Pressing the reset button

Do you ever feel that you spend too much time online? Are you getting as much writing done as you’d like? Do you feel your attention span is suffering? Are your writing sessions fragmented by constantly checking social media?

For that matter, do you ever feel like you could do with a break from both social media and writing?

I’ve been thinking recently about the concept of pressing a reset button. Before social media, there were activities I engaged in regularly that have since fallen by the wayside. And before I joined Twitter, I was getting on with learning new tunes on my wire harp.

Sadly, Twitter put the kibosh on that. In fact, it set me back years. If I’d never gone on Twitter, I would have achieved a lot more. Not just in playing a musical instrument, but in working on my writing, taking rest breaks, and so much more. I used to watch a lot of foreign language films. But after reading stuff online I found I didn’t feel as eager to read subtitles anymore.

When I look back to the 1990s, the distractions of the 21st century just weren’t there.

And it’s not that the internet is completely a bad thing. If you have a hobby you want to take up, there’s loads of useful information. The problem is there’s so much information and options that it can be paralysing.

Social media blockers are great for silencing distractions, but they can also be frustrating in the short term. This is because the pull of social media takes time to resist. I’ve used a three-week blocker in the past – I got a lot more done in that period. Likewise, when I temporarily deleted my Twitter account for nearly 30 days, after the first week it seemed more of a relief than anything.

One thing I decided to try was mentally listing the things I liked doing as a kid. Then I crossed out anything that was no longer feasible or of interest. This took me back to playing a musical instrument, for one thing. It’s not that I want to be a performer. But I do think it’s a great way of switching off the chattier side of the brain. Armed with a wire-strung lyre a relative bought me for Christmas, I’ve been working on the kind of tunes I hope to get back to playing on my harp. The advantage of the lyre is it’s smaller and I keep it beside me when I’m at my desk.

If I want a few minutes break from editing, I pick up the lyre and practise the current tune.

I’m also trying to do more reading for pleasure. Reading fiction is part of my job, which sometimes makes it harder to read books for relaxation.

I’ve returned to daily walks. Sometimes I go out twice a day. There’s nothing like fresh air and exercise. There are other old interests and hobbies I’d like to revisit. But there’s always the same danger of ending up scattered and overloaded.

So, for now, I will pluck the strings of my new lyre and learn some new tunes.

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