Author: Holly J Coley
Every Saturday I make a point not to check my emails. This isn’t easy, as I have all my accounts synced up on my phone and am notified when something new hits my inbox. In fact, I’m always being notified. A like on my Instagram feed (technically, feeds), a reminder to play Word Scramble, an alert about impending weather. According to my electronics, there are lots of things that need my immediate attention.
I want to be clear, I’m a snap to it, let’s get it done type of girl. I get very annoyed when people take a week to respond to emails, any type of message, really. In a perfect world, I’d be sitting quietly somewhere with a book and journal, living my life on my time. But I don’t live in a perfect world. There are things that need to be done and when people lag in responding it impedes my productivity. I don’t appreciate that.
Having said all this, there have been moments where I’ve been so attached to my phone that I’ve felt that it was vibrating in my pocket when it really wasn’t. This phenomenon is called Phantom Vibrate Syndrome and is fairly common. I’ve gone on vacation for the sheer purpose of being able to get work done without being interrupted by work related calls and emails. And the irony of all of this is I don’t live to work. In fact, I feel quite the opposite though my actions speak otherwise.
We’re living in a stressful world and the technologies we’ve created to make our lives easier come at a price, don’t they? What was it that Tyler Durden said? The things we own end up owning [us]? When I started noticing that my boyfriend and I couldn’t watch a movie without me banging away on my laptop, I decided to make a concentrated effort to power down at certain times. You know, like dinner, dates, coffee with friends. As it turns out, my need to be connected was preventing me from actually connecting with people.
So Saturday comes and I don’t touch my emails. Most people I do business with know this by now. I don’t take work calls either. Hell, I may not even answer a text. And lately, even on week nights, I try more and more to spend chunks of time when I’m not plugged in. And you know what? I feel better for it, more grounded and less pulled in a variety of directions by forces I don’t want to have that much say on what I do or feel. I’m still the same girl who wants to get things done in a timely matter. That’s just a good work ethic. But now, if someone emails me Friday close to midnight with something that has to be done, they shouldn’t be surprised when I shoot them a message that reads, Contact me Monday. Enjoy the weekend!!
There are lots of reasons to unplug. Studies show that we really do need to unwind at the end of the day and part of that is setting boundaries from things that stress us out. Ahem, like emails from your office manager. This can feel hard to do. Some of us fear that if we don’t check our Facebook feed every hour we may miss something, as illustrated by this article in The New York Times. But here’s a novel idea. Just call one of those Facebook friends and make plans in real life. Doesn’t that sound like more fun than spying on someone’s feed? Disconnecting from the digital doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s easy. Here are some tips.
5.Create Electronic Free Spaces
There are some places that you shouldn’t use your cell phone. Movies, houses of worship, and even the gym come to mind. Clearly these activities were important enough to make you leave your home, so pay yourself some respect (and undivided attention) by turning your iPhone off before entering the building. If people give you a hard time for not being reachable, explain there are certain times and places you don’t keep your cell on. They’ll come to accept that you’re not available and will wait to contact you.
4.Set Away Messages
If your email notification sets you into a panic long after the work day is done, create an away message to respond on your behalf. This not only signals to others that you have set working hours but signals to yourself that you deserve downtime.
3.Keep Your Phone Out of Sight
Cell phones are like cupcakes. They’re hard to ignore when they’re right in front of you. So don’t have it in front of you! When you have to concentrate on something, keep your phone in another part of your home. This will make it easy not to check it every five minutes and allow you to focus on whatever really needs your attention.
2. Keep Social Media Hours
Social media is fun but it’s also a huge time waster. Prevent yourself from constantly checking dashboards and feeds by not allowing your electronics to save usernames and passwords. You’re less likely to compulsively see what’s going on if logging-in is more of an effort. Deactivate options that notify you of new messages and likes. Pick certain times of the day, like lunch or break, where you can scroll through things and see what’s happening. If it’s not one of those times, forget about it. Here’s a newsflash, you’re more likely to have selfie worthy moments if you’re not looking at other peoples’ selfies.
1. Set An Electronic Bedtime
You should have at least an hour where you’re not staring into the vortex of your computer screen. Electronics can be overstimulating, making it difficult to relax. If you want to be asleep by eleven at night, turn off your laptop and phone by ten and keep them far from where you rest your head. You’ll be surprised how freeing it feels to unplug.
What are your tips for unplugging? Do you unplug? Tell me about it in the comments or on our Facebook page.