On the school holidays I read a number of journals about how we are using technology. I came across this graph based on the research of an Australian called Adam Alter who is a psychologist at New York University. The infographic shows the use of time by adults over a 24 hour period.
As you can see, over the past 10 years not a lot has changed. We sleep approximately seven-and-a-half to eight hours a day, we work eight-and-a-half to nine hours a day, we engage in survival activities (eating, showering, caring for the family, etc.) about three hours a day. But our free time, the white space, is incredibly valuable and informative as to how we spend the remaining 4 to 5 hours we have left per day. This white space representing our personal time is space where we do things that make us the individuals that we are; the space where we foster personal relationships, reflect on our lives and what is meaningful to us; the space where we take time to be creative, to play and enjoy our hobbies etc. Of course, many of us get some of that from our work as well. But when I reflect on the things I will be remembered for - they are the moments that occur in my white personal space.
The second graph shows us how we have changed the use of our personal time in the past 10 years.
The red portion of the white space is the time we spend using technology during our free time, and unsurprisingly, it’s becoming an increasingly dominant part of our lives. It was in 2007 that Apple introduced the first iPhone and in 2017, just ten years later, the yellow section represents the time we now spend doing things that are not related to technology.
Like many of you, I use technology time to connect with my family and friends through phone calls, social media, skype, as well as to reflect on and learn new technological things. After seeing this graph, however, I am questioning what am I choosing to do in this technology-filled time and am asking how enriching those activities are for me? Too often I get caught up in Facebook feeds, apps like Pinterest that are designed to hook me in, the latest Netflix series that I can binge watch, and so on.
Now I do not want to withdraw from these things but rather to strike a more healthy balance.
I have introduced “stop cues” into my life, signals that remind me it's time to move on, to do something new, to do something different. In the more distant past these pauses were created for me. I had to wait a whole week to watch the next episode of Vikings! Some of the stop cues that I have introduced include:
- I do not have my phone with me at the dinner table (no matter where I am and who I am with).
- I restrict myself to 2 episodes of a program at a time
- I set my phone alarm to remind me to stopping perusing apps and social media after ½ hour.
- I use the “do not disturb” settings on my phone so I do not get texts and emails after a certain time at night (except for emergency ones in my favourites)
- In my house, the technology stays in the lounge room and kitchen.
My challenge now is to consider how we might introduce stop cues at school in order to create some white space, or personal time, for our students and also to encourage them to create this in their non-school time.
As author Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”.