Redeeming Free Time

A few months ago I listened to two books by Cal Newport, Deep Work, and Digital Minimalism while driving back and forth teaching College classes. Both books are excellent, but Digital Minimalism is especially helpful in this day and age.

His point in the book is that much of what we use digitally (social media, email, streaming services) is done with very little thought. The book teaches that instead of a product to be consumed, these are digital tools that should be used for very specific purposes.

One thing that Cal Newport emphasizes in the book is the fact that we are trained to pull out our smart-phones when a moment of free time comes. Often this is done even subconsciously without even thinking about it. People who use applications or software to track the amount of time spent on social-media or streaming apps are usually shocked by the results.

For me Digital Minimalism was a reminder that free time [whether its relaxing at the end of the day or waiting in line at the store] should be used for the Glory of God. And to be honest its hard to think of God being glorified by my spending most of my time scrolling or swiping.

So instead of investing time in my phone, I try to always have three better options:

  1. A carrying around Bible
  2. A notebook
  3. And a physical book

The carrying around Bible is simply a small print Bible I have in the front of my backpack. The notebook helps me meditate or focus on Scripture by having either a journal of my devotional thoughts, Bible study notes, or a prayer list (there are separate ones for each purpose).

While the words “physical book” may sound confusing, it just means a book I’m not reading from my kindle, or a reading application. Basically there can be no screens involved. I found its far too easy to become distracted if a physical book is not used.

To help with the process I’ve set aside some of my favorite books that have been read in the past. It’s actually been refreshing to review some of the books that made a deep impact upon my life, along with the hand-written notes in the margins

One thing that this process has taught me is spending time in a book or studying Scripture is a much better use of your time than anything a smart-phone can offer. However if redeeming free-time is your goal, its absolutely necessary to have those items close by at all times.

Which is why the “go-bag” is so important

I have a small green bag that can easily be slung over your shoulder. I always do my best to have my three items in it at all times, then the bag is either on my back, or nearby (usually in the car). When my go-bag is there I don’t have any problems ignoring my phone. However when I don’t have it the draw to use my phone is VERY hard to break.

I am grateful for how God has used Cal Newport’s writing as a reminder that our time and energy must be used in effective ways. And that grabbing a few moments for Scripture instead of a screen draws me closer to Him.

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