Tips For Temporarily Stepping Back From Tech

Tips For Temporarily Stepping Back From Tech

Laura E. Hall
May 5, 2011

We've discussed taking tech vacations, but were amazed to recently read about a Massachusetts high school junior who went without post-1900s technology for two months as part of a school project. While we can't quite deal with two months tech-free, we love the results that come from spending less time near screens. Check out our tips, inspired by the teenager's story, below.

When Massachusetts high school student Will Flower felt overwhelmed by the technology around him, he decided to turn it into an independent study project. His first reaction was to cut tech out of his life completely, but his mother wouldn't let him attempt to recreate "Walden" in the middle of winter, so he revised his plan to remove only tech created post-1900; that allowed him to use landline phones, cars and radios. He experienced improved sleep, better concentration and found himself with more free time.

The health benefits of reducing tech in the home are well-documented; they can include poorer focus, worse sleep, bad behavior in kids and more.

And while nobody is deliberately clamoring for more time spent around tech, it's easy to forget how it's permeated our environment. Here are some tips for approaching interaction with tech more mindfully, inspired by Flower's story.

1. Take a Look Around
It's a fact that viewing an illuminated screen just before you go to bed confuses the chemicals in your brain, leading to worse sleep. Yet, many people watch TV just before hitting the pillow, or steal a quick last glance at email or a phone. TV-watching at any time is another health culprit, with prolonged periods of sitting being linked to a higher risk for disease. So have a close look at your own home and schedule; are there places you can reduce your time in front of or near a screen? Our tip is to listen to music in the evening instead of trying to catch up on missed television shows; it's relaxing and it puts you into a calmer state of mind to prepare you to wind down at the end of the day.

2. Recruit Friends and Family
Flower's parents said that he had been "surrounded by computers his entire life, since both his parents had home offices" and the boy added that his friends, while initially skeptical, would help him by turning off their televisions when he was at their homes, or by calling his house via landline. Make your tech reduction into a family project and it will go a lot easier; ask each member to look for ways they encounter screens or gadgets, and how they might reduce it.

3. Everything in Moderation
Flowers has returned to the contemporary world, and he's brought some tech-free habits with him. He doesn't do the same casual browsing internet browsing that he used to do, and he leaves time for computer-free hobbies. "All things in moderation," he said. Sounds good to us!

The fact is, we will never be far from screens; it's part of our job, so that's nine hours a day, minimum. But one of our biggest time and brain energy saps is idle browsing while sitting on the couch, hanging out at home, or in a waiting room or line. It's a nearly ingrained habit to pull out the phone and browse email or play a quick game of Angry Birds. But we're now trying to step away from the desk or phone, take a look around, breathe deeply and give our brain a break from all those screens.

Do you have any tips for reducing the number of screens throughout your day? Do you think it's necessary? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

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