07/connectivity-addition-taking-a-weekly-day-of-rest.html.

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19 Terry July 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

Wow! Alaska is so beautiful! Were you having to layer up all day long? Or did you end up peeling layers as the day progressed? I am so glad you wrote this post. My family has been encouraging me to get a “smartphone” (whatever-my phone is not dumb!) so that I can get on the internet, FB, pinterest, email…..and the list continues. I refuse to do it!! Everywhere we go my husband is constantly checking his connections. I chose to be in “the moment” and am encouraging him to do so. 24 hour moratorium might just be the next step!!!

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20 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

Hi, Terry! It was actually pretty warm there (50s and 60s, even 70s in Anchorage), but near the glaciers, it was COLD at times! Good for you, choosing to be in the moment! I am so working toward that kind of mindfulness…

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21 Rhoda July 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm

This is so inspiring! (And what a great trip you’ve been on!) I’ve done my part to close my laptop when I’m watching tv or a movie with my husband. That’s been refreshing, so I can only bet going on a complete detox would be fabulous! Thanks for sharing this with us readers–it opens my eyes a bit!

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22 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:27 am

It’s so great to hear from other people who are taking baby steps, Rhoda! For me, too, closing the laptop while watching a movie is a big step, especially when my husband says stuff like “Hey, who’s that actress? Can you Google it?” and I want to take the computer right back out again…and then check email…and then…and then…arrgh! Here are some more details about the 24 hour detox: http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2012/07/connectivity-addition-taking-a-weekly-day-of-rest.html.

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23 Shibahn Landry July 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm

You sure do deserve a break without having to worry about cyberspace! Alaska looks like it was amazing and I know you treasured that tme with your husband. I got to spend several days in San Antonio with mine and treasured it. I’m new to the blogging world and I’m already seeing how I’ll have really plan out my time even more. Thanks for all your hard work for us teachers!

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24 Angela Watson July 23, 2012 at 10:28 am

Hi, Shibahn! Your blog is off to a really nice start! You’ve got some great content there. Looking forward to seeing your classroom when it’s done! Cool!

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25 Miriam July 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Angela,

So much about this post speaks to me and jogs my memory. Did you know I used to teach in a bush village in Alaska? The craziest and most amazing experience of my professional life! It certainly continues to inform my teaching, and I still think about going back.

I love the pix of hiking on glaciers. I just found out that a glacier I hiked in Alaska in 2004 is now completely gone. I can’t believe it. Thanks for sharing the experience. I so identify with the difficulty of relaxing. I’ve also read your sabbath post, and I try to take a weekly computer sabbath. I love the idea of Fri./Sat.

Your so in my thoughts!

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26 Angela Watson July 31, 2012 at 10:19 am

Miriam, I had no idea! That is soooo cool! You should write about those experiences in Alaska sometime!

Thanks for the kind words and encouragement!

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27 Miriam July 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Oops–sorry about the grammar–you’re so much in my thoughts!

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