Wellness

Tuning Out to Tune In: Learning to Let Go of Constant Connection

August 17, 2020 (Last Updated: September 18, 2020)

Is there power in removing digital connections in order to improve offline connections? Whether its television, phones or any other electronic devices, what happens when we remove them completely or even partially from our daily lives? We’ve been experimenting in a few areas and the results have been amazing.

There’s been a lot of changes in our household over the last year. Being home more than we anticipated has really allowed us the time to rethink our leisure and work time, we’ve made pivots with our businesses and exciting changes to our down time.
[Related post: Trekking our to SideFIRE – Our FIRE Journey Update]

From Digital Minimalism to Bored and Brilliant, we’ve also been reading a few books lately that have our thoughts moving away from excess online connection to hone in on the present. Once you start, just like decluttering physical objects, it becomes more and more obvious the areas which are the biggest time-sucks.

The two areas we thought were our biggest culprits?

Television and Social Media.

So here’s how we’ve been working through those two areas.

We Don’t Own A TV… And We’re Not Mad About It

Our TV cabinet full of everything but a TV.

In mid-October last year, we gave all 60 inches of our TV away to my brother. We were a month away from getting married, and hadn’t been watching it anyway. So we thought we’d safely test it out by ‘lending’ it to them for a couple of months. I think we knew then it wasn’t coming back.

At Christmas we announced it was officially theirs and we celebrated two months of no-TV life.

Fast forward to today and our TV cabinet is full of the things that mean the most to us – a collage of our wedding photos, plants and our music speaker.

Sorry TV, but you have not been missed.

The question we get asked the most is ‘If you don’t have a TV… what do you …do?‘.

Our nights vary but it can be anything from:

  • Reading a book
  • Chatting on the couch
  • Playing a board game – we currently love Rummikub and Age of War
  • Going for a walk or bike ride (in Summer)
  • Cooking all sorts – bread, desserts or biscuits!
  • Yoga
  • Playing guitar
  • Listening to podcasts or audiobooks
  • Sometimes watching a doco, movie or TV show on the laptop (any Ru Paul fans here?)

If you want try these out for yourself, here’s 25 Frugal No-Tech Date Night Ideas to get you away from the television!

Removing the trigger, removes the habit!

The biggest thing we’ve found by not having the TV in the lounge room is no longer being triggered into wanting to watch it.

If it’s not there, it’s not reminding you that it’s an option. It’s easier to grab the book off the coffee table or turn and face your partner for a chat.

For us, it’s a lot harder to walk into the study, unplug the laptop and bring it into the lounge to set up for the hassle of one movie or TV show. Which is why now when we do decide to have a movie night, it’s something special and not a habit-induced activity.

Now when we’re over at a friend or family’s house and a TV is on in the background, it’s become even more obvious what a distraction it can be. If someone is trying to have a conversation and something interesting is shouted from the big black box, it literally ‘butts in’ and commands attention away from the person speaking as everyone swivels their heads to ‘hear’ what’s being said on the TV. This breaks the flow of socialisation and otherwise diverts the conversation away to something completely different. It’s another case of if the TV is off, it avoids the habit of turning around and getting distracted by what’s on vs what the person across from you is saying.

For us, by tuning out and literally ‘throwing out’ the TV, we’ve been able to better connect with each other and the activities we actually want to be doing. This isn’t to say we wouldn’t get another TV down the track, but for now, we’re enjoying the break and have no current plans to change at this point.

Now we get onto the next distracting topic: Social Media (and our phones!)

The Social Media Detox

Woman standing on a rock with view of hills and blue sky in background.

It all kicked off with a month long Social Media ban back May, organised by the awesome ladies over at Modern FImily. The rules were simple:

  1. No social media
  2. Take apps off your phone (if you want) and monitor to see how you go over time
  3. Messaging apps are okay (think WhatsApp and Messenger) to keep in touch with friends

When Court first told us about this, I made up the excuse we couldn’t completely participate as I needed to use social media for business. Then she asked a simple question back: Do you?

I defiantly thought… well yes! However, after thinking about it, I realised I probably could. The only exception was Pinterest (which I don’t use for personal anyway) as that was an integral part of our food blog. Facebook and Instagram on the other hand was out!

The first day was horrible.

There were multiple times I found my phone in my hand, thumb hovering over the would-be space where Instagram lurked just waiting for its next fix. Completely subconsciously. The void where the app used to be and slight pause as my thumb didn’t know what to do next, would kick start my thoughts into gear and I’d realise what I was doing. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

Over the next few days, while the twitching to check socials began to die down, I found myself going to different vices to entertain me on my phone – the news or our blog analytics. Anything to get some kind of buzz and zone out for a few minutes. Becoming aware of this new and equally bad habit, I removed the analytics from my phone and swore not to check the news anymore.

So then I started checking my emails all day.

There might be a new one since checking it a minute ago!

C’mon phone, give me a notification, entertain me!

I was avoiding. Avoiding boredom. Those little pockets of space between a loading screen or the kettle boiling.

Avoiding being present in the here and now.

I think the worst part was seeing how addictive the habit of checking my phone had been. Not to mention how ingrained and second nature it had become.

Now that I was aware of it, it felt yucky. Like sticky tendrils trying to pull you back into this dark abyss of unconsciousness.

I didn’t want to find myself looking up from my phone again with another 15 minutes having gone past, trying to remember why I’d picked up in the first place.

Around the third week in I’d made good progress. The phone was starting to be left in other rooms and the habit was weakening.

It was around this time that Court from Modern FImily set the challenge to sit somewhere and do nothing for half an hour. Thirty whole minutes of just being. I was so interested in trying this particular challenge, and so Laura and I found ourselves sitting on the outdoor couch after lunch one day and we started the timer.

Our feet were up on the table, legs in the sun. I tried to find the comfiest position so I wouldn’t fidget and I could observe. My goal was to not fall asleep and see what new things I could discover about my backyard. As it turns out, a lot can happen in the space of 30 minutes.

What I Discovered Sitting In My Backyard for 30 Minutes

  • There’s a dove who’s currently collecting twigs for a nest. It likes to test a twig multiple times by throwing it in the air until it deems it satisfactory and flies off.
  • Around lunchtime in winter, the shadow from the fence lines up with the wall of the shed. Cool.
  • Bees like the sour sob flowers growing in our grass. They must be heavy as the whole thing bends over when they land on it.
  • There is a updraft of wind in the distance and birds use this to soar up really high in the sky before flying off. So many birds. How have we never noticed this?
  • About 4 planes managed to fly past in the space of half an hour. They must be on two different paths as I could see two, but not the other two.
  • I think Laura is asleep… Yep, she’s out.
  • There are hundreds of little buggies who fly up in whirlwinds from the grass before disappearing again in an instant.
  • I’m really proud of our veggie garden – look how big the potato plants are growing!
  • I really need to pick up the dog poop.
  • How good do the clouds look today? It looks like a painting.
  • It’s really nice and warm sitting out in the sun at our place, even during winter, we should do this more often.
  • Beep, Beep, Beep! That was thirty minutes already!

The appreciation we grew for our yard that day was indescribable. Not sure if anyone else here has had an experience like that where something mundane has turned into something so interesting and all within the space of half an hour.

We definitely have the Social Media Detox to thank for getting us to think outside the box and for both breaking habits and creating new ones.

So from no TV and no socials, where are we at now?

Being Present in the Present

It’s a nice time to be here, right now.

Since the socials detox, we’ve since put some apps back on our phones, but they no longer hold the same grip they did a few months ago. We hardly post and have created new ways to avoid some of the more distracting parts of social media.

One new idea in particular has been magical.

We’ve setup a bookmarks folder called Socials. Then, we’ve created bookmarked links that go to specific pages such as a Facebook Group, the Creator Studio (for scheduling posts for Insta or Facebook) or YouTube studio.

What this means is we’re essentially bypassing the biggest ‘hooks’ from those platforms – the walls or the ‘latest posts’ – and instead taking you directly to the source to get or do the required task without the distraction. This has been an absolute game changer.

Weather pending, we also now sit outside most days, getting to know the sights and sounds on an even deeper level.

Believe it or not that dove is STILL collecting twigs!

Since making these continual little changes in our lives, we feel we’re living a fuller and even slower pace of life even with work and everything in between.
[Related: 9 Surprising Lifestyle Benefits from following FIRE]

What are some ways you’ve made changes to your life to be more present? What has made the biggest impact? Tell us in the comments below!


FYI We co-authored a new E-book called Aussie FIRE! It was put together by the guys over at Pearler, who we mentioned in our latest FIRE update.

For those who don’t know, Pearler are a new Australian based, FI-focused stockbroker. We signed up with them last month and they’re looking for more investors to test out their beta platform and give feedback. Currently, Pearler is in the early stages and is invite-only. They offer an auto-invest option which we are SUPER excited to try out to save time and completely automate the investing process on our end.

We loved that their brokerage rates are super competitive too at only $9.50 (for purchases up to $17,500) vs $19.95 which were paying with our previous broker. If you’d like to join Pearler and try before doors officially open, go here.

The Aussie FIRE E-book is completely free, and they’ve just started releasing chapters this week. It’s the ULTIMATE guide to FIRE and has 20 contributors from Australia’s top FIRE bloggers (including us!).

If you want to get your hands on the Aussie FIRE E-book, head here.

Note:  We like what Pearler are doing, so we’ve signed up as affiliate partners.  As such, this blog earns a small referral fee if you choose to sign up using the link above at no cost to you.

10 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle @ Frugality and Freedom
    August 17, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    Setting up social bookmarks to your preferred groups is deceptively simple in avoiding the endless scrolling, I’m face-palming that I haven’t thought of it. I’ll take that tip on board!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      August 22, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Ah awesome. Seriously, it’s been so good. I’ve saved so much time already!

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    August 18, 2020 at 12:13 am

    LOOOOVEEEEEE THIS POST (OBVIOUSLY)!! So glad to hear you had such a great experience from the detox! Going to be mentioning this post the next time we organize another detox. Most people are way too scared to actually remove themselves from the vices so major kudos to you ladies for going through with all of this! As you know, life is much sweeter when you focus on the present.

    Also, signed up for the emails from Pearler even though I’m not Australian. Such a great idea to colab a book with 20 FIRE bloggers, can’t wait to read it!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      August 22, 2020 at 10:38 am

      Haha thanks lady! It really was awesome, recommend it to everyone and anyone who’s keen to give it a go!

      Fantastic re: Pearler – hope you enjoy! 😀

  • Reply
    CaptainFI
    August 27, 2020 at 10:23 am

    such a great idea about removing the TV. I removed the cable that gets reception, so I can only use it to cast YouTube videos or Netflix on, or to play music and that has really cut down my consumption a lot and boosted my productivity. I still like the odd viewing of ‘the good place’ and will let myself off the hook to relax some nights, but yes in general trashy TV is a bad habit lol. Remove the trigger remove the habit – love it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      August 29, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      Yeah, it has definitely made a huge difference for us, and nice to still have Netflix or Stan when you feel like. We just finished The Good Place ourselves – great series!!

      Thanks for stopping by. 😀

  • Reply
    Kurt Walkom
    September 4, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    Love this article. Social media is a battle we all face daily, yet not many realise! I deleted my FB & insta apps off my phone a couple of years ago, but unfortunately I need access to groups so am still using FB on desktop – can’t wait till I can hand off that side of things 🤞 And thank you for the support!! 🙏🙏

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      September 8, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks Kurt! I feel your struggle with social for groups and business – definitely one aspect that would be great to outsource or handover down the track! You’re also welcome, love what you guys are doing over at Pearler. 🙂

  • Reply
    Enzo
    November 9, 2020 at 11:08 am

    It’s so refreshingly awesome to find people that share this view! I read Digital Minimalism in January-ish and applying those ideas has made such a positive impact on my life. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    One thing that’s made it much easier for me to kick those habits is Cold Turkey (getcoldturkey.com). I got the bought version because I’m a nerd that likes supporting indie developers, but the free version will do the exact same job. One really cool thing apart from blocking youtube, facebook, etc, is that you can WHITELIST certain pages on those sites. For example: studio.youtube.com, facebook.com/groups, and facebook.com/events can all be unblocked, while the swear-word inducing home pages are blocked!

    I personally use facebook.com/groups to keep up with club events, and facebook.com/events to be able to see birthday party (and FI meetups, see y’all on the 21st Nov!) invitations.

    • Reply
      Sarah & Laura
      November 11, 2020 at 10:09 am

      Hey Enzo, glad you’ve been enjoying the digital declutter journey as well. It has been refreshing to say the least.

      Love your recommendation for Cold Turkey – as we haven’t currently tried a blocker yet, just sheer willpower haha! We’ll have to check it out. 🙂 That’s a great feature being able to unblock certain URLS, so cool!

      Also yay, see you on the 21st. 🙂

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