5 Steps to Cut Back Screen Time & Increase Creativity

Hullo, world!

I’ve been meaning to write this post last week but changed my mind. (Things happen, don’t they?) This has nothing to do with today’s topic, but I’m happy to announce a few things:

  • Jenna Terese’s Ignite cover reveal is in 2 weeks (The release date is June 2nd)!! You can add it to Goodreads now!!
  • Finding God in Anime’s cover reveal is coming up soon 🙂 I can’t wait to read other people’s submissions!!
  • I began running. If you didn’t know, it’s like the ultimate sports I loathe. It’s been two weeks and I’m having a hard time believing I’m still doing it. 

And, of course, digital minimalism

Becoming a minimalist has been one of my goals for 2021, and the biggest portion of it is my screen time. I’ve researched the average phone usage and the consensus seems to be about three hours or more. That’s only the time spent on one’s phone, so it doesn’t count the time spent on computers, TV, and other devices. 

In January I set my goal to 1 hour per day on my phone. I knew I was wasting a lot of time on it, and I tended to relapse easily after media fasts, so I came up with a circular method to make sure I can keep this quota.

So, let me introduce to you the 5 Steps to Cut Back Screen Time & Increase Creativity

1: Set phone limit to 1 hour 

If you own an iPhone, you can go to the control centre and place a limit. I have a limit of 1 hour on All Apps. I do know the password, however, in case I need to use it and am pretty confident to be self-controlled. 😉 Or not. 

When starting, it might be a good idea to have someone you trust (i. e. parent, sibling, friend, &c.) set the password so that you won’t be able to access your phone when your time’s up. 

Be ruthless like Levi!

2: Delete unnecessary and/or apps available on the computer

This is huge. Before I had a lot of apps on my phone I barely looked at and/or I could also use on my computer. The funny thing is, when I open my computer, I’m usually more focused on my task, so I wouldn’t waste my time as much on say, things like checking my email, but when I’m on my phone I could spend the next fifteen minutes going down a rabbit hole

Delete apps like Levi would…

It also saves phone storage so you can use your phone for things you need. 

Examples of Apps I deleted: Twitter, Google Chrome, Safari, YouTube, Goodreads, &c. 

3: Outline time usage for a given day 

At the end of the day, it’s also a good idea to check how well you did. Something that has helped me was to go back to the reason I’d need my phone in the first place, then plan the phone time usage accordingly. 

I try to post on Instagram as basic self-branding, so I couldn’t quite get rid of it, but I can set a timer for five minutes and post during that time frame. If I know I’d need to record myself for the translation ministry, I would block the thirty to forty minutes needed and work with the remaining time. Or maybe I’m going to chat with my friends overseas on Line. 

Being conscious of how and why and where you spend your phone time helps you be more aware of the phone utility. A phone, at its fundamental level, is a communication tool. The rest of it is usually possible to do elsewhere. 

A moment of revelation!

4: Put the phone away after the limit 

And once your time limit comes up, physically remove your phone from the environment. I would put it in another room or my desk drawer, just any place I can’t see it. This sounds kind of silly, but if you can’t see it, it doesn’t distract you

Okay, now I’m having too much fun at AoT gifs…

For the first few days, you might want to lock it up or ask someone to hide it for you. 

5: Analyze & Assess phone usage each week; plan strategies accordingly

Finally, at the end of the week, go back and check your average weekly usage. My weekly usage does fluctuate, but at the end of the month, I’ve been able to keep it to about an hour for the past three months and it’s been great! 

I do have days I went around my limit or didn’t plan my time as well as I should have done, and those are really good moments to go back to why you’re using your phone and how you can better maintain your time. 

Seriously, everyone should drop what they’re doing and go watch or read AoT!

On Computer screen time:

A little side note for those of you thinking, But I don’t use my phone that much. What about other screen times? 

Good point. Although I haven’t started to crack down on this as much as my phone (partly because I write on and off on my computer and work/study on there), I do have a few tricks to stay focused on one task. 

  • One thing I love to do is the 3 tab limits. Sometimes I see people who have a million tabs open on their computer, which drives me crazy. Recent research shows you can’t actually multi-task, so try tackling one thing at a time. 
  • I also write out my tasks in detail on a post-it note which I stick on my computer. This way, I know why I opened my computer and can stay focused on those tasks. 
  • The 15-minute rule. I would write or do tasks in fifteen-minute sprints and take a break at the end of three rounds. I know I can stay focused, glued to my computer for hours on the end, but try to force myself to take breaks. 

And that’s about it! 

What did you think? What are some of your ways of cutting back screen time? How do you stay focused and use your time wisely? (Or not?) Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

Create a Writing Life That (Actually) Works for You

Hullo, world! 

It’s actually snowing in Vancouver today, which is super exciting. Snowcouver trumps Raincouver! (I know, spoken like someone from Edmonton where it’s -30°C and sunny.)

I’m thinking I’ll take a short walk in the snow with my sister for an early Valentine girl’s date…It’s a White Valentine! (I know, now I’m ceasing to make much sense.)

Me going outside today.

Today, we’ll be tackling the topic of Writing Life

Writing Life is a fickle thing. Last week I talked about writing what you love, but sometimes we don’t even get there–we seem to be unable to find time to write. Or, you might be squeezing in that writing, but it leaves you exhausted and dissatisfied with your writing and you think, “This isn’t the writing life I was dreaming of!”

Courage, dear heart. Where there is a will, there always is a way.

1. Brainstorm

First off, take a moment right now and think of your ideal writing life. What does it look like? When are you writing? Last year, I stalked my four legendary authors and went to see what kind of writing life they had. From this experience, I’ve been brainstorming what my ideal writing life would look like. I shared my ideal Bookham routine in January, but February has been knocking me out, so I’m not able to follow that routine too much. 

A good writing life or day for me would be devoid of siblings (sorry my dears, you are too obstreperous), filled with cups of tea and hot chocolate and coffee magically refilling themselves (or not), and me banging up 5K or more. And no, this isn’t just a fantasy. I had a very good writing day about a year ago where I banged out 10k in a single Saturday. 

But enough about my ideal writing life. Try to come up with yours and make it as specific as possible. It might be a good idea to make a Pinterest board on it, too. (I know, I can’t promote Pinterest enough.)

2. Assess 

This is where a reality check comes in. Where are you at your life sans writing? Are you a high schooler, a college student, or a stay-at-home mom? What does your work schedule look like? 

If you are a high school senior, I will advise you to focus on your future. And if you’re offended, I’m sorry, but I was a senior myself. You can read about my disastrous writing life back then. It’s not a priority. Your life is. Writing should be put on the back burner until you’re finished with applications and scholarships and whatnots. 

If you aren’t on the dividing road of life, however, really think back on your schedule. When do you wake up and go to sleep? What are some of the non-negotiable blocks of your time? Ruthlessly go through everything in a given day, and yes, that includes the time you spend scrolling on Instagram. It’s a good idea to do this on paper and list all your non-negotiable schedule versus negotiable things. 

Example:

Non-NegotiableNegotiable
-Full-Time Work (8hrs)
-Part-Time Work (2-4hrs)
-Study (6hrs or more)
-Sleep (6-7hrs)
-Eating (3hrs)
-Personal Hygiene–Shower, bath, etc. (1.5hrs)
-Transit (1-2hrs)
-Sleeping in
-Reading
-Social Media and other phone usages (ave. per day=3.5hrs or  more)
-Watching TV shows (ave. per week= 8hrs)
-Other Hobbies

3. Excavate

Once you have a detailed idea of where all your time is going, ruthlessly go through the negotiable list. Is it truly necessary to binge-watch Netflix over the weekends? Do you really need to read that book? *gasp* Is it possible to wake up an hour earlier than usual? What can you be doing other than scrolling through Instagram feeds? 

At this point, go back to point 1 where you did a brainstorm of your ideal writing life. Now, compare it with the time you have. How much time can you actually allot? As much as possible, try to create one day in a month where you can achieve that ideal writing life. Once you can do that regularly, try every other week. Then once a week. 

For me, Saturdays are my sacred days where I leisurely write my blog, work on my WiPs, and ignore work and study as much as possible. I know, it sounds a little stressful, esp. if you’re a studyholic like me, but it works. 

During weekdays, I try to set my bars really low. If I can write an hour a day, I consider it a great achievement. But as long as I make the time to write consistently, I think it a great writing life. 

Think of your ideal writing life. Assess the time you have in your 24 hours a day. Then at the actual time you can excavate to write. Chances are, if you are serious about writing, you can cut back on the negotiable and write. It doesn’t have to look the same every day, but it is preferable to stick to it until you’re wired to take the time to write. 

When everything is stripped away of life, will you be writing? How much writing means to you will be the measure of how much you will treasure it. And if writing life right now looks like taking ten minutes every morning to jot down small details or typing on your phone in transit, that’s okay, too. What matters is you realise what your priorities are, and if writing is one of them, to guard it. 

And that’s what we do–write. 

Thank you for reading this post! What does your ideal writing life look like? What are some areas you can cut back on to write instead? How can you make time to write in your stage of life? Let me know what you thought in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: 3 Habits to Write What You Love

Hullo, world!

It’s my lucky day! (I know, when I’m happy, I go off into weird Jack Sparrow tandems.) Raincouver has taken a break, and the last three days have been sunny despite winter still raging, and I feel a hint of spring in the air…

“And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

C. S. Lewis

Anyhow. 

Today, we have another installation of Author Health, which is my second favourite series after Afternoon Tea. (And happens to be the only other series besides that.) We’ve covered grounds of self-care tips & c. so far, but I thought it would be fun to cover actual writing habits–3 Habits to Write What You Love

Now, the Golden Rule in writing is to “Write what you love.” C. S. Lewis says so, and so does J. R. R. Tolkien. If those two could agree on something, it probably means a lot. 

Over the years in my writing career (as if I have such a long time frame to claim), I’ve come to realise this is the key component in being a happy writer–writing what makes you happy. 

Sure, it might not sell at that moment. No one may want to read about classical composers with superpowers based on their famous compositions. *Totally not ripping off BSD* But as long as it makes you happy, it will eventually make other people with niché interests like yours very, very, happy. And what’s a writer who doesn’t like their work? (Just outed every writer in the vicinity, I did.)

1. Take an inventory of stories you love

The very first thing I went and did was to create various book lists. For those of you who don’t know, I’m either a 5 or 1 enneagram, INFJ, Ravenclaw, and Planner leaning towards Plantser. I would spend my spare time creating and reading lists. Neatly organised lists make me so happy I could cry. 

“Ice is my life!”

So naturally, I created a list of stories I love. I also made a list of my favourite things (Theology, conspiracy theories, things that sound hard…), elements I like in stories (Intelligence in MC, Antiquity, weird people…) and so on. From those lists, it became pretty clear what I appreciate in stories, thematic elements I’m drawn towards, and what I place importance on.

Like my Review Policy states, I can’t stand books with terrible prose. (Or modern-ish prose? I’m not entirely sure about the technicalities…) I can stand reasonably bad characters, but I can’t stand stupid MCs. *totally not looking at HP* I’m not too particular about plots, except I would like them as convoluted as possible. Et ad infinitum. 

2. Stuff your story with elements you love

After you have a good idea of what you like in a certain story, proceed to stuff yours with those elements. I have a twisted sense of humour. Combine that with a wanna-be neuroscientist’s knowledge and non-denominational theology, you have entertaining conversations wondering which part of the cut-up concubine got sent to the 12 tribes of Israel in Judges 19. I mean, seriously, which tribe got the head? (Although, I do have to credit Mum for that one. She and I tried to figure out how to divide a body into 12 parts one night.)

The reason I can stand otherwise obnoxious characters like him–we’re similar!
Okay, now I’m just having fun at Sherlock’s expense

3. Build a solid aesthetic for each story 

After I cram a certain book with things I love, I usually figure out the aesthetic for that story.

For Juliet, it’s mostly clean minimal, although the backstory has dark academia feel to it.

Woodstone is a decidedly academia feel–both dark and light.

In Elektriem, it’s grunge and vintage combined with west-coast nature aesthetic.

Having this clear aesthetic for each story gives me an idea of personality for my WiPs. Although it’s clear I lean towards DA or minimal aesthetics, I like changing the sub-genres within them. (Juliet is sci-fi, so the DA elements are more STEM oriented than Woodstone, which is based on the seven liberal arts as magic systems.)

I find that habitually going back to the story’s origins, figuring out which elements I want to write about, and collecting aesthetics for them recharges that energy and  “first love” feel that wears off after plodding through a specific WiP. It’s important to know the theoretical side of why you write but it’s also as important to know in your heart what sparks joy in writing

It sparks joy! Who cares if it’s a little creepy?

What sparks joy in stories? What do your favourite stories entail? Why are you drawn towards them? Once you find those answers, you’ll be surprised at how much on a deeper level you can take your writing. 

(FYI, I’m probably Academia crazy because I love studying. I’m also wild about classics because I grew up on them. On a deeper level, I find comfort in gaining knowledge…when I don’t know things, that’s when I start feeling stressed.)

So, when you find you’re stagnated in a certain WiP, take a step back–what was it about the story you first found fascinating? What’s something that you can add to the story to make you love it even more? Why does it matter to you personally?

And that’s it for today. 

Thank you for reading! What do you think? Which stories or elements do you love? What’s one thing that sparks joy in your writing projects? Do you have a favourite aesthetic? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!