Here is my calendar. I have allowed break time, doggie time, visiting my parents (who are 91 and 94), and mealtimes. Digital activities stop when Jay comes home. We both do some work on our computers after dinner.
Joined to my computer at the hip…this is the niche in which I find myself fitting too often. It is dangerously easy to fall into habits which hold us bound to the computer. The hold can be strong and difficult to escape. Too often I think, “Just one more website to peruse…just one more paper to grade….while I have this screen open I should just go ahead and finish this up. What exacerbates this situation for those of us who teach full-time at home, is that there are no other people or devices (except possible the cell phone) that remind us that we need a few minutes away.
The constants I do have are our animals and their reminders that they need attention. My elderly parents (91 and 95) are one of the top reasons I leave the computer and the house, and I schedule that as a break.
I do so much shopping online that taking time to go to the store is not much of a get-away. With my cell phone in tow, even those trips often end up being interspersed with e-mail reading or call answering. Because I read so much on a computer screen, and because my eyesight has worsened, reading is a lost pleasure for me. So, I am the library’s best audio book borrower and Audible’s loyal customer. I listen to books whenever I am driving. Educational? I should say not. Give me a good mystery by Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly or Daniel Silva. I have to watch my driving, of course, but I can escape into another world for a little while.
In my home office I do use ergonomically healthy cushions and foot rests. Because of my eyesight, I have a large flat-screen monitor through which I can run my computer. Last year I bought a MacBook Pro with Retina Display. When away from my big monitor, this has proven to be a great computer for my needs.
From day 1 I talk to my students about scheduling and planning. During the course these are topics we usually have to revisit. For many of us, starting an assignment can be daunting because it seems too big to start. I talk to students about breaking activities into manageable chunks so that they are not overwhelmed. One counsel I give is to at least start on the task. When you have reached a point where it seems too much, take a break, eat, do something else, and then come back. Students in my courses always have checklists for their weekly assignments. If they get too far behind and feel overcome, I help them revise their checklists so that they do not always feel they are looking at nothing but overdue assignments and zeros.
There have been times when I have had to diplomatically ask questions of the parents of students who have gotten behind. Sometimes the resulting information reveals that when the parents thought the students were working on the computer, some other “Digital activity” was going on. Parents often need our help in sorting out how their children can be productive digitally.
My husband is my best protector from the pit of digital overload. We stop and eat together. We leave cyberland in the front of the house when we go to bed. Finally, we have built a small cabin on land about and hour and a half away that was the home place of my great-grandmother. There is no running water, no ISP, and no electricity except for the small generator. We get away completely when we go over. These cabin trips have turned out to be healthy “digitally” and in other ways.