How to Unplug in Today’s 24/7 World

 How to Unplug in Today’s 24/7 World

by John Laudenslager

We can all benefit from down time, whether it’s sneaking in a nap on the weekend, curling up with a good book or zoning out with an online game. The point is, regularly freeing your mind of everyday “stuff” is healthy, and can make you more productive in the long run.

For some of us, this is easier said than done. With today’s 24/7 connectivity, how can you successfully “de-program” yourself?

If you’ve ever lost or misplaced your mobile device, you likely suffered a mild panic attack. It’s like losing a piece of yourself. It’s hard to imagine how we ever survived before the advent of the mobile phone. Some people seem to suffer separation anxiety when they don’t have access to their phone at all times…

We’re not saying you need to go off the grid entirely. But taking a sabbatical every now and then is advisable — particularly if you are in constant “overload” mode. For individuals with multiple responsibilities — such as a full-time job, family commitments and community service — a little “me” time might be just what the doctor ordered.

“Sabbatical” is from the Greek word sabbatikos, “of the Sabbath.” Think about it. World religions have been disconnecting for centuries. Every week, observant Jews keep the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. This means they refrain from anything that would be interpreted as work.

The Amish maintain a simplistic lifestyle. They eschew electricity and do not own cars. Their values are based on humility, modesty, obedience, equality and simplicity.

Buddhists and Hindus have long included meditation in their religious practice. Meditation is one ritual that more and more people are embracing to escape the breakneck pace of modern society.

So how can you “unplug” on a regular basis? Short of going cold turkey — which is neither practical nor advisable — there are steps you can take to wean yourself from total dependence on your electronic devices. See which ones you can begin to implement. Remember, take baby steps.

• Step away from the computer. Literally. Get up every hour or so and stretch. Give your eyes a break and turn to tasks that don’t involve staring at your monitor.
• Have some fun. Research shows that people who play action-based video and computer games make decisions 25 percent faster than others without sacrificing accuracy. And a survey of senior executives found that 61 percent take daily game breaks at work.
• Commute with care. Cars equipped with Bluetooth and WiFi, make it exceedingly difficult to unplug while you’re en route. However, safety trumps connectivity. Even if you take public transportation, you might want to make your evening commute “me time,” allowing yourself to unwind from the day’s activities by listening to a book, tackling a crossword puzzle or taking a power nap.
• Set boundaries, inside and outside of the office. Set an automated or physical “do not disturb” message for times you don’t want to be interrupted by emails, calls or office visitors. To avoid extending your workday at home, tell your coworkers that you’re not available before or after certain times every day. Some companies are going so far as to ban after-hours emails.
• Incorporate your devices into your game plan. Set up a reminder on your mobile phone to turn it off at a certain time every night — and stick to it.
• Establish a no-device zone in your home. Many families ban mobile devices from the dinner table. Perhaps your zone is the bedroom. Find a zone, then allow yourself to zone out.
• Use your vacation to recharge yourself — not your mobile device or laptop.
• Reward yourself for progress made (as long as it’s not the latest, greatest version of your mobile device).

As with any change, if you approach it gradually, you’ll avoid experiencing major withdrawal. Don’t expect to make these changes overnight. Like embarking on a weight-loss program, you’ll be successful in the long run if you stick to it and give it time.

John Laudenslager is a recruiter for the UT Arlington EMBA program. laudenslager@uta.edu.

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