Going analog in a digital world

Photo by Ju Ostroushko on Unsplash

There is a prevailing idea in the digital wellness realm that seems the most convincing— quit the digital world all together.

Quit social media.

Quit the Internet.

Quit your smartphone.

And my most recent favourite, Donald Knuth, a famous computer scientist who “have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address.” What a luxury!

Yet, such drastic measures for life-tech balance isn’t always realistic nor desirable for everyone. Nor, does it need to be so extreme.

For the past few weeks, I have implemented two simple changes to my days that have resulted in less time spent online: cooking intuitively and paper journaling. Best part? Without sacrificing the convenience, ease, and connection the digital world provides me.


Cooking intuitively.

Intuitive cooking is using (and trusting) your intuition when cooking, rather than following a recipe step-by-step. 

I initially undertook this challenge in an attempt to minimize my over-reliance on Google as an aide-mémoire. This is known as cognitive offloading, the tendency to rely on things like the Internet to memorize information. Why is this a concern? Too much reliance on technology to aid out memory can negatively affect our mental processes engaged with learning, creating, problem solving and imagination.

During a recent coaching session complaining about my dependency on Google to recall almost all the information I need in my life, even for things like cooking simple meals, my coach recommended I try something simple yet profound: cook without a recipe and see how it goes.

Prior to this challenge, I’ve always followed a recipe online no matter how simple or complicated the dish was. A typical cooking session involved going back and forth between my laptop and the cutting board, or the pantry, checking and re-checking the recipe to make sure I got all the ingredients right. Is it garlic powder or onion powder? Is it 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon? On medium or low-medium heat? Check. Recheck. Check, again.

Since taking on the cooking challenge, I no longer need to run to the search engine to make our next meal. No devices in the kitchen. No Google. Just me, myself, and my senses.

I think about what ingredients are available, what I can make with those ingredients and then I use my senses— touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste— to make palatable dishes. The food tells me what it needs; some acid, a pinch of salt, cook it uncovered to thicken it.

I try to recall information from all the cooking shows I’ve watched throughout the years. I think about what made the last similar dish I ate enjoyable. I use my intuition to determine what would be a good meat substitute for a vegetarian burrito wrap: chopped mushrooms and crumpled taco for texture, and smoked paprika to give it that ‘meaty’ flavour. That’s the base of it, anyway. When I make it next time, I know what I could adjust to make it better, or different.

Each dish is my creation. I don’t follow a recipe. Instead, I use my memory to imagine, create, problem solve, and learn from each and every dish I make.

Better yet, I’m so immersed in the process that I don’t even miss the music or podcast episode I usually would put on for entertainment. I’m fully engaged with the cooking process. I’m fully in the moment.

Best part is I get to eat my creation. Yum!


Paper Journaling.

Since cooking offline was proving to be a very enjoyable experience, I began thinking about other activities I can take offline without causing noticeable disruption to my routine.

Journaling.

Since 2014, I have kept an online journal. It’s an account of my life, my thoughts, my musings for the past six years, often done upon waking up. After 1,647 online journal entries, I was ready to take this practice offline. Mostly because the transition would be the least complicated. Write, but on paper instead of a computer. I also liked the idea of having one less reason to go online right after waking up.

I purchased a cheap notebook at the dollar store to try it out. I wasn’t sure I would commit to it long term. To my surprise, it was love at first… write? As soon as I jotted down the date for the entry, I knew I was going to stick with it in the long run.

Paper Journaling feels more intimate than typing. It feels more private to jot down my thoughts on a notebook than to log them on an online platform. I don’t experience the odd sense that someone could have access to my diary as I type. Ironically, a password-protected, online account feels less private than a notebook that can be opened and read by anyone who comes across it.

Journaling on paper also slows down my thought process, which has been helping me really consider what I want to say. Of course, can’t forget that it’s improving my spelling too.

I think about how to spell a word more carefully now than when I was relying on autocorrect.

Most importantly, it adds a slowness to my morning I’ve been really enjoying. There’s no reason to go on my laptop for the first hour or so of waking up. I might quickly check my email, but that’s it.

My most favourite part? It is such a simple change, my brain barely recognizes it as a change. There’s no resistance to doing it. It didn’t change my routine in any significant way. Yet, it has added immense value to my days. The value of slowing down a bit.


I cook almost every day.

I journal almost every day.

By taking these two activities offline, I get to spend less time online while vastly improving the enjoyment I get from both cooking and journalling. This experience has showed me that going analog doesn’t need to be a drastic change. There is a simpler approach to unplugging to enjoy the benefits of the offline world. Like, switching from a digital to a paper journal.

That’s what I have been thinking a lot about lately: What other activities can I take offline and still enjoy, if not enjoy more?

Here’s an easy one: stop bringing your phone to the toilet. #KeepS#*tOffline

Note to self.

Until next time. . . 

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