A 2019 Pew Research study found that 28 percent of U.S. adults (and 48 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds) report they are online constantly. That's up from 21 percent in 2015. I've seen more and more discussion about unplugging from technology, and I've had a lot of friends and colleagues talk about wanting to use technology less in order to engage more with their surroundings.
We're all struggling with this to some extent, however. Our lives are deeply connected to screens, and it can be hard to tear yourself away from your phone, even temporarily. Apps are literally designed to keep you online for as long as possible. Therefore, in order to temper technology use, you have to be both conscious and tactical.
Here are 13 easily implemented tips that can help you start to unplug today.
1. Turn off phone email notifications.
Each time your phone buzzes to alert you of an email, you no doubt feel compelled to look. Turn those notifications off in the first place. Instead, check email periodically or on a set schedule. Try putting the phone on airplane mode for a few hours. This will help prevent constant jumpiness throughout the day.
2. Set boundaries for your workday.
In the same vein, when you're done working for the day, avoid checking email, Slack, and other messaging apps. In most cases, those messages can wait until tomorrow.
3. Turn off text message alerts.
Most of us don't need to respond to text messages immediately. If it were urgent enough, someone would call you.
I'm rarely alerted to new text messages. I check messages periodically when I have time. While I do let a few important people through with notifications, I'm generally not distracted by buzzes and beeps every few minutes. There's no way to maintain focus on work projects if you're constantly being interrupted.
4. Change your phone display to grayscale.
There's a phone setting that renders your screen in black and white, and using it has been surprisingly effective for me. Without vibrant colors and hues, the display is less appealing and distracting, so I don't feel as compelled to turn the phone on.
5. Find other activities you enjoy.
I often pull out my phone when I don't know what to do with myself. One of the best ways to unplug is to simply find better things to do. Whether it's spending time with friends, reading, or a hobby, engaging with the world around you is an easy way to stay away from technology.
6. Buy an alarm clock.
Sleeping next to your phone often means it's the last thing you look at before bed and one of the first things you see in the morning. Instead, get an alarm clock.
I've been sleeping without my phone in my room for the last few months, and it's been one of the most relaxing choices I've made. I start off my morning with a little meditation or breakfast before I check email.
7. Leave your technology at home.
It feels weird at first, but ask yourself, "Do I really need my phone when I leave the house?" If the answer is no, then leave it. People survived for thousands of years without phones. You can do it too for a few hours.
8. Put down your phones at mealtime.
When I eat with certain friends and family members, we put our phones in the middle of the table. Anyone who simply has to check their phone gets a lighthearted public shaming.
9. Find technology alternatives.
I love music and use my phone to listen. But, the radio is a good free option that I access more often.
Use hand-written to-do lists. Work to improve your sense of direction to avoid using Maps. And, spend time with people instead of texting, when possible.
10. Turn off the notifications hovering over apps.
Each time I look at my phone and see a number in red over an app, it's tempting to open. Turn off that optional display in settings and eliminate the temptation.
11. Track your usage and set goals.
Take advantage of screen time tracking settings. You don't have to cut your technology usage in half overnight. Instead, set a weekly goal to spend ten minutes less on your phone each day. Within six weeks you'll be saving an hour a day.
12. No texting and walking (or driving).
As tempting as it is, the messages you want to send can usually wait. Don't be another person walking around the streets or behind the wheel staring at your screen.
13. Remove addicting apps.
I used to follow a handful of addicting Instagram meme accounts and, as a result, found myself spending an extra half hour on Instagram daily. Audit your technology use and get rid of the addicting parts that serve no real purpose.