Do you ever feel phantom phone vibrations? Check your phone for new notifications even when you know nothing has come in? Scroll Facebook in line? Come home from a long day in front of the computer and plop down to watch Netflix or browse the Internet?
It might be time for a technology break.
Devices of all sizes devour every spare second we have. Turning our devices off, even for a few minutes a day, can increase mindfulness, improve relationships, heighten productivity, and enhance creativity.
A technology break can be long or short, addressing either technology as a whole or just time-wasting technology habits. Use these tips to make technology a tool, not a drug.
If you just want to kick some bad habits, not take a complete technology break, try making small steps forward.
Schedule technology times
Instead of checking email or Facebook whenever you’re bored, close your apps or tabs until specified times. Check once an hour, then every two hours, and eventually only once or twice a day. Worried about missing something important? If someone really needs you, they will call or come in person. If your job is email-heavy, start in even smaller doses – 20 or 30 uninterrupted minutes can be highly productive.
Use airplane mode
Set your phone to airplane mode so that only phone calls come through and you won’t be distracted by notifications.
Close the apps
Try logging out of your favorite distractor. The extra step of logging in will prompt you to mindfulness, since you’ll have to think about every time you pull the site up. On mobile, consider removing certain apps completely to avoid mindless browsing while you’re out. On computers, you can unbookmark that site and remove autocomplete, making it a little harder to “check it real quick.”
Create a gadget-free zone
Consider declaring your bedroom, dining room, or patio device-free. In addition to providing a little incentive to starve the technology beast for a short time, you might find yourself enjoying those rooms more without the distraction. Imagine the possibilities for quality family time, relaxing outdoors, or even just picking up a good book.
Hardcore Technology Break
For a larger step, consider disconnecting from all technology for a period. Here are some ideas about when and how to do it.
Unplug the weekend
Saturday and Sunday are good times to go device-less. Plan events ahead of time and then enjoy them without Instagram filters. Instead of being jealous of your friend’s Saturday on the lake, you’ll enjoy your own day in the park. Worried about missing work emails? Set an out-of-office reminder letting people know that you’ll be off the grid. Leave an emergency phone number or other contact for really big problems, but most email can wait until Monday morning.
A full unplug requires careful planning. Print out your schedule, write down addresses, and review maps ahead of time. Warn family and friends that you’ll be unavailable, so they don’t think you’re ignoring them. And then enjoy your free day.
Online vs. offline work
If you want to work during a technology break, evaluate your tasks to see which ones could be accomplished offline. You might even be able to take a device-free day during the workweek if you do all your online prep work ahead of time and plan a free day. If you can’t go completely device-free (i.e. — you need to do lots of typing), consider taking an offline day — still on your device, but free from the distractions of the Internet.
Is it hard to go tech free? Absolutely. Every habit is hard to break. Technology, with its constant stream of news and conversation and entertainment, is especially addictive. But it is possible to control. Take your life back. Practice going tech-free.