Our 9-year-old daughter wrote Meygan and I notes a few moths ago with a bunch of words that describe us. As I read this note decorated with markers and stickers, my heart started to beat quickly, my cheeks got flushed and I was convicted – big time. Here are just some of the words she wrote:
Makes the best S’mores
Works a lot
Is always busy
Is on the phone a lot
Ouch! Yep, that was the moment where I couldn’t argue or blame anyone.
I couldn’t look into my daughters eyes and explain to her all of the reasons why I’m on my phone a lot and why I work late. Doesn’t she know how hard I’m working to build Marriage365 and help other couples? They need me, gosh darn it! I’m saving marriages, for goodness sake.
I decided that this was my wake up call I needed.
I decided to take a huge leap of faith and take my two kids on a week-long camping trip – just the three of us! (Yes, Meygan got an entire week to herself and I’m still a bit jealous. ????)
Anyways, it seems the more technology that we integrate into our lives, the harder it is to unplug. Compounding this is that technology is ensuring that you are always accessible by your employer too. A worsening job market creates more anxiety and incentivizes putting in longer hours.
More and more couples are complaining that work is always winning, that they are spending less time together, and having a harder time connecting beyond the transactional conversations. It seems like having any work / life balance is some unattainable fantasy. A recent camping trip with my kids gave me time to reflect on some practical tips you can take to start moving the needle to towards the middle.
1. Make intentional decisions about your life
Be proactive by designing a life worth living. Include the values that are most important to you, how you will spend your time, qualities that you want to be known for. Prioritize that list. Check in with your spouse and trusted friends to make sure it’s realistic. Do you work to live or do you live to work?
2. Create time for restorative activities
Too many spouses that I coach admit that they allow zero time for themselves. They live life completely maxed out which doesn’t allow for any time to process life. Draft out some life giving activities and commit to scheduling that into your week.
3. Schedule a Marriage Business Meeting
This one is a game changer. Pick a night of the week (it’s Sunday night for us) that you sit down and review calendars, budgets, plan date nights, and check in with each other. This creates accountability and sets the right expectation for how the week will play out.
4. Turn off emails on your phone
My new resolution is that if I’m going to answer an email, it better be from my laptop. Scientists say we get a hit of dopamine to our pleasure center when those notifications go off, which only increases our addiction to our tech. It also goes to say that my phone is not the master of me, calling me respond to it. Take control by silencing and switch on Do Not Disturb.
5. Establish tech-free zones
Create areas in your house where phones are not allowed. First should be the dinner table. Reserve that one for connecting with your spouse and the kids. Second should be date nights. If need be let the sitter know where you are going and put your phone in the glove box. Third needs to be the bedroom.
6. Limit social media
I know that sounds strange, coming from Marriage365 who experienced viral growth via social media, but do not be fooled, engineers at Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are actively thinking about how to get you to spend as much time on their platform as possible. Algorithms are designed to become addictive. How many times have I caught myself staring at my phone, scrolling through a feed, and blind to the fact I’ve been staring at my phone for 20 minutes?!
This is how I turned off for a few days with my kids:
While camping in an RV with my kids wasn’t a vacation per se, the memories that we made were priceless and the kids said it was better than going to Disneyland. It was good for them to unplug from technology and be in nature, but it really was a gift to me! It was a beautiful reminder that my family, my wife, my health, my friends, and surfing are the things that really bring joy into my life. What brings joy into your life? Think about it and let me know in the comments!
PS: Here are a few impressions from our trip! ????
Written by Casey Caston
Casey Caston is the co-founder of Marriage365 and loves his wife, kids, and surfing – in that order. He’s passionate about teaching couples how to connect on a deeper level and works often with couples in crisis. He’s also officiated more than 600 weddings. His life long dream is to walk the Camino, surf in Indonesia, and publish a New York Times best seller.