Have you ever found yourself in a trance like state wasting hours browsing meaningless websites?
If so, you experienced being “screen sucked”.
The term “screensucking” was created by medical doctor and author of the book “CrazyBusy”, Edward Hallowell. He defines screensucking as –
“Wasting time engaging with any screen – for instance, computer, video game, television and BlackBerry”
He goes onto state -
“Held by a mysterious force, a person can sit long after the work has been done or the show he wanted to watch is over, absently glommed on to the screen, not especially enjoying what he is doing but not able to disconnect and turn off the machine.”
The thing about screensucking is that we are largely unaware of the amount of time we spend doing it. We sit at our desks in front of our computers and have a tendency to collapse our mindless browsing with actually doing productive work. By “productive work” I mean the stuff that will actually bring you closer towards achieving the things you want in life.
It wasn’t until I actually tracked my time that I realised that I was wasting hours of my day getting screensucked.
Here’s the thing – your time is finite. It’s your most precious resource and it’s non renewable, meaning once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. You’re never going to get it back.
Once you realise that you’ve been spending a significant chunk of your life doing things that aren’t that important to you (i.e. screensucking), you can’t help but feel a little pathetic and want to change things.
The beauty about the concept of “screensucking” is that once you’re aware that every time you turn on the TV or computer you can be screensucked you have some control at that point. As Edward Hallowell states –
“It’s similar to drinking alcohol: Once you start, you need to be careful how much you consume. Insight can lead to moderation”
Sure, insight and awareness can make a huge difference but often we need other structures and strategies in place to help us change our behaviour.
Below I have outlined some strategies you can use to avoid being screensucked.
1. Set limits and stick to them
Before you turn on your television or computer, decide on a period of time that you are willing to spend engaged in this activity. Grab an electronic timer and set the timer for this amount of time. Then tell yourself that when the alarm goes off, that’s it, time out. At this point, you need to step away from the computer.
2. What else could you be doing?
Often when we are bored and restless we tend to do one of two things –
2. Go on the computer or turn on the TV
These activities give us a sense of purpose and are easy ways to avoid the discomfort of feeling bored and pass the time. But the reality is, both of these activities are not likely to get you to the places you want to go in life.
Most people go through life on automatic pilot and never really ask themselves the questions –
Spend some time, even if it’s just 5 minutes, reflecting on these questions. Getting clear on the things we value in life can help us to see inconsistencies in our lives and bridge the gap between what we say is important and what we actually do.
The last thing you want to do is end up joining the socks and sandal brigade full of regrets (“I wish I had spent less time on Facebook in my younger years!”). Make sure you use your time to do the things that matter most to you.
3. Work with a pen and paper
Work in an environment that doesn’t allow you to be screensucked. Leave your mobile and laptop at home and head to a café or quiet library with a pad of paper and pen for a writing or planning session.
Note: I actually wrote this blog post with a pen and paper far away from my computer screen. It took me about 25 minutes to write. It probably would have taken me twice as long to write if I had been at the computer and plagued by screensuckers ugly relative – Uncle Multitask.
4. Have a technology (screen) free day in your week
Think of the last time you couldn’t find your mobile phone, what was your reaction? Slightly panicked? What about when you couldn’t connect to the internet? Did you feel a bit lost? Found yourself pacing around the house?
Many of us have become a little addicted to technology. Going online, checking our email and turning on the TV are ingrained habits like brushing our teeth.
But it can be liberating when you cut back on your screen time by taking a technology detox one day a week.
Don’t get me wrong, initially you may feel jittery and uncomfortable doing this. You may experience withdrawal symptoms. But everytime you feel like turning on a screen, take in a deep breath and tell yourself that this moment will pass.
5. How do you want to be remembered?
How do you want to look back on your life? As someone who spent a lot of their time updating their Facebook status? Superficially engaged in the virtual space? Or connecting with people face to face?
Spend a moment thinking about what you would like people to say about you when you die. Sounds a little morbid right? Not really. The point is for you to get clear on what you want your life to be about. Once you get clear on this, you can start to take action to live in line with what you truly value.
I know that I want to look back on my life and be able to say that I made the most of the short time I had on this planet. I think the following words of George Bernard Shaw sum up how we could all live if we didn’t spend so much time getting screensucked–
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations”.
Now is the time to put these strategies to the test. Close down this webpage and turn off your computer. Make the most of this beautiful day.