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How to Unplug (and Feel Like Yourself Again)

We’re going to make you a promise… we’ll never make a digital planner. Why? Well, it all comes back to unplugging, and the power of disconnecting from technology. Because when you learn how to unplug, you learn how to reconnect with yourself.

Why unplug in the first place?

The question of unplugging can be answered with the power of paper.

Picture this… you’re trying to set your goals for the year, desperately needing to plan your week and hoping that you’ll come up with a fresh creative idea or two. Except you’ve got 50 tabs open, an inbox that only ever seems to get more full and a calendar pinging you with deadline reminders.

Or, how about this… it’s just you, a pen and your paper journal. You’re in total silence, with no other distractions calling your name. You’re free to allow your mind to wander, follow your curiosity and ask yourself “what do I really need this week?”.

Which scenario is going to give you a better outcome?

A lot can happen when you slow down and become more mindful. You’re able to truly focus, soak up your achievements, feel a stronger sense of accomplishment and free yourself from any external pressures. You’re able to connect with yourself.

But to do all that, you need to disconnect. This is how to unplug.

Woman warming her hands on a campfire

How to unplug

If you want to unplug, first you need to know what it is that you’re unplugging from. Annoyingly, the answer to that question differs for everyone. But there are some common culprits…

Pay close attention to your mind and where you’re spending your energy. For most of us, work brings thoughts of meetings, deadlines, client calls, expectations and professional pressures. Even when you’re meant to be done for the day.

And then there’s technology. You might find that you can’t put your phone down for more than a few minutes, that your fingers always wander over to a certain social media app, or that your evenings are always spent in front of the TV or computer. It’s all too easy to spend most of your day staring at some form of screen.

How to disconnect from work

Boundaries have become a hot topic of conversation over the last couple of years. And it makes sense. More and more of us are working, or studying, at home. Meaning that our work lives bubble over into our personal lives and vice versa, impacting our mental health and so much more.

This is how to draw a line in the sand between work and home.

Manage expectations

Whether you’re self-employed or have a boss, you need to set clear expectations with the people you work with. Make it clear as to when they can contact you (and how). And make it even clearer when they can’t.

This might look like only taking client calls in the afternoon, blocking a lunch break out in your calendar or simply requesting that you don’t use your personal phone for work.

Manage your workload

It’s difficult to disconnect from work when you’ve got too much on your plate.

The simple art of saying “no” could be one of the most powerful skills you hone. But, like all other skills, it takes practice. Test the waters slowly, raise your concerns about project deadlines or timescales, and then get really clear with what you’re capable of doing (and what you’re not).

Give yourself regular breaks

We all know that a holiday can be the key to disconnecting from work, but what about taking regular breaks throughout the day?

When you give yourself regular moments to pause, it seems only natural that your mind is less exhausted by the time the end of the day rolls around. So try to schedule short breaks throughout the day. And make sure you’re really taking a break, get away from your desk and go do something else for ten minutes.

Set office hours (and stick to them)

Most professional contracts come with office hours included, but do you actually stick to them?

This becomes a lot easier when you’re managing your workload effectively. But try to set some boundaries here. And remember, nothing is as urgent as it feels in the moment. You need to rest if you want to have a productive day tomorrow.

Create a fake commute

This one became really popular in lockdown! And for good reason too. As much as we all love to loathe our commutes, they’re a good bookend to the day. They signal that the day is over and that it’s time to disconnect from work.

So, if you’re still working from home, take yourself for a daily walk at 5pm. Or look for other signals that you can create to mark the end of the working day. It could be as simple as blowing out your study candle, closing the office door or reading your book for half an hour.

two people lying in a hammock in a forest

How to unplug from technology

Have you ever looked at how much time you spend on your phone each day? If you haven’t, the answer is bound to shock you…

Studies show that the average UK citizen spends over 6 hours a day on the internet, nearly 2 hours a day on social media and 4 hours a day watching TV.

Yikes. That’s a lot of screentime.

Delete your apps

If social media is a big screen time culprit for you, try going cold turkey. Delete your social media apps for the weekend and give yourself a digital detox for 48 hours.

Or, if that feels like too much at once, try moving your apps around your home screen. That way, you’ll have to really ask yourself if you want to open up your social media or if you’re just doing it out of reflex.

Set time limits

Take a second to look through your most-used apps. How long would you be happy to spend on them each day?

Most phones will allow you to set time limits, with a simple reminder appearing once your time is up for the day. Or, treat your phone usage like your office hours. Once a certain time rolls around, hit that off button. Unplug from technology and spend some time with yourself instead.

Top tip: you could do this for your work too. Try setting an alarm for the end of each workday.

Make some digital swaps

What if you didn’t have to be consuming so much digital technology? Most of the time, technology makes our lives easier. But when you need to unplug from technology, there are some simple digital swaps you can make.

  • Swap your Kindle for a physical book stack
  • Replace your Evernote app with a paper planner
  • Turn off Netflix and pick up a board game

Ask yourself, if you didn’t have technology available to you, what would you like to do instead? Perhaps it’s reading a paper book, practising morning pages, learning a new craft or getting hooked on a puzzle. Follow your curiosity and see what appeals to you.

Turn unplugging into a habit

There’s a big difference between knowing you need to unplug and actually doing it. We love these three simple steps for turning unplugging into a regular habit:

  • Create a list (on paper!) of practical things you can do to help you unplug e.g. stop work by 5pm, not working on the weekend or leaving the TV off in the evening
  • Decide how often you want to do these things. Remember to be realistic, it’s unlikely that you’re never going to watch TV or use social media ever again
  • Add these steps to a habit tracker, with your goals in mind. Then, track your progress each week and see how you feel!

This is how to unplug (in a way that works for you)

To truly disconnect, you need to bring it all together. Take yourself away from work, cultivate a calmer mind and leave technology behind.

That’s exactly what bullet journaling was designed to do…