Last year was very busy on the farm with The Barley Barn renovation, Open Days, the launch of the new business and the massive tidy up before Beth’s wedding, on top of the normal day to day routine. For the first time in a long while, I felt that life was getting a little unbalanced.
One of the lessons I learned when I started working (in fact at 4.55pm on my first day) was to clear my desk at the end of the day. Spending five minutes deliberately packing away was a conscious way of ending the working day and meant that each new day started afresh with a clean space. It’s a habit I’ve tried to continue in the farm office but last year my desk disappeared for weeks at a time under piles of paperwork and files on the computer were left open to be dealt with later (thank goodness for auto save). After the paperwork had cleared and my desk returned to order, I realised that the balance between online and real life was also off kilter. How had I gone from using the internet for fifteen minutes a day dealing with emails and finding information to losing an hour or more reading blogs and other social media? Something had to be done.
First I applied my clear desk policy to comments on my blog, newsletters and blog feeds; open it and deal with it. No more skimming through and going back later to read properly or to comment. If the newsletter or blog feed didn’t interest me I deleted it instead of just leaving it unread with a vague notion that I might return to read it later and if I was continually deleting particular ones, I clicked to unsubscribe.
But what of the time still spent blog hopping, gazing at photos and online chatting. Without it I wouldn’t have discovered some delicious recipes or known about printing with a mangle or 101 other things that have enriched my life; I wouldn’t have enjoyed conversations and connections made, such as this day with Jane (the Shady Baker). As Elizabeth pointed out here, time spent online can be “inspirational, creative and horizon-stretching … “up to a point” and beyond that point I’m not so sure that it’s so creative a way to spend time. The virtual can take over from reality as well as emulate it.” So, no more. While I’m not sure I can revert to the days when my computer was switched off from Friday evening to Monday morning (how will I sneak online hints to complete the crossword in the Saturday newspaper when it’s particularly difficult?) I try not to go online on Sundays or after eight in the evening and to use the time more productively. Rather than join the bloggers whose New Year resolutions are to blog more often, extend their reach on social media and tell their story on Steller, I shall stick with the tribe who blog when the fancy takes them and use their phones for chatting to friends rather than photographing their life to share with the world.
Most importantly I’ll be making the time to walk. It doesn’t surprise me that a Cambridge University study recently found that a brisk twenty minute walk could add years to your life. Quite apart from the physical benefit of exercise it’s good for mental health too. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, being in the countryside or the rhythm of walking or perhaps a mixture of all three, but I have my best ideas and solve problems when I’m walking (though the more I think, the slower I walk). We usually have a long distance walk on the go that we do in stages, snatching a couple of days at a time when the farm work is up to date and the weather is set fair, but last year whenever we thought about walking, something cropped up and we put it off. So, this year we are going to schedule specific dates for walking; once they’re written in the diary then we’ll stick to them. It will probably pour with rain and we’ll mutter that it was a stupid idea and return to our old ways. We’ll see. And we haven’t managed to agree on the dates yet. But we will.