One of the things I love most about self-employment is the chance it gives me to define my own day in a way that serves both my wellbeing and my work. Over the last year I have intentionally slowed my mornings right down, allowing myself a good couple of hours for breakfast, coffee, Italian practice and meditation, all before going anywhere near my desk, and have noticed this has made me much more productive throughout the rest of the day.
I've been much more conscious, too, of when I engage both with emails (never, now, in my PJs, and generally not at all on Sundays) and have come off Facebook almost entirely. The only social media I regularly engage with now is Instagram, but recently something has felt a little off for me even there, and so I decided to challenge myself to a week without logging on to see what emerged.
Mornings have always been my favourite Instagram browsing time – enjoying the treat and inspiration of some very gorgeous squares with my slow coffee after breakfast. And so initially during my week away (which ended up turning into ten days) these were the most challenging times for me. I missed the community and connection. But I also realised I missed the habit. For the first few mornings I almost felt naked without it.
I’d set myself a series of journalling questions, one for each morning, and slowly these grew into a new routine. Without the (albeit gorgeous) distraction of other peoples lives, stories and images I felt free to go deeper into my own, to lean into places of discomfort and to ask myself questions that I am usually too busy with other priorities to ask; I worked with myself those mornings the way I often work with my therapy clients. I realised some hugely important, and potentially life-changing things. And I read, too, soaking up entire books in just a few days that I'd previously convinced myself I didn't really have time to properly get into. By the end of the ten days I felt rooted, and, dare I say it, real in a way I can't really recall feeling so fully for a long time.
At the end of the “retreat” I was of course excited to get back to posting and to savouring other people’s posts, but in that excitement I quickly fell back into old habits: posting at the right time to serve the algorithm (which for me, because I don’t have one of those fancy post-scheduling apps, means posting in my PJs before I’ve even gotten out of bed) and then attempting to scroll through my entire feed from the previous ten days in order to catch up. Within less than an hour that first morning I felt numb and overwhelmed. Even at my beloved dance workshop later that day I struggled to find the balance or trust in my feet.
Indeed, returning to the app after my break showed me very clearly that my time away had deepened my respect for my roots, the ways in which I need to tend to those roots on a daily basis, and what my priorities are in the resourcing of those roots. And for me that means continuing to read, to journal and to meditate each morning, and not logging on until after I have done these things. Because the way we start our days so often defines the rest of those day, after all, and by being conscious in how we choose to use this precious time, our mornings can become rituals, or even mini retreats if you like; a daily devotional practise, simply, but crucially, for ourselves.
I still love Instagram, and have no plans to leave just yet. But from this point onwards I am committed to engaging with it much more intentionally (and much later in the day), rather than mindlessly scrolling through the feed in spare moments to fill and numb time. Most importantly, from this point forwards, I am clear that Instagram (and its wretched algorithm!) serves me and not the other way round. And as for my mornings, well, I’m excited to see what might grow in their newly cleared space…