I know it’s a short notice to shuffle your calendar, but tomorrow is National Day of Unplugging. The goal is to carve out as much time as possible to unplug, relax, reflect, be active, and connect with your loved ones. I’m not only going to help, I’ll also do this with you – are you in?
Let’s start with the “why” as that is often my first question with any topic. The answer can be quite long but I’ll summarize: unplugging increases your productivity, creativity, and focus. It improves your physical health, quality of your relationships, and helps you sleep better. Unplugging also helps battle anxiety and depression, especially in adolescents. A quick online search will point you to a number of studies on these benefits, as well as many other benefits I have yet to mention.
But I hear you say, “we all have crazy lives so how do we really pull this off?” Let me open the tip jar and see what helpful tips I find in there for us.
Meditate. The benefits of meditation are well documented, but it only helps if you do it regularly. Tomorrow could be the day to start! Pulling your mind away from the world for 10 to 15 minutes a day will start showing its benefits quickly. After reaching the 2 weeks point of daily meditation, I was amazed at how my heartbeat slowed down and clear focus started replacing anxiety. Here is my go to for meditation.
Go for a walk. Stepping away throughout the day for a walk resets your body and your mind. When I catch myself slowing down and feeling mentally drained, I drop whatever I’m doing and head out the door (unless we have a blizzard in Chicago). A trick I learned from Steve Jobs’ book and really love is having those one-on-one meetings on short walks. I have yet to make this a regular thing but it is on my wish list!
Have a morning & night routine. How you start your day greatly impacts how it goes. Morning walk, exercise, meditation, journaling, or even just letting yourself have a cup of coffee while watching the world outside your window before you check those emails will help you start with a positive feeling and a calm mind. Putting away your tech at least a couple of hours before bedtime and using a basic alarm clock will help keep your phone away from the bedroom. You will fall asleep faster and sleep better. Admittedly, I’m pretty bad at this but will challenge myself starting tomorrow!
Reduce notifications. Phones and computers ding and show banners all day for our attention. A couple of years ago, I started feeling like my technology needed me more often than I needed it, which felt strange and wrong. I got rid of my smartwatch, and even turned off the email notifications on my phone. You should be the one deciding when to interact with your technology, not the other way around. Spending some time reviewing those notifications not only helps reduce screen time but also kills unnecessary distractions.
Set no screen rules. No phones during dinner is a common one but why stop there? We keep a notepad and a pen in our meeting room and try not to show up for every meeting with our laptops. Not having screens translates to more eye-contact and much better connection.
Track screen time. The iPhone feature, screen time, can provide stats on how much time you spend on your phone as well as on each app. Seeing how much of my precious time was going down the drain was a wakeup call for me to take immediate steps to delete a couple of apps.
Plan non-digital activities. I was just reminded of this quote from a friend the other day: “If it’s not in your calendar – it doesn’t exist.” Sitting around fire with friends, playing ping-pong, practicing my drumming skills, riding my motorcycle, having picnics, going for hikes, and board games are just a few examples of things I really enjoy that do not include technology. Trying to get them on my calendar helps with unplugging and digital detox. Start with a list of your likes, then get them on your calendar. You will not only eat away at screen time but also get to do more of the things that make you truly happy.
There was a time in my life when I was amazed at how technology could help with virtually everything and make everything it touches better. The older I get, the more I realize life is about balance. The time I spend being present with myself and those I love are the times that will always matter the most to me. I hope you find something in here that will help peel you away from that screen and replace it with true happiness, contentment, and joy.
See you next week,
– Burak Sarac, Team Lead
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