Did you know that reports show Americans spend 10+ hours a day using electronic devices? This includes tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, radios, DVDs, DVRs and TVs.
As freelance writers, we probably go beyond this 10+ hours, since most of us spend many hours a day in front of our computer, and on our phone, daily for work. Many of the tools that help us do what we do and make our career possible are because of electronics.
But do we need to worry?
Why is Unplugging Important?
From a health perspective…
Your electronic devices can affect your health.
I don’t want to scare you, but electronic devices (microwave ovens, computers, house energy smart meters, wireless (wifi) networks, cell phones, Bluetooth devices, power lines, MRIs and more) put off Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs).
EMFs are specific frequencies that, at low doses, can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances and at extreme doses have been known to cause cancer. Knowing this is EMPOWERING!
From a productivity perspective…
As helpful as all of those electronics are, sometimes they can get in the way of being productive.
Instead of relying on electronics, try going “back to basics”. Get out a pen and jot down ideas, write outlines and brainstorm on paper. Do this away from your computer (or at least have it turned off) and have other electronic devices on airplane mode; this is a great way to decrease EMFs as well as distractions if you have your phone with you.
Allowing our brains to “flow” without alerts beeping and 20 tabs open helps you be extremely productive and promotes our health as well.
How to Unplug
Take regular “unplug” breaks.
We use the word unplug to mean a period of time where you are not using (and optimally not around) electronic devices. In a world where electronics run just about everything, unplugging is not something that many people do.
If we aren’t sitting at a computer we are often doing something on our phone or tablet or watching TV.
We are our own worst enemy. We pick up our phone and start using it without even realizing we are doing it. This is a great reason to use “airplane mode”. When we put our phone (or tablet) on airplane mode we no longer receive alerts, calls, or text messages, and anything that uses a signal (most of our apps do) will not work.
Airplane mode is a great way to have a little extra accountability and remind us that we are supposed to be unplugged if we pick up our phone mindlessly or out of habit.
Feeling like unplugging is unrealistic? It isn’t, but it may be uncomfortable in the beginning.
Here are a Few Ways to Get Started Unplugging
- Take 1 – 5 minutes every hour to step away from your computer for the purpose of unplugging from electronics. Get up and move around or just go sit somewhere quiet where there are no electronics, set a timer, close your eyes, and just breath.
- Take your lunch break unplugged. Do you actually take a lunch break or are you eating in front of the computer? To remember to take a break, you might need to set a timer since it is so easy to get lost in your work- or the internet. Before you fully step away, give yourself a few minutes to do any personal (non-work related) stuff on your devices and then leave them in a different room while you eat your lunch, and even better yet, put devices on airplane mode. When you unplug at lunch, use this time to be present with your food, to be connected with your thoughts (instead of avoiding them while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook), and to give your body and mind time that it is not being inundated by electronics and EMFs.
- At least once per week schedule 60 minutes where you are unplugged. This may mean going for a walk, meditating, or just sitting outside. And YES…without your cell phone, tablet, or other electronics within reach! Most people have a hard time with this. We are used to having our phones with us at all times. I encourage you to really give this one some effort. We do not need our phones with us every minute (some of us remember a time before cell phones!) and it is good for our well-being to step away from them regularly.
- Beyond what you can do hourly, daily, and weekly, pick a time once a month or every six weeks to unplug for at least half a day. This will only happen if you put it on your schedule and make it a priority. Plan a hike with friends and family (make sure you tell them that this is time to unplug and let them know they will be asked to do the same), schedule a massage and lunch, making sure to keep your phone on airplane mode, or plan to go to a play or an event (just make sure it doesn’t involve screens).
As freelancers, we feel like we need to be plugged in at all times. This may make it hard to unplug when you first try. But over time you will feel the physical, mental and work-related benefits.
For many of us unplugging is something we will always have to work at. That is ok. Stick with it!