We all need a little extra margin in our lives these days, especially with the ever-infringing advance in technology. What once promised to make our lives easier and more efficient has eaten away our downtime with instantaneous emails, texts and face time.
I used to love email for the simple reason that I could send off an email and know the receiver would only get it Monday-Friday if it was work-related. I didn’t worry about interrupting their weekend with something I knew could be dealt with during the workweek, even if I wanted to write and send it on Saturday morning.
That’s not the case these days. I now have to be aware that the receiver will not only get it as soon as I send it, but they will likely feel compelled to respond. It’s just one example of how technology’s advancement has spoiled the original benefit.
Because of this, we the users are left to draw the line on what we are willing to do and not do in order to make sure we live balanced lives. But drawing a line, or even a mental fence, doesn’t seem to work that well for me; I can still see over the fence to the distractions beyond.
Lately I’ve been working on how to develop an old-fashioned privet hedge around the important things in my life. After all, a privet hedge provides more protection than a fence or boundary; not only is the temptation out of sight with the large green bushes, but the sound is also muffled.
A privet hedge provides a place of sanctuary and safety within its walls; a fence can only divide.
The privet hedge is a living thing. When we pray, we often ask God to place a hedge of protection around us as well as our loved ones. So in a sense, we are inviting God to be our buffer and keep us safe from the outside world. Safe from distractions, temptations and physical dangers.
So how do we develop a privet hedge when it comes to technology? Here are six steps to put you on the right path to your own sanctuary.
- Ask God to help you determine where you need to make changes in your life and what areas need to be guarded. Spend some quiet time in prayer and study to see what he might be telling you.
- Practice observing the Sabbath. This may be Sunday, but if you happen to be in ministry and work that day, it could be another day of the week. Either way, setting aside one day a week that is vastly different from your normal routine gives you time to rest and reflect. Make it a screen-free day, meaning no cell phone, no computer and no television or movies.
- Have a set time of day that you return emails/get on Facebook, etc. If seeing that little red circle in your apps tempts you to open them up, then turn off your notifications. Only allow your mail to come in when you want it to arrive in your inbox. There are ways to control what notifications you get, but you will have to go into each app and make those choices.
- Be aware of the amount of time you spend texting and why. Many of us have developed bad habits of checking our phone every few minutes for no reason other than to see if we have had communication from someone. This is distracting, and if you are in the presence of someone else, it is rude.
- If you are in conversation with someone, be fully present. There is no better way to have someone feel devalued than to constantly check your phone while they are talking to you. This goes for co-workers, friends, spouse and family members.
- Be aware of getting on your computer or phone right before bedtime. Your brain needs time to transition to rest mode and technology can act as a stimulant and disrupt sleep.
There are more ways, but these six are ones I am working on now in order to plant my privet hedge around the important people and priorities in my life. I would love to hear more suggestions, so please post if you have some good ideas.
If you would like a good resource on keeping the Sabbath, I highly recommend Matthew Sleeth’s book, 24/6, available from the usual online providers.
Angela Correll is the author of Grounded.