By John Ardill
In retirement, you will be free from your career. But will you be free from technology?
Until very recently, I certainly wasn’t. Having been a financial planner for 40 years, I still frame things up in financial terms, so I asked myself: what return on time I am getting in retirement?
I have a lot more discretionary time now – which can be a blessing or a curse. You can waste a lot of time if you don’t have deadlines. I was definitely more productive when I was working. The old adage is true: if you want a job done, give it to someone who’s really busy. But in retirement, my time and focus were constantly being distracted by the apps on my phone and all the beeping, blinking and ringing.
So I’ve taken back control of my time. I’ve cut down on tech, in particular on my smartphone and social media, and I’m happier for it.
The first step is to realize that these technologies are not, at the end of the day, designed for you. They are designed to serve their creators. YouTube videos can be entertaining and even enlightening, but they are probably communicating a distorted view of what the creators are really like. And what they’re really trying to do is sell you more stuff, either overtly within the content, or through ads. And they keep you addicted through the dopamine hits you get from scrolling.
Facebook is another wonderful way to waste time and stay hooked. Retirement has allowed me the luxury of sitting down and having a coffee while looking at my phone – and literally two hours can suddenly fly by, scrolling through stuff that is ultimately meaningless.
So I got myself in gear and cancelled many of my social media apps and deleted the beeps and other distracting signals. I was feeling like a trained monkey reacting to all of it. I do not miss them even one little bit, and I appreciate not getting targeted by ads.
Then I blocked a whole bunch of people and organizations sending me spam emails. Now there are more emails in my spam folder than in my inbox. And even the legitimate emails, I don’t need to check them every day. In fact, I am tempted to activate an out of office greeting that says I review my emails just once a week.
And you know what? If someone really needs to get in touch with me, they can always call me on my cell (and I warmly welcome you to do that). That would be a novel idea here in 2023, since impersonal texting seems to be the dominant mode of communication. That said, want to know my favourite feature on my phone? Turning off the ringer. Voila! Distractions eliminated.
But what am I going to do with all this time I’ve recovered? What is the return on time that I want, exactly? I can sum it up in two words: mental health. The freedom to take the dog for a walk, go golfing or go mountain biking without feeling I am missing something and should be looking at my phone. The freedom to have a meal with someone important to me without feeling I have to check messages.
That, and I’d like to get back to reading at least one book a month. I like the quiet time. It’s nurturing, it’s good for the brain and when I finish a book, I get a good feeling.
Books are a fine example of an old technology that continues to serve us well. I experienced an analogy when shopping recently for a weed remover. I bought a fancy new model that saves me from stooping over. It punches into the weed and then leverages it out of the ground – allegedly, because the fact is, it didn’t work. So I went back to the store and bought the technology that was probably in use hundreds of years ago…and it works just fine.
What are your tips for taking back control from technology? I would love to hear them.
In the meantime, all my best to you and your family. And if you are still working, enjoy the journey.
PS Artificial intelligence (AI) was not used in the creation of this article 😃.
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