Through the swirl of chatter at a lunch meeting in a crowded restaurant, I realized that my friend, Sarah, wasn’t really there.
I was alarmed to see that she had turned pale and was unusually quiet.
“Are you alright?” I asked with concern.
Her response was first a no, followed by a yes, and then a half-hearted chuckle.
“I realized that I forgot my phone,” she said. “I don’t know when the last time I forgot my phone was. I never forget my phone.” She continued to bemoan the fact that she had forgotten her phone, and worry about what she might miss.
You know it’s time to take a step back when you feel slightly ill because you don’t have your phone attached to you. In fact, if you reach the state where you can’t turn your phone off for an hour and not check it, you really need a digital detox.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a digital detox is the period of time a person uses to refrain from using electronic devices in order to reduce stress or to focus on social interactions in the physical world. It’s the time to just unplug.
Analytical giant Gallup, says that most Americans keep their smartphone next to them all day (). Some check it every few minutes, and the majority—41 percent—check it several times per hour. Checking our phones once every 15 minutes during waking hours quickly multiplies to over 400 times or more a week. No wonder the term digital detox found its place in the dictionary.
In order to achieve a digital detox, many articles suggest we get away. I don’t know about you, but a trip to a monastery in Nepal or lodge in Mongolia, the first two hits on my online search for “best place to digital detox,” are a bit out of my budget.
As a professional organizer, I work with clients not just to organize their space, but to organize their time and routines. Having a time and place to unplug and reboot our spirits is just as important as every other item on today’s to-do list. In fact, it helps us tackle our to-do list.
With a bit of thought, anyone can plan a getaway without leaving the neighborhood. It is possible to have a digital detox and unplug in your own home or very close to home. Here are some ideas to try:
1. Kick Back Under the Sky
Get away by just stepping outside of your indoor domain. Leave your electronics behind. Create a quiet oasis in the corner of your yard if you have one—far enough away from the house that you can’t hear conversations or televisions. If you don’t live in a house but have a patio, balcony, or deck, shut the doors and windows. Consider ear plugs. Set up a comfortable spot that you can leave and return to over and over, because unplugging should be a regular activity, not a one-time thing.
To really unwind outdoors, consider a hammock. It has several advantages for total relaxation. Unlike sitting upright in a chair, it allows you to lay back and fully let go, almost like floating in a pool. Because you are lying on your back, your gaze is filled with the sky, clouds and trees rather than your house, neighbors or things that represent chores that need doing. In a hammock, you can let your mind wander away from the everyday grind and into the oasis of nature. If you don’t have a nearby pair of trees on which to attach your hammock, there are free-standing hammock stands that work just as well. You can also use a patio umbrella to add some shade.
2. Chill Out with a Bubble Bath
Adding bubbles into the tub isn’t just for kids. A warm bath is a great place to turn off your brain, and there’s nothing serious about bubbles, so it’s pretty hard to stay tense inside a bubble bath!
If the house is a bit chilly, turn up the heat a tick or two just for the duration of your soak. Shut off your phone and leave it in another room. Forgo the bright overhead lights for candlelight, or natural light from the window. Allow your mind to float as your body relaxes.
3. Create an Electronics-Free Zone
Always being on-duty is exhausting. But that’s what happens when you are constantly connected to work via a smartphone. Even when you’re not in the office, you might have emails and phone calls coming through. While you tell yourself you can deal with them later or tomorrow, once you’ve seen them, your brain goes into gear anyway.
Beat the overworked blues by creating a no-electronics zone somewhere in your home. If you have a family, have them spend time there every week as a household rule. Your spouse and kids need to unplug as well! Make it a habit to include a digital detox into your routine.
Establish a basket or charging station just outside the room where phones and other electronic devices must be left behind. Use a traditional clock to monitor the time period, so no one has to check the hour on their phone or computer.
An electronics-free-zone should be a comforting, relaxing space. Have some comfy seating and a few plush pillows, a warm throw or two, and a place to put your feet up. Add soothing music and things to read that are totally unrelated to work material.
4. Plan a Local Getaway
You might still feel the need to physically get away from the hustle and bustle of smartphone-connected life, especially if you work from home. If Nepal is too far of a trek, take advantage of your neighborhood’s public parks or walking trails instead.
Unplug from your smartphone and laptop for a day of old school fun. Pack a picnic, or at least a snack, and take along a blanket, a pillow and a good book. For added relaxation, bring a bag hammock. These come pre-equipped with tree hooks so that you can hang them wherever you roam.
Creating an environment (and the opportunity) to de-stress takes a bit of planning. As with other kinds of organizing, it doesn’t happen if we wait until we get “around to it.” Like anything important, we have to make it happen.
Taking time to unplug is one of the most valuable things we can do.
Author: Lea Schneider
Apprentice Editor: Gayle Fleming / Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Michele Ursino/Flickr