A few weeks ago, I woke up earlier than usual for a Saturday morning and caught the most beautiful sunrise I’ve ever seen in Austin. I grabbed my phone, opened up Instagram so I could story it, snapped the picture, and thought to myself, “meh, it never translates.” This typically happens anytime I see something jaw-dropping beautiful.

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve pulled over in my car to capture the scenery only to take the pic and realize it never looks the same. Sure, I’m not the best photographer, but I also believe some things are meant to simply be enjoyed in the moment.

Last month I went to Nashville to see Elton John. It had been on my bucket list and I was over the moon that I prioritized it and made it happen. My friend Annie and I turned it into a whole evening and it was truly magical. It was also extremely memorable because I was intentional with my presence.

Typically for an evening out, I’d have drinks at dinner and probably a drink or two at the actual show. I wanted to be fully present during the show, that I stuck to two drinks all night. I also knew that any photo or video I took wouldn’t do it justice. I did snap a few to look back on later, and I’m glad I did, but the phone wasn’t out all evening. Plus, when I took the photos and videos, I wasn’t actually looking at the camera, I was watching Elton the entire time. And when one of my favorite songs came on, I didn’t capture it, I just sang along and lived in the moment — that moment for me and no one else.

This had me thinking about the holidays and the fact that I want to truly savor every moment and be totally present with my friends and family. Our immediate family gets together maybe 4-5 times a year, and while I love sharing these moments on social media (truly, my parents are HILARIOUS), I don’t want to be bound by storytelling our holiday break, especially because it’s not usually just posting — it’s posting, responding to DM’s, laughing about the responses as a family, and before we know it, we’ve spent over an hour online.

So this holiday season, I’m committing to presence. No, not presents (we actually don’t do presents in our family!); actual presence. The gift of being fully present and away from our screens — we’re getting disconnected, so we can get really connected.

Here are the 6 phone rules I’m implementing this holiday season:

Remove email.

I recently took a vacation where I promised myself not to check any work emails. No joke, within the first hour of my first day of vacation, what did I do? You guessed it, checked my email on my phone. I was so disappointed in myself, but realized that it’s such a regular habit, that I was just going through the motions without really paying attention. I quickly removed the email from my phone so I wasn’t tempted to check in, and even more, respond or take on any work. It’s such a game-changer that it’s the first thing I’m going to do when my parents get to town.

“No Phone Zone” at the table.

I’m sure several of you probably have this rule (Camille is also a big fan), and our family does a pretty good job of this already, but implementing a no-phone-zone during dinners has been a game-changer to connecting to one another.  Here’s the thing, I know we are all going to be really proud of our holiday spreads, cheeseboards, pies, etc., so snap that pic before everyone starts to dig in, and allow yourself to hear your aunt talk about her insanely talented son, or your funny uncle tell the same joke he tells every year.

Plus, you know how it annoying it is to have to repeat a joke because someone wasn’t paying attention, so save them all the extra hassle. I make a concerted effort to do this during work dinners, nights out with friends, and especially while I’m on Zoom calls. It’s so tempting for me to want to take a look at that screen when it lights up, that it immediately pulls me out of any conversation. Pro-tip: I purchased a phone privacy screen overlay and it’s certainly helped as I can’t see the screen light up as much.

Set a time limit on social media.

I ebb and flow with my love for social media. Some days I’m on a roll sharing dating highlights and engaging with people all day; some days I’m working and watching what brands are up to and what people in the community are talking about; and others I’m just bored and mindlessly scrolling to avoid housework. I’m late to this game, but I discovered I can set a time limit on how long I’m on Instagram for the day, which full disclosure: I rarely stick to the actual limit and usually go over, but I at least feel great saying I’m on it much less. I’m giving myself a 30-min timeframe each day during the holidays. My guess is I won’t miss it (or anything else.)

Call vs. text.

Last month I talked about how much I’m loving FaceTime’ing my friends and family when I can’t see them as much, and I’m keeping this going during the holidays, too vs. texting. Not only is it hard to understand tone and inflection over text, but there’s so much more than can be said by actually speaking vs. texting. And if I’m being totally sappy and honest: I just love hearing people’s voices. When my Mom and Dad answer the phone, I can legit feel their smile and happiness.

Post later or not at all.

Let’s face it: something funny is going to happen, and I’ll want to be reminded of it later, so I’m going to take the pic. Maybe I’ll post it later, and maybe I’ll keep it for myself to look back on later, but I really do love being able to capture special moments when it feels like the timing is right and I’m not being disruptive to anyone else’s experience. Pro-tip, if someone has already announced “no phones,” this is when you politely and potentially playfully ask to capture the moment. If you’re in someone else’s home: house rules! I’m always reminded of this when I’m around my friend Tory who has two young children. He’s made a really concerted effort to have a fairly screen-less home, so I’m always hyper-aware and ask before grabbing my phone to snap a moment. Sometimes he’ll say, “sure,” and others “not right now.” Lately I’ve fallen into the camp of keeping the personal moments personal and not posting at all.

I haven’t quite hit a full social media hiatus, and not sure I ever will, but these small changes have the ability to make a big impact and give the gift of presence, which is something that can never be purchased, but certainly mean the most. I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday and are able to get disconnected, so you can stay truly connected.

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