Hold up. Don’t dismiss this as yet another Kanye West article. The rapper has actually come up with a concept many can relate to in today’s high-tech word. The hip hop artist and fashion designer recently announced he will get rid of his cell phone so he can “have air to create.”
Sometimes we all need to unplug. And making mental space might just help your career. Think about it: The average person looks at his or her phone 46 times every day. And “81 percent of Americans spend time looking at their phones while dining out in restaurants,” reported Time. All this connectivity can take its toll on our health.
“Social media, our phones and tablets, video games, etc. all create mental clutter,” said certified life coach Julie Coraccio, host of the podcast Clearing the Clutter Inside & Out. “When you clear your mental clutter you can create. Unplugging reduces stress–we aren’t meant to be updating statuses 24/7.”
And doing so can affect your psyche negatively, she said. “Researchers have found that a lot of time on Facebook can make people feel envious and also lead to depression. It’s hard to create when you are depressed (for most people.) Many times when we are plugged in we aren’t in the present moment and it can serve as a way to distract ourselves. Unplugging allows us to be present, which is our point of power to create. If we take time for self-reflection, we can become more aware and be more open to new and invigorating thoughts and ideas.”
Technology, of course, can be an effective tool, but too much all the time isn’t a good idea. “Technology is often used to create, but I believe that inspiration comes as a whisper, so you must have stillness to hear it,” explained Selena Sage, author of Meditative Questions. “Disconnecting from technology helps you hear the whisper. After you have the inspiration, it is perfectly reasonable to use technology to create your vision.”
Some people feel the busier they are, the more connected they are, and the more creative they are. And while sometimes life calls for creative chaos, other times– not so much. “When I was working on designing and publishing my book, I was also working full-time and traveling around the world for business. During that time, I was actively engaged with my designers in L.A. and my printer in Hong Kong…sometimes responding to emails from the airport to make sure the project stayed on track. It was a very creative process and I was busy and engaged. I was buzzing with creative ideas for the book even while I was managing a full-time job. In contrast, I wrote the book during quiet, meditative moments. Different stages of creation require different energies,” Sage noted.
When you need to unplug you body–and mind–will let you know. Here are signs it’s time to take a technology break:
—It’s affecting your life negatively. “One sign is if it costs you something, i.e. you are always fighting with your spouse because you are glued to your phone or you got reprimanded at work for being late because you were playing video games,” explained Coraccio.
—Technology is your escape from life. “If you find yourself using it as a distraction. i.e. you are in debt, but ignore the problems and surf the Internet,” said Coraccio.
—You can’t handle the inundation of digital information. “Whenever you feel overwhelmed, that is a sign that you need to take a step back and unplug. Watching TV, engaging in social media, and even reading the news can be emotionally overwhelming — especially if you find yourself arguing online,” explained Sage. “When coupled with whatever is happening in your daily life, you can feel angry, scattered, or even depressed. By disconnecting from the cyber world, you eliminate a lot of noise and give yourself additional space to breathe. Taking it a step further and turning off your cell phone and other devices can create even more mental space. If you are intensely overwhelmed and feel close to a breaking point, this is a sign that more drastic action is required. You may want to consider going on a meditation retreat (for a week or weekend) in nature to reset.”
Okay, so you admit you are on technology overload, and are ready to quit. But for how long? “For many people this is hard, so I suggest beginning with 5 or 10 minutes a day. Like anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Working up to a few hours and even a day and taking a complete break when you go on vacation would be wonderful,” offered Coraccio. And you don’t have to do a Kanye and take a total break from being connected, which would be impossible for some professionals. “The length of time and extent to which you unplug is dependent on your needs. If you require a quick break to relieve stress, you can leave all technology behind and go on a quiet walk in nature. If you are feeling that you don’t have enough time in the day, you could set boundaries which restrict the use of technology before and/or after certain times (for example, no technology after 9pm). Instead, use that time to meditate and then tackle things you need to do that are of a higher priority,” suggested Sage.
It’s important to get those around you to respect your decision to unplug as well. “Unfortunately, we live in a time with corporate cell phones and computers that come with the expectation that you are always available. The reality is that it is up to you to set boundaries for your mental health. When I worked in corporate America and led a global team, I distinctly remember checking my work email before I went to bed each night and first thing when I woke up in the morning. This was a very unhealthy habit and I successfully broke it by realizing that if I responded an hour later in the morning, it wouldn’t make a significant difference for work, but personally it would give me time to get centered and ready for the day,” Sage said. “At home, creating boundaries to limit technology for everyone can promote feelings of connectedness and togetherness. It sounds old-fashioned, but eating dinner together without TV or cell phones is a healthy choice. And choosing to talk to each other about your day or current events can be very healing. In either scenario, I recommend making an adjustment on a one week trial basis to see how it goes. After the week trial, you can adjust the formula as needed to find the optimal balance for you. Small changes can yield big results.”
Advised Coraccio, “Let everyone know and ask them to respect your choices. You can’t control how others act, but you can control how you respond. If others aren’t respecting your decision at work: ask a boss or another colleague to intervene. We tend to think that we have to do everything ourselves. Ask for support. Limit the time as much as possible with co workers.”
Here are some tips on how to unplug:
—Tap into your inner peace. “Meditate. Create quiet time and space daily for meditation,” said Sage. “Go for a technology free walk in nature. Leave all gadgets and problems behind and simply enjoy the beauty of nature.”
—Question your technology craving. “If you feel the urge to grab your device or surf the Internet, take a deep breath and ask yourself some questions. Are you afraid you will miss something? Is your habit fulfilling a need? What are you distracting yourself from?” asked Coraccio.
—Look at what you are gaining by letting go. “Create a list of all the things you will gain when you unplug. Better relationships? More time for solitude? Saving money because you won’t be purchasing the latest and greatest? Keep it where you can see it,” suggested Coraccio.