Here’s a key fact that paper planner fans have known for years: cutting down on screen time and unplugging from digital devices can enhance your focus & concentration, encourage personal wellness and improve your sense of well-being.

Digital devices add a lot of convenience to our lives, but our constant connection to screens can actually hurt our productivity & happiness. It’s time to plan a digital detox!

10 Ways to Start Living a More Unplugged Life

Did you know that switching between screens, apps and tasks with digital devices can make you less effective and less productive? (American Psychological Association)

Sleep researchers have also noticed the dangers of too much screen time. “The thing many of my patients have in common is the fact that they are in front of screens all the time. Even when they try to sleep at night,” says sleep therapist Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan. “It has become so pervasive. They go to bed but can’t sleep, or fall asleep exhausted and wake up tired. People started telling me they couldn’t ‘switch their brains off’.” Sound familiar?

It’s time to unplug and take back control, avoid digital burnout and get better sleep. Try these tips and start living a more unplugged, mindful and intentional life today!

1. Set realistic screen time boundaries … and stick to them.

Start by scheduling daily breaks from screen time at home, certain times of day when you don’t touch a device. For instance, the National Sleep Foundation recommends unplugging from devices one hour before bedtime to avoid anxiety and wake-ups during the night. Once you master a device-free hour each day, gradually expand your unplugged time at a pace that feels natural and doable for your schedule. Extra credit: use our Wellness Bundle to achieve all your unplugged health goals in style!

2. Practice the art of (the original) face time!

After years of research, psychologist Sherry Turkle notes we have “sacrificed” the art of face-to-face conversation as we adopted new technology. Instead of texting, try talking to those in your life (your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, your friends, your taxi driver, your barista, whomever) in person. Notice the positive effects of making unplugged conversation a daily priority.

3. Create an offline habit tracker to monitor your screen time.

In your planner, start a simple habit tracker column for screen time. Tally every hour you spend on devices, and do a monthly review—are you happy with the amount of time you spend in front of screens? Guest blogger Nicola recommends using stickers to make this kind of habit tracker even easier to update!

4. Learn and practice simple offline meditation techniques.

Take some time every day to sit comfortably, close your eyes and listen to your breathing. These techniques are proven help reduce stress, manage emotions and enhance self-awareness. One technology expert called meditation a “software upgrade for my brain.” Schedule some quiet time each day. If the practice helps you, learn more, practice more!

5. Activate bedtime mode on your phone.

Sleep experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Devices can interrupt this essential practice. All major smartphones have a “bedtime mode” that keeps calls, texts and notifications from interrupting a good night’s sleep. If you need help setting up bedtime mode, try this iPhone tutorial or this Android tutorial to make the most of this important feature.

6. Explore an unplugged hobby.

A new hobby is a perfect way to maximize your screen-free time. Take up journaling, drawing, cooking, playing a musical instrument or recreational sport.  According to research in the science journal Nature, screen-free hobbies can improve both our physical and mental well-being. Hobbies also fill those empty moments when we start reaching for a device to distract us.

7. Add more print reading in your schedule.

Carry reading material wherever you go, filling your quiet moments with a screen-free reading experience. U.S. adults are spending almost half of each day interacting with digital media, according to a report from Nielsen. Replace some of that endless scrolling with a good paperback, magazine or newspaper. Pro tip: Carry your favorite reading material in a fashionable & functional Planner Tote Bag!

8. Change your smartphone’s background screen.

Smartphones are designed to be attractive and addictive with lots of sounds, buttons and bright images to keep you coming back for more. Productivity experts suggest using a simple black image (rather than a colorful photo) as your smartphone background screen. This will reduce both the distraction and attraction of your phone. For extra points, add an inspiring quote that will remind you to stay productive, rather than check your phone. 

9. Break out the board games!

We often turn to devices for fun and stress release. It’s easy to forget how we can achieve those same effects offline. Board games are one of the easiest ways to have fun with friends and family without leaving the house. Research has also found that board games can reduce stress & teach us how to spend our unplugged time more productively.

10. Experiment with digital-free weekends and vacations.

Once you master the art of reducing screen time every day, try longer stretches without devices. Put your phone, tablet and laptop away every Sunday, and use the time for your hobbies or face-to-face contact. For added benefit, try a brief unplugged vacation with family or friends. Spending entire days without screens will be daunting at first, but like anything else, you’ll get better with practice and the positive benefits may surprise you!

How You Can Help Others Unplug

Once you strike a healthy screen-time balance, help friends and family do the same; after all, if you’re constantly surrounded by ever-plugged-in loved ones, you may slip back into old habits.

Start by sharing the unplugged hobbies and games you’ve added to your life. Invite your loved ones for a game night, book club or walking group.

Once your friends & family have joined you in these activities, you can all be accountable to each other and enjoy a more mindful, unplugged lifestyle.

Photo sources: Knitting photo by Rebecca Grant on Unsplash & Woman reading photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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