I think we can all agree that the occasional ‘unplugging’ from our digital sphere is not only healthy, it’s necessary.
Consider how hard it is to actually forego checking your email over the weekend. Out of habit, we unlock our phones and tap the squares with the red bubbles, opening a can of worms we told ourselves we wouldn’t tackle until Monday morning.
Getting sucked into scrolling, or worse comparing our days to what we’re seeing in our limited digital environment is taking a toll on our psyche and our real-world relationships.
It’s safe to say that it’s nearly impossible to escape the notifications, the updates, the stories from others’ days without deliberately choosing to do so. Sometimes, the word “addicted” gets thrown around in reference to our technology.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the constant input from your phone — or you have an experience coming up that you want to be completely 100% present for — consider an unplugged weekend. Instead of surfing through our friends’ feeds, it’s about time we called them up and set a date to really *see* them in person.
What would you do with an unplugged weekend?
That’s right – two whole days, Saturday and Sunday, with no technology until Sunday night as you prepare for your week. It may seem impossible, but with proper planning, you just might have a blast.
You might worry about what you’ll miss during a weekend of no technology. You could miss important calls, texts, or emails. Something could go wrong at work, with a client, or with your business. And, no TV or movies? No Instagram? What are weekends even for?
Change is hard. Even if you know being on your phone all weekend isn’t making you happy, it can be difficult to imagine *not* doing it. Could it possibly be better?
Consider these fun outings as inspiration for your upcoming unplugged weekend. Take the suggestions you love, come up with your own ideas, and create a plan that compels you to put down your devices and get connected to your real world.
1. Grab a book, newspaper, or game and get coffee
Most of us get our news from our phones, delivered straight to our inbox from our chosen source. And when was the last time you read a physical book, not one on your Kindle? This weekend, I encourage you to get some paper in your hands.
Studies have shown that your reading comprehension is far superior when we read paper versus electronic text. Part of that has to do with the distractions caused by the device itself — the extra buttons to push, the notifications that can interrupt, etc.
In addition, by having a physical and visual way to see “where” you are in the book, your brain connects that place with the information you read there. It makes it easier for you to connect with the information later. You will truly get more out of the experience of reading if you do it on paper every once in a while.
Most cafes have free stacks of newspapers, local publications, and even some forgotten books laying around if you find yourself without something to read. And, if you’re not the reading type, picking up a sudoku, crossword puzzle, or board game can lead to hours of enjoyment in a single location.
Leave your phone in the car, order your favorite beverage in a mug, sip it slowly, and enjoy an analog hobby for as long as you please.
2. Pick up a disposable camera and explore
Remember the days when going on vacation meant grabbing a few disposable cameras? And afterward, dropping them off at a one-hour photo with the hopes of receiving a thick envelope of hilariously bad but special prints? One-hour photos still exist, plenty of people still develop from disposable cameras (like your local drugstore), and you can buy them for next to nothing on Amazon.
Being a tourist in your own city can be so rewarding: you see your daily walk, your neighborhood, your downtown through a different lens. You also aren’t laden by carefully crafting your Instagram story with graphics and the proper tags, hoping to get a few extra views while you’re out-and-about.
You’re more in the moment because there isn’t the constant feedback loop of social media. You snap a photo, then you move on to the next experience, rather than getting sucked into taking a hundred photos, choosing the best one, editing, uploading to Insta, checking for all your incoming likes, etc.
Tip: Ask your barista, your waiter, or a passerby on the street what their favorite destination is. You may discover parts of your city you never knew existed.
If it’s within your capacity, consider taking your camera out of town. Go on a remote hike, visit a botanical garden, explore the old industrial neighborhood in the next town over. You don’t have to be a photographer to find inspiration in new sites.
And in case you receive a few prints you really love, your one-hour photo can digitize your images and you can keep them forever. Just be sure to upload them after your unplugged weekend has concluded.
3. Take a weekend workshop or class and create with your hands
This is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at wheel-thrown pottery, or to gather your friends for one of those wine and painting classes. Do a search before your weekend and plan ahead, finding a studio or teacher who is hosting an event during your unplugged weekend. By looking for an event that spans the weekend, you not only keep yourself engaged and away from the draw of technology, you’ll get to dive deeply into your chosen subject.
When we’re hung up on what social plans we might miss, or we’re stuck in our routine of Netflix and chill every night, making plans for a big class or involved workshop can seem nerve-wracking.
It might not seem practical to sign-up for a two-day indigo dyeing intensive or to take an introductory garment sewing workshop, but when we unplug from our digital routine, we make space not just in our schedule, but in our psyche, for new opportunities.
4. Plan a farmer’s market potluck with friends or family
Pile into one car, grab what’s in season, make a feast. Going to the farmer’s market is the easiest way to ensure the food you’re buying is in season, often grown locally, and as fresh as possible.
It’s possible to spend hours at a farmer’s market, enjoying the sun, chatting with vendors, listening to live music, sampling tasty fruits and veggies, and just lounging around with your friends. And you don’t need your phone to do any of it.
Once you’re done at the market, a new adventure awaits you in the kitchen. It’s time to create a masterpiece!
My usual go-to for creating new dishes is loading a recipe app and trying my hardest not to splash food on my phone screen. Instead, see what the combined knowledge of your friends or family can produce using what you bought that day plus what’s in your pantry.
What flavors and textures are present? What spices can each person bring from home? What do we already have from which we can create a whole meal?
Part challenge, part social gathering, and 100% unplugged. I know, it may seem tragic to not photograph the affair for social media… but you could always use a disposable or film camera, and load those very hip old fashioned photos to your feed later.
5. Get out into nature and enjoy an environmental disconnect
As an outdoorswoman, it dismays me that more and more of my favorite outdoor places are being reached by cell service. The feeling of looking down at my phone and reading “No Service” as soon as I park the car is actually comforting to me; there are no distractions here. I can simply be.
If your local hikes or campsites have cell service, consider leaving your phone in your car and going with a map and compass only, sticking to trails and ensuring you’re prepared for the elements. It requires a little more preparation, but the experience will benefit from the pre-work you do so that you can be fully present in the moment.
While it’s definitely unwise to engage in unsafe activity without the ability to call for help, hikers have been using whistles, flares, and reflective signals long before phones existed. If you come prepared with emergency equipment, you can breathe a little easier as you explore the outdoors knowing you won’t get stranded.
If you really want to bring your phone, just for backup, bring it along but put it in airplane mode or “do not disturb” mode. And resist the urge to pull it out and use it!
Ask your friends for gear that you don’t have, and you may be surprised by who in your network is prepared for the great outdoors. Even a day-hike in your tennis shoes can be the perfect kickoff to an unplugged weekend, but a night spent in a tent or hammock does wonders for the soul.
How do you picture the ideal unplugged weekend?
The above ideas are only a fraction of what’s possible, mere launching points for your own brainstorming. To help you out, we’ve created a list of what to unplug from:
- Cell phone / work phone
- Computer, tablet, laptop
- Television, streaming services
- Smart watch
- iPod or other internet-connected music player
- Phone camera, digital camera
- Data-tracking watches
If you must keep your phone on you for necessary calls, avoid social media and other apps. You can delete the most distracting ones and re-download them later, or move them all off your home screen so you can’t see them.
Don’t feel like you have to take an Amish approach to life and have no electricity. And, if relinquishing some of these items doesn’t gel with your lifestyle, trying relinquishing the most distracting ones and just keeping the ones you need.
Social media, apps, email, streaming services, and your computer can all go away for a weekend without ruining your life. This is a great first start to getting unplugged from what distracts us the most.
To balance out what you’re unplugging from, here is an in-depth list of activities you can connect to:
- Art: creating, taking a class, visiting a gallery or art opening
- Music: playing instruments, live performances, or listening at a record store
- Creativity: making something with your hands or browsing markets and shops
- Nature: hiking, trail running, mountain biking, climbing, camping, swimming
- Physical activity: yoga, community run, road biking, obstacle courses
- Intellectual fun: games, puzzles, crossword, reading, writing
- Analog hobbies: film photography, typewriter poetry, mechanical tinkering
- Social: picnics, potluck meals, pool parties, scavenger hunt,
- Location specific: going to an arcade, flea market hunting, vintage store shopping, visiting pets at the local shelter, visit a car or boat show, enjoy a museum
How much would you enjoy if you unplugged for 48 hours?