Our Team’s methods for getting away from the computer, television, and phone
As a remote team, we each found ourselves suffering from Too Much Screen Time even before the current Covid-19/Quarantine/Isolation situation. So much of what we all do during the work day consists of sitting in front of a computer screen, but we’ve each developed other hobbies, activities, and mindsets to help us deal with that strain. We’re a small team, but we’re spread all over the globe and have very different home situations. Some of us have kids. Some of us are single. Some of us have pets. Some of us live in major urban centers. As a team that values flexibility and quality of life, and that strives to be mindful of balance, it makes some sense that we’ve developed some solid strategies for pulling away from the screen. So here are some of our team members’ favorite tips, hobbies, and activities for breaking up the screen-grind.
1. Put One Foot in Front of the Other
Sami Samhuri, CTO and Megan Olesky, Backend Developer
Victoria, BC, Canada
Sami and Megan both enjoy hiking, but have different takes on it. Sami enjoys several-hour-long hikes, often in the forests of Vancouver Island, where he can explore new trails and take in the trees, moss, wildlife, and hilltop vistas of the Pacific Northwest. “Exploring new places is just fun generally,” he says. Megan tends to be more driven about it. While Sami credits moving to a west-coast city “full of hippies and fit people” as the impetus for his regular hikes, Megan walks every day, and has for most of her life. She sold her car a few years back, and has happily adopted a lifestyle in which she basically walks or rides her bike no matter where she’s going.
Both Megan and Sami enjoy walking and hiking alone, but they’re also happy to do it with company – especially each other’s. “It’s just good to get outdoors, smell the fresh air, and get the legs moving,” Megan says. Recently they’ve been going geocaching together as well. Sami notes that hiking is a great activity to undertake while camping, “because you’re usually out near some trails anyway and then you can do something active during the day and have a better justification for drinking beer all evening.”
2. Visit Other Worlds
Emily Volk, Brand Manager
Emily is a voracious reader, and has been since childhood. Recently, though, reading has taken on an extra urgency for her, as she uses reading as an escape – both from her computer screen and from the troubles of the world. “It’s my favorite thing when I’m feeling bogged down with work or need to give my eyes a break from the screen.” As a member of three book clubs (including 1SE’s very own), she’s always got at least one book on-deck. “I always read at least 30 minutes a day. Sometimes it’s hours.”
According to Google, there are over 129 million books in existence. Emily sees that as a challenge, but also as a reason to pick her reads carefully. “If I read 30 books a year and live to 80, that’s only 1,560 books!” She exclaims. “I want to up those numbers! Those are rookie numbers!”
3. Get Dirty
Bruce Seaton, Content Creator
I’m fortunate to have a job that challenges me creatively every day. Whether I’m writing copy or blog posts, editing release notes, compiling 1SE user videos into themed compilations, or creating music for videos, it’s great to be able to sit back at the end of a day and look at something and go “Hey, I made that!” As someone who works from home, I’m also fortunate to be able to work at a standing desk outside in my garden most days (Albuquerque sometimes seems purpose-built for working outside, as long as you’re in the shade). But even if I’m working on something I love and doing it in a place where my mind can wander, I’m still essentially stuck in front of a screen all day. So in my off-hours, I’m happiest when I’m doing something messy.
In the spring, that means a lot of gardening. In the high New Mexico desert, that can mean a lot of work building raised beds, amending the soil, and keeping an eye out for insect pests. I’m not much for flowers – I like a practical garden, and I take it personally when caterpillars start chowing down on my carefully-shepherded tomatoes. All of this means I’m spending a lot of time on my knees in the dirt, sometimes up to my elbows in compost. I love it. And in a couple of months, I’ll have a bounty of veggies – the reward for a dirty job well done. Running a successful garden and then being able to eat your own produce one of the most satisfying things I know of, but it does take work and patience.
4. Light a Fire
Jason Forest, CPO
Every night that he can, Jason and his three sons head out to the back yard and spend some time sitting around a campfire in hammocks and lawn chairs. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and a great way to end the day – playing musical instruments, chatting about video games, and – inevitably – making s’mores.
“Lately, my boys haven’t been able to get out and see their friends,” Jason says, “so I’ve really been trying to focus on helping them to create unique memories at home.” During the cold, rainy New Jersey spring, that meant finding activities to do together indoors. Together, they made a paint-marker mural in the room the younger two boys share. Now that summer is on the way and the weather is nice, he says, “there’s nothing better than sitting around a fire with people you love.”
5. Put On your Face
Silvia Burgos, Lead Customer Advocate
Silvia learned about professional makeup in preparation for her wedding, but developed a deep interest in the history of makeup, its origins in prehistory, and in various techniques used to create different effects. In 2013, she created what eventually grew into a successful YouTube channel that focused on makeup and self-care tips. Her ever-expanding knowledge of the medium has allowed her to truly use her own face as a canvas for creating lots of different effects. “I love the feeling of freedom to experiment and create whatever comes to my mind.”
Although she used to be able to spend a couple of hours every few days on the hobby, becoming a mother has significantly changed her schedule. “Every time I need to get away from the computer it’s because there’s something else I must do,” she says. She looks forward to the day when she’ll be able to get back to practicing with makeup, and you can bet that one of these days, Silvia will be adding a second canvas – her daughter Amy – to her repertoire.
6. Go for a Ride
Jeff Blagdon, Lead iOS Developer
Nova Scotia, Canada
Jeff has spent a lot of time in recent years traveling the world, but for the first time in a long time, he’s back within bicycling distance of his parents’ house. “For as long as I can remember the whole family always went on long weekend rides around our old neighborhood,” he says. Jeff has taken advantage of the recent move to go for rides with his father a couple of times a week, usually for an hour or two. His parents live next to a couple of beautiful trail systems, and Jeff appreciates being able to spend time with his dad on the neighborhood trail.
Jeff has used a bike to commute from home to work for around a decade, no matter where he was (France, Japan, New York, and so on) at the time. Now that he’s with 1SE, he works from home, so biking has become more about recreation and enjoyment than being a means of transportation. What does he enjoy most about riding these days? “Hanging out with my dad, feeling the cool breeze, and enjoying the scenery.”
7. Make the Wheel Go ‘Round
Marilyn García, Customer Advocate
For the past year, Marilyn has made a daily habit of popping on some upbeat tunes and hula hooping for 40 minutes. After a friend of hers started uploading hula hoop videos to Instagram, Marilyn decided to re-learn how to do it. “I find it super fun, and it’s a good calorie burner.”
She doesn’t have a defined hula hoop workout routine, instead letting the music guide her. She’s gradually expanding her repertoire of moves and tricks, but for her workout mostly sticks to the basics – moving around, spinning, and doing squats while keeping the hoop moving. “It’s the only workout that doesn’t bore me,” she says.
8. Sweat it Out
Schoneck Shoaf, COO
Every day, Schoneck takes time away from work to spend some quiet time alone in his sauna – a small, simple model that he built in his garage in late 2019. “Being able to go in there, either before work or mid-day if I need to step away from something, it’s been really nice.” Sometimes he’ll bring a book, sometimes he’ll listen to a podcast, and sometimes he simply sits quietly and meditates. “If I have enough time, I’ll do a cycle – 20 minutes in the sauna, then a cold shower, then back to the sauna, then a cold shower.” Schoneck appreciates the ability to truly get away from everything – work, TV, the phone, the dog, and appreciate the clean and quiet.
Schoneck was first drawn to the sauna experience while on a trip to Germany. Purely out of curiosity, he took a quick trip from Munich to Erding, and spent a day at Therme Erding, the biggest thermal spa in the world. Amazed by the complexity that the spa process can take and fascinated by the physical and mental cleansing he experienced, he made a habit of regularly spending time in a spa when he returned to the States. “I worked in advertising in midtown Manhattan for a while, and I loved that during my lunch break I could run to the gym, grab a twenty minute sauna, shower, and grab lunch at a halal cart on the way back to work.” Now that he’s in Texas with his own place, Schoneck prefers to sweat it out in the privacy – and cleanliness – of his own space.
9. Move to the Music
Madison Kirby, Social Media Manager
When Maddie was 17, she attended a leadership camp, where she was introduced to Free Dance – a form of movement therapy which involves playing music and then moving the body in whatever way seems to naturally reflect current emotion. The camp included Free Dance therapy sessions with large groups – the only rule was not judging others for how they wanted to express themselves. At first it seemed crazy, but by the end, some of the kids were weeping, while others felt a profound sense of freedom. “It was one of the coolest things I’d ever experienced,” she says.
Since her college years, Maddie has made it a part of her weekly routine, as a way to manage stress and emotion. It’s a deeply personal activity. “I play some of my favorite music on my iPod when I’m alone and move around however I please.” She says it’s her own form of meditation, allowing her to be more energized and connected to herself.
10. Take a Dip
Mostafa Abdellatif, iOS Engineer
Two to three times a week, Mostafa starts his day with a relaxing half-hour swim at a local swimming club, where he often stays to work remotely after his warm-up. He was a competitive swimmer with his local swim team as a kid, but following a shoulder injury, swimming has become partly about exercise and partly about getting focused. His morning swims now are slow and relaxed.
He’s also built a group of friends centered around the swimming club, so he’ll sometimes spend his whole day there, exercising in the morning, working remotely from there, and then spending time with friends in the evening. Although the current pandemic has kept him from being able to keep up with his usual routine, he looks forward to getting back to it soon.
11. Put a Price on Happiness
Vinh Dinh, iOS Developer
Since childhood, Vinh has enjoyed taking long walks outdoors. Somewhere along the way, however, Vinh developed a mental exercise: he puts price tags on things that are not for sale. “Nature has an abundance of things I’d pay so much for, but are given to us for free. It makes me appreciate the wealth that’s surrounding us.” He’ll gaze at clouds, assigning values – fifty cents for one, a dollar for another. A beautiful sunset? “At least a few thousand dollars,” he says.
Vinh also notices himself performing this exercise when he travels. We have a tendency to take our hometown’s beauty for granted, but when we go to other places, we see them with fresh eyes. But by giving imaginary values to his appreciation of the beauty that surrounds him every day, Vinh is more conscious of free experiences closer to home, and is able to hold on to the specialness in his own neighborhood.
12. Create a Series
Cesar Kuriyama, CEO
North Bergen, NJ
In early March, just as we were all beginning to understand the implications of Covid-19, Cesar, whose normal base of operations is in Brooklyn, NY, made a decision to get out of the city proper and move back in with his parents across the Hudson River in New Jersey. They’re both at high risk for complications from the virus, and Cesar has helped take care of them for years, so in order to make them as safe as possible, Cesar has significantly limited his own contact with the outside world. As a guy who usually travels, most often by air, for about two weeks a month, this was a total turnabout in lifestyle.
As the brain that spawned 1 Second Everyday, Cesar is a keen self-documentarian. On the fourth day of his self-quarantine – unseasonably sunny and warm for March in North Jersey, Cesar managed to grab a photo of himself enjoying a quiet moment in the yard. Soon, he was helping his father (who is almost blind) down the stairs to join him, and soon after, Cesar’s mom joined their afternoon trips to the yard. It started purely as a continuation of documenting life, but Cesar soon started adding humor – and props – to the series. “I keep trying to top the last one,” he says, “but I don’t know how I’m going to top that Jordan picture.” We’re not worried.
Go Forth and Do Likewise
So there you have it – a list of things you can do to break up the eye-frying monotony of life in front of a screen, whether you prefer to stay inside or get out in the open air. Hopefully something in this list acts as a spark of inspiration for you – now go and do it! Seriously, put this down and go do something. I have pepper plants to attend to.