As bloggers, our minds and bodies are our most valuable and vital assets in our business. So it's important to keep them in good shape. Surrounded by food and staring at devices all day can make that a challenge! In our Healthy Blogger series, Sondi Bruner gives tips and practical strategies to keep you in top form. Blogging can be a lonely game and it's easy to spend too much time online. This month Sondi provides tips to help bloggers manage their screen time while still taking care of business and maintaining relationships with your audience.
We live in a digital world and, as food bloggers, many of our daily tasks involve using electronic devices such as computers, smartphones or tablets. Whether you earn a full-time income, part-time cash or simply blog for fun, it's hard to avoid screen time. We run websites and are content producers. Developing recipes, cooking and eating are all a vital part of food blogging, and can occur without the need for devices. However, many other blogging duties inevitably involve us interacting with a screen or checking in on social media platforms.
How can we manage our screen time while completing the necessary business and maintaining our relationships with our audiences online?
Recent Canadian survey data shows that most of us spend an average of 3 to 4 hours online each day for both work and leisure, and about half of us use our smartphones most often when accessing the internet. Doesn't 3 to 4 hours total for both work and play seem low to you? This particular data doesn't account for non-internet screen time, so it's likely that we're spending more time in front of screens off the web, such as using photo-editing software, graphics programs or word processing applications.
I'm probably not the first person to suggest that too much screen time is affecting our health. Physically, spending extended time in front of the computer can lead to eye strain — this includes dry eyes, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches — as well as aches and pains in our back, neck, or shoulders.
Researchers are noticing an increase in "text neck", which is pain that results from hunching over mobile devices. Blue light emitted from screens can interfere with our circadian rhythm, interrupting sleep and cognition. Sleep deprivation can lead to short-term consequences like stress, mood disorders and memory deficits, while long-term effects may include cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders (Type 2 diabetes, obesity) and certain cancers.
From an emotional standpoint, spending time on social media can result in anxiety, depression, loneliness and low self-esteem, especially among young adults. For bloggers, social media can become an endless vortex of self-comparison and jealousy, where we worry about how many likes another blogger's photo received or how many followers they have.
Do I Need To Manage or Limit Screen Time?
Not necessarily! If you enjoy your screen time and don't feel affected physically or emotionally, keep on trucking. Still, you may find these tips helpful for cultivating a healthy relationship with technology, or they may encourage self-reflection about your screen time.
As a first step, it would be helpful to track your screen time as perhaps you are using more (or less) than you realize. Record the number of hours you spend on your computer or laptop, smartphone and tablet.
Be honest: no one needs to see the amount but you. Most smart phones will be able to show you exactly how much time you spent on them each day, so that should be an accurate start. Then add on your computers, tablets and televisions (don't forget Netflix time!). Then, when you have your total hours, you can assess if you need to take steps to change.
How To Manage Your Screen Time
Set Screen Time "Office Hours"
Owning an online business or working from home means your office space is steps away or, in the case of your laptop or smartphone, easily within immediate reach. Using your time management skills, craft a schedule for when you'll be working on your computer or phone.
It can be small chunks, sporadic periods or larger swathes of time … whatever works for your schedule and family. Most of us are probably used to creating a work schedule, so if you've already got this down pat, try to outline or limit the time you spend on the phone, as that is a way to limit screen time you may not always focus on.
Cut Down On Internet, Computer and Phone Time-Wasters
If you are spending 10 hours a day on devices and every single minute of that time is productive, then that's amazing and you probably don't need to keep reading this.
But, if you're like me, you probably spend mindless hours every week checking out fellow food blogs, scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, browsing culinary gadgets or sales, testing your knowledge of 80s sitcom trivia, or any other number of online idle tasks. The online world can be enjoyable, productive and facilitate connection if we are mindful of how we're using it.
If you're looking to reduce screen time, you don't have to cut out all of the casual interactions; rather, focus on limiting them to a certain amount of time each day. Perhaps, instead of scrolling through your phone while waiting for an appointment or for your kids to stream out from school at the end of the day, try leaving your phone in your pocket or make conversation with those around you.
Consider muting or unfollowing people and pages on Facebook and Instagram or any other social media platform that make you feel bad or that you compare yourself to in a negative way. There are ways to do with this without terminating your social media relationship. Both Facebook and Instagram offer mute options that let you stay friends with the person but no longer see their updates. You can unfollow Facebook pages that don't bring anything useful to your feed while still giving them that critical like.
Create a Good Screen Setup
Optimize your workspace so you'll be comfortable when you're on your computer, laptop or phone. Choose a sturdy desk (or a standing desk), a comfortable chair and install sufficient lighting. To ensure good posture, check out these handy tips. Don't set up your computer monitor or laptop too close to your face.
If you're using a smartphone, plug in headphones so your arm won't tire during long conversations or use a stand for video chats. Walking phone calls are even better! When scrolling on your phone, try lifting your phone higher up and in line with your face so you mainly need to move your eyes rather than your head to see.
Take Frequent Breaks
To reduce physical (and mental) strain, take short and frequent breaks throughout the day. Stretch, make a cup of tea, jog on the spot, go up and down the stairs a couple of times, do a 5-minute yoga flow, take some deep breaths or step outside for a few minutes of fresh air.
If you're in a creative zone and time is flying by, don't feel pressured to interrupt the flow but make an extra effort to take a longer break later. If you're stuck, taking a break will allow your eyes, body and brain some time to relax from the screen and may yield some creative inspiration.
Turn Off Notifications
We're easily enticed by the pings on our cell phones and computers. A study of push notifications found, not surprisingly, that these notifications increased both smartphone usage and risk of smartphone addiction. Another investigation compared the brainwaves of a smartphone risk group (those that overused their phones) and a non-risk group. Researchers detected a decline in cognition, concentration and task performance in the high phone users that the non-risk group didn't experience.
Switch off all non-essential notifications, particularly those for social media applications, to encourage focus and productivity. If you're expecting an important phone call or text, choose a special ringtone.
Automate or Schedule Where Possible
Taking a block of time to schedule social media posts allows you to cultivate your online presence thoughtfully and productively, while cutting down on distractions. Then, you can plan to respond and interact with your community in real time to keep it human.
Cultivate an Off-Screen Life
You won't have anything to chat about online if you don't step away from the screen. Make connections offline (there are 14 ways to do that here), pursue your hobbies, spend time with friends and family, travel, eat without snapping photos of your plate. You know, what they used to just call "life."
Exercise can help us counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer, maintain a healthy weight, boost our mood and energy levels, help us sleep better and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. Any exercise that you enjoy will do! Learn more about how to incorporate exercise into your workday, stay motivated and the best exercises for food bloggers.
Unplug or Take a Mini Digital Detox
You've probably heard people sing the praises of digital detoxing by eschewing social media or the internet for weeks or months at a time. Good for them! That may not be practical for your food blog or your business. Still, even short bursts of unplugging can help us relax and unwind. Perhaps begin by taking three hours away from the internet or social media and increase your time if needed. A 30-day digital detox isn't the gold standard for happiness — you may feel completely refreshed by dropping technology for the weekend.
Leave Devices Outside the Bedroom
Reserve the bed for sleeping and sex. As I mentioned earlier, screens can interfere with our sleep. Don't bring your laptop, phone or tablet into the bedroom at all. Turn off your devices at least an hour before bedtime. If you need an alarm, buy a little alarm clock.
Taking the time and care to manage your screen time may seem overwhelming at first, but once you begin the process you'll likely find it helpful to your food blog and your social life. And remember: the little things add up. Start with something small, like disabling notifications, and move on to the bigger things once you feel ready to embrace them.
- The Healthy Blogger: Connecting Beyond The Screen
- The Healthy Blogger: Tips For Managing Your Workload
- The Healthy Blogger: Eating Healthfully
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer, food blogger and author of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet in 21, The Candida Free Cookbook and Action Plan, co-author of The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Action Plans as well as multiple e-books on healthy eating. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter.