Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It’s Not Just for Sunday anymore…

Written by Stephen

Forgive me, for I have sinned.  I am, in fact, writing my “Unplugged Sunday” post on…Sunday.  The irony is as thick as oatmeal around my house today.

In an ideal world, I would love to completely unplug every Sunday, and then write (on Tuesday!) sharp, poetic prose about how I used this time to connect with god, my kids, and nature.  But my life is busy and it doesn’t always conform to an ideal schedule.
So, what to do?  Despair?  Give up the diet because I gorged on ice cream one night?  Get fitted for a hair-shirt and gear up for some serious repentance?   I think not.
I have a smart friend who told me a long, long time ago “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Admittedly, when he said it, and for some years afterward, I had no idea what he was talking about.  But it is a phrase and an idea that has stuck with me, and grown on me, over time.  
I think for most of us perfect is rare.  And in many ways, that striving for perfection can create its own negative momentum—if things aren’t perfect, if I don’t do it perfectly, I have somehow failed, or it’s not worth doing.  That is no longer true for me.  
Honestly evaluated, I don’t do anything perfectly.  I am not a perfect parent.  Not a perfect writer.  Certainly not a perfect husband.  I fall sometimes when I ski.  I’ve burned toast.  Well, you get the idea…
So here’s what I do.  I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  I try to unplug on Sundays, but if it doesn’t work out, I unplug for part of the day.  In a bit, when I’m done writing and answering some business email, I am going outside to shovel snow and play with the kids.  I’m going to the gym and we’re going to cook dinner and make chocolate chip cookies.  Truthfully, because of some looming deadlines, I might have to work later tonight.  So if all goes well, I will have unplugged for about six to eight hours this Sunday, and that’s okay.

But get this—sometimes I unplug on Tuesday afternoons for an hour.  And I try to unplug after 9 p.m. a few days a week, and read a book, or just sit quietly.  Like power napping (and I am addicted to power napping), these breaks throughout the week are refreshing, and empowering.    
The theme for me in “Unplugged Sunday” is to recognize that I benefit from regularly disconnecting to technology and connecting to myself and my family.  If that happens for the whole day on Sunday, great.  If not, I take a chunk.  And maybe grab another chunk later in the week.  
A few ways I try to regularly unplug on days other than Sunday:
  • I NEVER take my smart-phone into the gym.  
  • If I have space, I put away my computer and phone and go for a walk at lunchtime.  
  • I consciously unplug at a certain time several nights a week.  9 p.m.?  Time to SHUT IT DOWN.  
  • On the days I pick my kids up from school I TURN MY PHONE OFF till after dinner.  This give me several hours where I am forced to stop multi-tasking and focus on them, which is a good thing. 

Another great idea is to set times when you let other people know that you will be UNAVAILABLE.  My Jewish friends and relatives call this The Sabbath.  But it works.  I often tell people I work with that I am unavailable from 3-6 p.m. during the week.  I explain that I pick my kids up from school and we make dinner together, and that I will return calls and emails after six.  And you know what?  They get it.  They respect my choice and usually honor it.  I figure if Armageddon is imminent I’ll probably hear about it, and short of that I’m not really interested. 
So forgive me my sins.  And I will forgive yours.  If you manage a perfect unplugged Sunday, congratulations.  If not, that’s okay.  Take what you can get.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  And look around and see if you can surreptitiously unplug for a bit during the week—though it can feel illegal to miss calls and texts and take a few hours to answer email, I guarantee it will all be waiting for you when you plug back in.  
Unplugged Sunday—it’s not just for Sunday anymore.   

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