Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Challenge Accepted

Written by: on March 14, 2019

The digital declutter has been a real struggle in the Davis house this year. With jobs that seem to demand constant connection and three sons ages 14, 13 and 7 years old, my husband and I have been searching for ways to simplify our lives. We long to be more present in a world that is full of so much pseudo-connection. As I read through the posts of my cohort-mates this week, it seems I am not alone. Many of us seem to be struggling to find peace in the chaos. Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism seems like a clarion call at just the right time.

As I read through his suggested practices toward living a minimalist lifestyle, I am convicted by the hubris my digital life has displayed. Why do I feel that I am so important that people would need constant access to me? Why do I feel compelled to respond to everyone immediately, as if my input is so necessary? I wonder if I have made it easy for the teams I lead to depend on me for solutions they would naturally find themselves if I wasn’t so easily accessible. Perhaps my immediate relationships would be richer if I stopped trying to maintain thousands of them from far away.

Newport gave me permission I didn’t know I needed. He offered the life raft when I didn’t even realize I was drowning. As I read, I reflected on the things I did before I became email-obsessed. I found I have been neglecting the high-quality leisure activities that offered me space to think and create. I have unknowingly developed a Pavlovian response to boredom that involves mindless scroll-and-swipe rather than leaning into deep connections. I have allowed my days to be fragmented rather than full and focused.

I accept Newport’s 30-day digital declutter challenge. So far, on day 3, I am ashamed by my level of mobile addiction but amazed by the hours I have found. Though I may add in a few applications, I have a feeling I will not miss most of them. I already feel less anxiety since I am not ruled by the little red notification dot on my phone. I wonder what I will be able to produce in the hours I have gained…what will I learn about my family…what will I see with my eyes up that I couldn’t see before?

Thanks, Newport. I owe you.


Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019).

About the Author

Rhonda Davis

Rhonda is passionate about loving her Creator, her wonderful husband, and her three amazing sons. She serves as VP of Enrollment Management & Student Development at The King's University in Southlake, TX.

12 responses to “Challenge Accepted”

  1. Jenn Burnett says:

    I resonate with your post Rhonda! One of the challenges I find is wanting to meet my congregation where they are at…which is most easily done online. And yet I struggle to achieve the depth of insight that I would have even 10 years ago. I’m wondering whether it is just harder to get to the deep part or whether as a culture we are actually failing to cultivate depth. How do we nurture our kids to grow deeper, in faith, in relationships in understanding in this age where even their teachers insist they have phones and be connected all the time? I’m so interested in hearing how your kids have been impacted in another 26 days!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Jenn. Months ago we instituted the “no screens on weekdays” rule. It was so hard for them at first (the Fortnite struggle was real), but now they don’t really miss it. There is less fighting and more listening. It’s beautiful! I’m praying with you as we navigate this harsh terrain. You’ve got this, Mom!

  2. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    As a pastor, I want to be easily accessible and quick to respond to a pastoral call. However, this book made me wonder if I respond too quickly to certain calls or scenarios that I may end up unintentionally enabling bad relational habits. Something to further discern!

    Thanks Rhonda!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      I completely agree, Jacob. I’m afraid that, without realizing it, I created a scenario that stunted the growth of those I lead. My effort to be available just made it easier for them to do less problem solving. We’ll keep getting better at this.

  3. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Rhonda, you are asking excellent questions which get to the heart of the matter. I doubt many of us would connect it to hubris, but in fact, that is most likely the issue for some of us if we dig deep. Have you found tools to help you with the email issue?

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Tammy. Email is the hardest thing for me to conquer. This week I turned off all email notifications, and set aside times each day to answer incoming email. My anxiety lessened without the little red dots and no one seemed frustrated that I was a few hours later than usual getting back to them. I have a colleague who sets her “out of office” to explain when she is working on major projects. I am also trying to learn how to use the administrative help available to me more efficiently. It’s a process, and I have to get over my guilt of not being so immediately available. I’m committed to learn more about this!

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Rhonda, Thanks for sharing your experiences in accepting Newport’s 30-day challenge. As a leader, I look forward to hearing about your discoveries. Many blessings on your bold new adventure!

  5. Mary Mims says:

    Rhonda, as I read about what you wrote, I thought about when I wait in line for my coffee, I’m scrolling on my phone because I am standing by myself, and feel weird just standing there. I think a few years ago we would talk to the stranger next to us. I wonder how many opportunities I have missed scrolling and not being present in the moment? Something to think about!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Excellent thought, Mary! Isn’t it amazing that we now feel weird about standing alone in line or just waiting at the doctor’s office with a book rather than scrolling? I shudder to think of how many God ordained encounters I might be missing with my head down. Thanks for the reminder to be better.

  6. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Rhonda – this is great! I wonder if part of living ‘awake’ to our lives, to God and to His wiring of us has to do with us properly and intentionally using technology. I hadn’t thought of it before but I am sure. I so get the Pavlovian response to boredom – go to the phone. But that feels like a sleepy thing to do. I am inspired by you!

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Thanks, Andrea. I couldn’t agree more with your challenge to live “awake.” I think this could be a wonderful byproduct of digital minimalism. I am looking forward to the new things I may see as I return to paying attention.

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