What is “Amish Time” and how can you implement it?

Did you know I’m descended from Mennonites? They are a similar community to the Amish, and live in the USA. Both communities are very religious (on paper if not in practice) and shun modern ways and “sinful” practices, like watching telly or being nice to gays.

Who are the Amish?

The Amish are stricter than the Mennonites. They don’t drive cars and they have weird facial hair (mostly the men). If you drive through Amish country (Pennsylvania and places), you will see the generators they have for electricity – they look like funny windmill things. They live off-grid but still use electricity for things like fridges, or their businesses. They have lights too, but have rules about what kind of lights they can use and when.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post, which is not an examination of American religious orders, but the fact that the Amish can help us with our productivity (and not just by being shining examples of the old-fashioned Protestant work ethic).

What is “Amish Time”?

I read about “Amish Time” a while ago. It basically means turning off all your electrical stuff before you go to bed.

So that means turning the telly off. Shutting down your computer. Switching your phone off then putting it somewhere you don’t see it (I know how tempting it can be to want to switch it on again to see if anyone liked that picture of your cat!).

What’s the point of “Amish Time”?

It helps you go to sleep.

If you look at all the research on light-emitting devices (we’re talking computers and phones, not candles), it tells you that the blue light from them mucks up your melatonin. That’s the hormone that tells you you need to go to sleep. If you’re piddling around on your phone looking at pictures of wombats, or diving down a Wikipedia hole, the light is telling your brain it’s not time to go to sleep. That means when you do try to go to sleep, it takes you longer to drop off.

The other thing is, if you were able to just stop reading Reddit at a sensible time, you’d just do it and go to bed. But you aren’t, are you? You will tell yourself “just one more” article or Pinterest post or Twitter refresh until it’s 1am and all you’ve learnt of value is that wombats have cube-shaped poo.

When does “Amish Time” start?

“Amish Time” starts about an hour before you go to bed.

This piece by the Sleep Foundation recommends “an hour or two”, but that is for kids – an hour is usually OK for adults. (That article also recommends using red bulbs because the red light doesn’t suppress the melatonin needed for sleep. Which is handy if you’re trying to make your house look like a Dutch brothel).

If you’re crap with numbers, that means you’ll need to work backwards to figure out your own Amish time.

  • Work out what time you’re getting up
  • Count back 8 hours (or 7 hours or 9 hours, depending on how long you like to sleep)
  • Count back one more hour

That, my friend, is your own personal Amish Time hour. Put it in your phone (now please, you’ll forget otherwise) as a reminder.

I don’t have the discipline to implement “Amish Time”

You and me both, mate.

Fortunately, our devices come equipped with ways of stopping them working, and I’m not just talking about Windows (little joke for my Linux-using friends there).

Before I list them, I want to confess to something. I always resisted using blocks and things on my phone. I thought, as an adult, I should be mature and disciplined enough to control myself (yeah, even with the ADHD). But then I read something that changed my view.

What was it?

I found out that pretty much every person who invented addictive technology (like “scroll to refresh” for example), has restrictions on their phone. It was in this Guardian article, in fact. After I read that, I figured that if those people used it, it was OK for me too.

(I know I don’t need permission, but I felt like I did).

Anyhoo, here are some apps for your phone:

  • Block (Android) – I use this one ALL THE TIME. It blocks apps at certain times, or after a certain limit has been reached and you can also switch off notifications for those apps so you’re not tempted to look at Facebook through another device.
  • Offtime (Android and iPhone) – similar to Block. I’ve never used it because I find Block so easy.
  • Forest (Android) – I personally didn’t get on with this but other people love it. It grows a tree if you leave your phone for long enough.
  • Space (Android and iPhone) – gentle. Aims to change habits and work on your goals.
  • Flipd (Android and iPhone) – with lots of mindfulness features, it comes across as kind of hippyish but is actually hardcore because you can’t disable it! For you if you’re really struggling to focus.
  • Stay on Task (Android) – I used to use this and love its simplicity. It won’t block anything, it just reminds you to do what you’re supposed to be doing.

And here are some apps for your computer.

  • RescueTime. I used to have this on my laptop but I dunno what happened to it. It’s very popular but I personally found it a mixed bag. It won’t block anything but it will help you understand where your time is going and when.
  • Evernote – bit different as it’s a note-taking app but the idea is, you can jot down your ideas to stop getting distracted. So instead of Googling “What was that terrible film Nicholas Cage was in?” and wasting 3 hours of your life, you can note it down for later and crack on with your work. (It was “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” by the way.)
  • Leechblock (Chrome and Firefox) – I used to use this, but I stopped. I can’t remember why. It blocks websites of your choosing, so you can still use the internet for work but it will block the nonsense sites you waste time on. It won’t stop you wasting time online in the evening, but it will heavily discourage it.
  • Freedom (bloody everything) – this is a block app that will block programs and apps across lots of your devices (except Linux, appaz). I haven’t used it but it’s super popular.

So that’s Amish Time

Have a bash at it and let me know how you get on (when you’ve unblocked your stuff you can talk to me on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, or you can email me).

Especially if you fully embrace it and grow the beard.

**Update**

I received some feedback about my use of the term “Amish Time”, for which I’m grateful. I’m presenting it here with permission and without comment.

Your article is good, solid, sound advice. However, it comes at a time of heightened issues in that specific community, which itself conflicts with diversity movements elsewhere. Many regard the incidents as the MeToo movement of the Amish community. Albeit that the stories and assaults are significantly worse! The term, which I appreciate you didn’t invent, also generalises and attributed a habit, to a particular group, in a similar way to, say, wearing hijabs, Jews wearing the Kippah, or Muslims/Amish sporting beards. The wider question is whether we should be cognisant of our language when trying to promote diversity and empower diverse groups, at a time in history where diversity is under threat at no greater time since the second world war.

Ali

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