I love digital. It’s thanks to digital that I can live, work, and play, all with a couple pounds that fit in my backpack. I love being able to store everything I need to remember in on place, to shop in my pajamas, and to access information a few clicks away.
Thanks to the digital revolution, I’m able to downsize physical possessions in trade for a little more freedom.
The easy access that is such a strong benefit of the digital age is also its greatest risk. How often I have found myself enjoying a moment or thinking through a problem, and at the smallest break the reaction is to fill the void by reaching for my phone or clicking to the nearest webpage.
The age of ultimate access to information and amazingly inexpensive digital tools is also one of great distraction. In this post I’ll show you 7 measures I use to stay in control of my technology.
Unhappy People Never Unplug
The benefits of unplugging seem pretty intuitive, so I was shocked to find a survey from Civic Sciences that showed 43 percent never unplug. Only 20 percent unplug daily. Interestingly, the survey also showed that 93% percent of very unhappy people are likely to say they never unplug.
If you want more reasons on why you need to unplug, see this blog by Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist, my favorite of which is:
Life is still about flesh, blood, and eye contact.
Indeed. Technology is a tool. A tool for productivity, for learning, for entertainment. But it is not a substitute for life.
Join the Happy 20 Percent
I spend most of my day on the computer. My day job requires it; my research and writing depend on it. It is tempting to hop “on the line” and get to work first thing, and even more when I get back from a busy day at work. I have to make a concerted effort to unplug.
- Spend some quality time with my coffee. My favorite time of the day is 15 minutes with nothing but a cup of coffee. Whether first thing, or after a morning workout, I pour a cup of coffee and collect my thoughts before jumping into the day. I usually set my egg timer so I can focus, but that’s it for technology for now.
- Be one with the rumbling engine. I’m addicted to maximizing my time. That’s why I keep a playlist of podcasts loaded to jump to when I’m exercising and commuting. But like any addict, every now and then I need a reality check. When I’m reaching mental exhaustion (a symptom of not unplugging enough), I like to keep the radio off and commute in silence.
- Take real breaks. I’m not good at taking breaks at work. When I do, I tend to reach for my cellphone to check my email, look at stock prices, or return to a text conversation. I may be taking a break from one job, but I’m not really giving my mind a break. To break this habit, I’ve started leaving my cellphone next to my computer when I walk away. Whatever may happen can wait ten minutes, I’m sure.
- Stop multitasking. If I’m working on something, I work on it. If I’m in a meeting or having a conversation, I stop working and pay attention. It’s easy to unplug, it’s staying unplugged to focus on something else that’s the problem.
- Just eat. It’s tempting to do stuff while shoveling food down the hatch. I try my best to stop and eat. There is something extremely meditative about food and it’s a waste not to take advantage of it. I put the phone away, close the computer, slow down, and enjoy my food.
- Take an evening walk. Olga and I take a walk most evenings. This is not a substitute for exercise, but more for winding down after a busy day. Sometimes we kill two birds by walking to a nearby store (if we need something), otherwise, we’ll walk a quick loop to a nearby park.
- Read fiction before bed. I had gotten away from reading fiction, but I have a new perspective on the benefits it offers after taking it up again. One of which is pulling me out of my type A mind and giving me an incredible night’s sleep.
I have a lot to get done. It’s easy to get caught on the treadmill and forget how important it is step back from it all. I unplug for peace of mind, but the bonus is that it actually makes me more productive. Nature is a beautiful thing.
What do you do when you unplug?