Ten years ago, would anyone have thought that unplugging from screened devices, even for a few hours, would become an idea worthy of books, seminars and retreats? With studies showing that overuse of technology leads to lack of focus, increased stress levels and burnout, it makes sense that people are looking to kick the habit. Since this isn’t easy, how can we start and what’s the point?
Baby Steps: Rather than setting out for a wild weekend sans technology, try one small hour of unplugged time each day. Choose a period that’s relatively quiet, then stretch it out after getting comfortable. Not only will this inspire more time offline, but it will eventually become routine.
Hack the Habit: Science on habits shows that when cued, we perform an action that brings us a reward. Knowing this cycle, we can derail our digital dependencies. For instance; work ends, mindless internet surfing starts, and we feel released from the day. Instead of that, work ends, we pick up that book we’ve been meaning to read, and leave the day behind.
Do Something Else: Aristotle’s observation natura horror vacui (nature abhors a vacuum) is absolutely true when unplugging. Without devices, we have time to fill; one study said as many as three hours per day. So, before unplugging, we should consider what we’d do if we had time (exercise, cook, spend time with friends). Then, start planning to do those things.
Be Prepared to Suck Bad: This probably won’t be easy, especially at first. Moments of weakness, anxiety and uncertainty can knock us off the wagon. Unplugging with a friend provides the extra support needed to stay on target; make a simple plan to keep each other accountable. The good news is that we WILL find immediate benefits and these WILL increase with practice and that WILL help us keep our seat.
Just do Something: That’s really where to start. Like dieting or working out, the first moves are challenging; we have to want to make the change and then get our butt in gear. Feeling the effects of our new healthy choices will keep us looking for other ways to stay motivated.
Finding small ways to loosen technology’s grip on our lives is simple but not easy. Start with this advice and after feeling your focus sharpen, clarity return and free time increase, we’re happy to help you expand your practice.