If you feel that your phone and other screens are interfering with your ability to enjoy life to the fullest, it is time to limit use of electronic devices and be more present in your daily life, so that you feel less stressed and more focused on the people and the things that bring you true happiness and satisfaction.
Pervasive technology disrupts our daily life, scatters our brain, and reduces our ability to enjoy quality time and meaningful connections. It is hard to free ourself from the need to be “on” 24/7 when we are interrupted by a constant flow of emails, text messages, and social media notifications.
The convenience provided by technology makes it easy to become addicted to our screens. It also makes it more difficult to connect with ourselves, with others, and with the world around us. Establishing clear boundaries around electronic devices, and learning how to be present and engaged, allows us to regain control and create a more fulfilling life.
3 simple steps to unplug
In this article, I am going to walk you through 3 simple steps to help you unplug from electronic devices, so that you can live a calmer and more fulfilling life.
Here 4 key benefits you will be able to enjoy:
- Less frenzy and less distractions, which leads to less stress and more serenity;
- More control over your free time and your life;
- Meaningful connections with others and with yourself for a more enriching life;
- Better productivity and more spare time to do things that matter to you.
Are you ready to unplug? Allon-Z! Let's go!
STEP 1: Wean yourself off of electronics
If we want to reduce our dependence to technology, we first need to reduce our consumption. It is important to assess how pervasive technology is in our life and then set specific goals to reduce our usage and regain control.
Tip 1: Track your screen activity.
For 2 full days (one work-day and one day off), track your phone activity as well as the activity on your tablet or computer that is not work-related. Once you have a better idea of the time you spend on electronic devices during your free time, set a goal for reducing that time.
There are 2 easy ways to measure your pone activity:
- Measure how long you go in-between 2 sessions on your phone, tablet, or computer. Once you know how much time you spend away from electronic devices, your goal will be to increase that duration.
- Measure the time you spend on your electronic devices. Once you have that information, your goal will be to reduce the time spent on all devices each day. There are lots of apps that count screen time. Just pick one and go for it!
Tip 2: Make your nights device-free.
Switch off all your devices 2 hours before bedtime and make sure to not check emails, social media, or text messages one last time before you sleep or during the night. Electronic devices not only disrupt our sleep because of the blue light they emit, but they also keep our brain on high alert, which hinders deep sleep. Turning off electronic devices at least 1 hour before bedtime will help you feel more refreshed in the morning and less stressed.
It is hard to resist the urge of checking our phone before turning the lights off, or even when waking up in the middle of the night. Rather than trying to resist temptation, make it impossible for you to grab your phone by leaving it in another room or at least as far as possible from your bed if you need it for an alarm or in case of emergency.
Tip 3: Establish “no-phone-zones” in your life.
Have a room in your house and at work where no phone is allowed. At home, it could be your bedroom, or the living room, or the bathroom. Observe your habits for a little while and then decide on a room that would be a good candidate for the “no-phone-zone”. Don’t pick a room that you use very rarely, otherwise, you won’t reap many benefits. At work, it could be the lunch room, or a meeting room, or the bathroom. Taking technology breaks throughout the day will allow you to ground yourself and restore your energy.
You can take this Tip a step further by establishing “no-phone-activities” in your daily life, that you do regularly and during which no phone is allowed. It could be at the gym, happy hour with friends, when you go to the movies, when you go for a walk, while you are eating… Creating “breathers” throughout your day will help you feel more refreshed and calm, and will help bring your stress level down.
Tip 4: Take weekly technology breaks
Each week, take a long break of at least 4 hours from your phone and any other electronic device.
Just like we need days off from work to truly rest and recharge, we also need technology-breaks that last long enough for us to unplug and recover from the week’s constant alerts.
If you find it hard to stay away from electronics, make sure to create an environment that is helping you.
- Have a basket for phone storage by the door of your “no-phone” zones
- Install an app on your phone that will automatically turn off apps after a while
- schedule activities that keep your hands busy (painting, knitting, coloring, tennis, swimming…)
- Visit places where phones are not allowed (plays, spa, pool…)
- Spend time in nature where reception is poor (hiking in remote areas for instance)
No need to be a victim!
Even though screens are omnipresent in our daily life, we are not doomed. When we set specific goals to reduce our usage of electronic devices, we can create pockets of “no-technology time” in our day that will help bring our stress levels down and empower us to feel more in charge of our life.
STEP 2: Be present in your life
We have become so used to being everywhere at once, thanks to technology and virtual communications, that we end up feeling scattered and never really focused on what IS happening. It is key to reconnect with ourself, with others, and with nature, in order to feel at peace and whole in the present moment.
TIP 5: Reconnect with senses and your body.
Listen to your own perceptions rather than relying on electronic devices to tell you what you need and when. Take the time to pause and become more in-tune with your body and your emotions. It will help you notice how you feel, physically and emotionally, when you do certain things, eat certain foods, or spend time with certain people.
A great way to rely more on your personal perceptions is to stop digitally tracking everything you do and instead trust yourself and your senses:
- Stop tracking your steps and instead start enjoying the physical ease that comes with more walking.
- Stop tracking your workouts and instead be aware of the activated muscles, the air in your lungs, etc.
- Stop tracking your sleep and instead start noticing the quality of your nights and how you feel in the morning depending on when you went to bed, what you had for dinner, or what you did the previous day.
- Stop tracking your calories and macros and instead focus on your hunger, your satiety, and how certain foods make you energized while others leave you sluggish and exhausted.
TIP 6: Don’t allow distractions when you get some “me-time”.
Allow yourself to reconnect not only with yourself but also with your surroundings and with nature. Being immersed in your surroundings or captivated by an activity is a great way to forget everything else and bring your focus back to the moment, and to what brings you satisfaction. Whether you are reading a book, taking a bath, or watching a sunset, set your phone on do-not-disturb or airplane mode and put it away.
To practice being more present, walk in a neighborhood you are familiar with and refrain from using your phone. Just look around and focus on capturing the beauty of what you see. Don’t take pictures, don’t take a selfie to report on social media later, just focus on the moment and immerse yourself in the experience, using all your senses to truly enjoy the experience. It will be easier to do if this is a place where you can come back regularly so that you don’t feel the urge to immortalize the moment.
TIP 7: Be fully present when you are with people you care about.
Enjoy the deep connectedness that comes from listening and sharing with your entire being rather than being distracted by virtual communications when you are with others.
Here are some examples of how you can fully commit to being present with those who share your life:
- Turn your phone off or set it on airplane mode when you are out and about “in the world”.
- Put your phone away when you are eating with someone; refrain from setting it on the table next to your plate.
- Don’t text or call people who are not present when you are spending time with someone or with a group or people.
- If you entertain at home, have a basket in your entryway where you leave your phone and invite others to do the same if they wish.
By focusing on being more present and keeping distractions away when we are spending time with ourself or with others, we can feel more present and engaged in our lives and create more meaningful connections.
STEP 3: Train others
If you want to stay committed to unplugging, it is key to train others to respect your unplugged time and to inspire them to do the same.
Peer pressure is intense, and just like it is very hard to quit smoking when surrounded by smokers, it is hard to unplug from technology when everyone around us is hooked. For that reason, it is key to educate the people in your life, so that they respect your choices but also start seeing how THEY could apply the same changes to their own life.
TIP 8: Allocate specific time slots to virtual communications
Whether at work or in your personal life, make sure you are not "on" all the time and don’t rush to respond to messages and notifications unless truly necessary.
Schedule 2 to 4 blocks of time each day to check work and personal emails and don’t respond to inquiries right away, unless there is a real emergency. Do the same with text messages and other instant communications tools. To make it easier for you to limit your virtual connections to those specific time slots, turn off notifications to reduce the temptations of checking messages constantly.
Here are examples of how you could apply this tip at work:
- Check emails once in the morning, once before lunchtime, and once before leaving work for the day.
- Only respond to messages that are truly urgent and cannot wait a few hours.
- For everything else, wait until your next “email-checking session” to respond.
Once you start proceeding this way for a while, you will notice that many issues get resolved without your involvement and within just a few hours. You will also experience the benefits of having more time to think things through before responding. And, finally, your colleagues will slowly get used to this working pattern and not expect your immediate attention all the time.
TIP 9: Take time off from work
And I mean, real time off! Don’t check professional emails at night, during the weekend, or on holidays.
Little by little, people will not only get used to your not being connected and available, but they will also become inspired to do the same and feel like they are given permission to do so.
It might be unsettling for people to not receive an answer from you right away. In order to not feel constantly pressured to meet their needs instantly, set automatic responders in your email software, so that people feel acknowledged and know what to expect. You can also, in your automatic response, provide them with the possibility to reach you or someone else if there is a real emergency. This will provide great peace of mind for you.
Your automatic response could look like this:
“Thank you for your email.
I am spending quality time with my family this weekend and will be able to address your note on Monday when I am back online.
In case your matter requires immediate attention, please leave a detailed message on my phone.”
TIP 10: Identify unnecessary electronic messages
As a last step to help you unplug from technology, it is key to identify unnecessary electronic messages your send to others and eliminate them. Every time you are about to message someone, ask yourself whether the “ding” it will produce is truly adding value to their day or to yours. If not, don’t send it!
When we meet someone, we have all experienced the numerous text messages telling us that the other party is getting ready, leaving their home, on their way, stuck in traffic, 5 minutes away, or “there”. These constant notifications create stress for both parties, but also disruption, and even danger when driving is involved.
When planning an activity with others, set a time and place to meet and DON’T update or ask for updates unless there is a change of plans or you are running late. This involves that you are making all the efforts possible to be on time, so that you don’t have to send constant updates to reassure your friends about the fact that you will show up.
When more and more people free themselves from constant virtual connections and instant communication, there is less pressure for us to be available 24/7 and we can slowly eliminate the guilt and anxiety of not being connected through technology all the time.
So, what's the takeaway?
Reducing the role of virtual interactions in our daily life is key to reconnecting with our senses and with the world and people around us. Freeing us from being within reach of anyone and anything that “needs” our attention 24/7, allows us to experience less stress and less worry on a daily basis, but also to create a deeper connection with the here and now and carve space in our daily life for highly needed downtime.
This article was originally developed as an on-demand coaching program, which I created for ShamanX, "your coaching app for more balance & efficiency, at work and at home."
Please, let me know how you are doing, either in the comments below, or by contacting me directly HERE. I always love to hear from you so much!