40 Days of Focus:
Adapted from Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
Lent is an important season in the life of our church for personal spiritual renewal. While the church has historically practiced fasting from food during Lent, we believe that it is prudent in our current time in history to fast from screens and technology. The point of putting off the use of digital technology is so that you can re-focus on the Lord. The author of Hebrews encourages the church to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb 12:2). We cannot fix our eyes on Christ in the Scriptures if they are fixated on a screen.
This guide will help you perform a 40 Day digital declutter. The point of the declutter is to put off “optional technologies” for 40 days so that you can rediscover things you value as well as spend concentrated time with the Lord and his people. At the end of 40 Days, you can reintroduce those technologies which actually support the things you value.
Step 1: Define Your Technology Rules
To take a break from “optional technologies” you need to know which technologies fall into this “optional” category. “Optional technologies” are things like apps, websites, and other digital tools with screens. When in doubt, it’s best to strip things down to the studs. For example, the digital declutter may mean removing all apps (even your browser) from your phone and only leaving on “work” apps (although we would also recommend removing email from your phone too).
TV, tablets, and video games would also fall into the “optional technologies” list. You don’t actually need any of these things to survive! But the important part of this challenge is to define your technology rules. You need to make sure these technology rules work for you, not somebody else.
Step 2: Fill Your Life with Meaningful Things
Over the next 40 days, take time to refill your life with activities that you have long enjoyed, but have neglected. Make sure to especially set aside time to read the Bible and pray. Consider buying a devotional book to go through or purchasing another book that you’ve wanted to read for a long time.
The first couple weeks you may experience “detox” like effects. You may be slightly more irritable or anxious. That’s ok. That is the experience of your brain weaning itself off of these technologies. Remember that the goal is not just to take a break but to fill it full with meaningful things. It may be worth making a list of your own personal values, or values as a family, and seeing if you can find more time to do things which support those values.
Step 3: Reintroduce Technology
At the end of Lent, you can begin reintroducing these optional technologies into your life. But you can begin reintroducing them thoughtfully. Instead of plunging back into using Facebook just as much as you used it before, consider using specific procedures for guiding how you’ll use Facebook. For example: “I will check Facebook for 10 minutes a day after lunch before I start my afternoon shift.” Instead of zoning out at night and leaving the TV on, consider a principle, “I will stream one hour of Netflix per night and then begin my night time routine.”
Hopefully, your life will be already fairly full of life-giving, God-glorifying activities that the low-quality activities of aimless surfing or passive TV watching will seem not as appealing.