The Big UnPlug

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Rachel Jonat at The Minimalist Mom

It seemed like a ridiculous idea to a lot of my friends and family.

For a week I was going to avoid screens, both televisions and computers, and not use a cell phone.

The reason: I wanted some space from technology and constant electronic communication. I wanted to reset my need to check my email, my dependance on technology for entertainment and a chance to step away from the white noise of television and the Internet.

It was an eye-opening experience and I’ve learned some valuable lessons from disconnecting.

Great Sleep is Free

My week offline was filled with early bed times and restful sleep. I put my son to bed between seven and eight o’clock and then read for an hour or two. I fell asleep much faster than I usually do as my body and mind were ready for bed.

I’ve known for years that watching a screen in the evening, be it a television or computer, interrupts the natural rhythm of my body readying itself for sleep. This experiment just reinforced to me that I need to make screen free evenings a daily habit rather than an occasional one.

Great and plentiful sleep is not only vital to my health but greatly affects my mood. I’m a happier mother and wife, a more prolific writer and the best version of myself when I get good sleep. I also have a young child so when I get the opportunity for uninterrupted sleep I need to take it – not give it away for an evening of Mad Men episodes.

A Lot of “Urgent” Information is White Noise

My husband was traveling while I was on my digital sabbatical. Normally I would check his flight status and look for email updates from his layovers. Worrying about his travels, if he made a connection, if his flight landed safely, would occupy my thoughts for the day.

Without access to all of this supposedly urgent information, I went about my day as normal. I was engaged in my activities and the people around me instead of having my thoughts filled with flight times, time zone math and checking for updates.

Ironically, my husband had a difficult journey and got food poisoning on a trans-Atlantic flight. I was filled with sympathy for him when he landed safely and told me his tale of woe. But I was also thankful I hadn’t heard about it ten hours earlier via email or Skype. I would have spent my time worrying and fretting about his illness when there was nothing that I could about it.

So much of what we now concern ourselves with is what-ifs. With so much information and ways to communicate at our fingertips we are free to let our time and energy be consumed with thoughts about a lot of things we can’t control. Things that have no bearing on our day-to-day activities or long-term happiness.

After a week offline I feel a renewed commitment to limiting the white noise in my life and taking a step back from social media and constant electronic communication.

24 Hours Are Enough

So often I hear the phrase, the day is just too short. If only the day was 30 hours, instead of 24, we would do all of those things we say are really important to us but that we don’t have time for.

As soon as I went offline I found the time and motivation to get up early and go for a run. I’ve been inconsistent with my exercise in the last few months but during my week of being offline I ran or lifted weights most mornings before breakfast.

It wasn’t that challenging. I was well rested and woke up early ready to start my day. I wasn’t distracted by checking my email or a website first thing in the morning.

I also took better care of myself. My legs were shaved, I flossed and I did all those personal care items that a parent of a young child often skips because they don’t have a lot of time to themselves.

There is enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. I just have to put the things that really matter, the things that give back to me and others, ahead of mindless internet surfing, television and text messaging.

My week offline was nourishing and a wonderful way to reset.

I’m now taking at least one day completely offline every week, checking email less frequently and doing more of the things that I love but struggle to find the time for: reading, writing and working out.

Rachel Jonat writes about a rich life with less stuff at The Minimalist Mom. She is a Canadian currently living in the Isle of Man, a rocky windswept island in the middle of the Irish Sea.

If you need with a big unplug, consider Make Time, a lovely course starting on May 7th.



  1. says

    I love this post and I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one realizing how wonderful it is to disconnect sometimes. I actually just wrote about it today (great minds think alike).

    • says

      Someone told me the unplug sector of the travel industry – remote vacations with no cell phone, tv, computer – is the fastest growing area for the industry. I believe it. We all want the break but it can be hard to unplug.

  2. says

    Super post! We do his when we go camping every year and I feel I recharged. I gave p social networking for Lent and that yielded good things too. Thanks for the great thoughts!

  3. says

    It sounds so nice, but I don’t know how I could manage it for a whole week. Eventually the moment would come when I had to turn everything back on and catch up on a week’s worth of email, voice mail, etc., and that sounds more stressful than keeping up with it daily. I would like to become less dependent on screens for entertainment, though–just turning on some music or sitting outside with a book really helps my brain recharge.

  4. says

    Wow I love this post!

    I found your writing so enjoyable I’ve just signed up to your blog too.

    You’ve really made me question whether a technology break would be a good idea for me too??? Especially when you mentioned that you felt like you had enough time to do the things that are important :)

    I’m so inspired, can’t wait to read more of your work,x

  5. Queen Mary says

    This was delightful! thanks for sharing it with us! I learned all of this a year ago when I did a Whole Living “fast.” the part about screens and sleeping has actually been proven empirically — as a chronic insomniac, I learned it! Her blog is really well written and I enjoyed reading stuff I already knew!

  6. says

    Hi Rachel,

    I love the post and I love the experimental nature of your personal challenge. It reminds me of an experiment and personal challenge I crafted for myself earlier this month. My window was shorter than a week (72 hours) and the guidelines were different but it was hugely rewarding like your digital sabbatical. The short version is I didn’t eat, read, watch (anything electronic), listen, browse, modify, run errands or have any nonessential communication with anyone. If it wasn’t related to creating something or sleeping I wasn’t doing it for 72 hours.

    When we stop consuming for a period of time – either partially or completely – it’s amazing what our lives can look like. Good for you!

    Note: When you’re fasting you can’t get food poisoning. I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that or that would have wrecked everything else.

  7. Jo says

    Oh my gosh, I love love love this post! I have been feeling like unplugging for months now. Your post might be the push I need. So much of my life I’m not living because I’m checking on something online. Time to break that habit… thank you!

  8. says

    About a month ago I made myself a deal that I would turn off all screens by 9pm. It’s by no means as thorough as a week or even a day, but I find I sleep much better on the days I achieve this goal and get more things done with this ‘extra’ time that i have. Great post.

  9. says

    This was a great post. I sit in front of a computer all day at work and by the end of the day I can feel drained. I try to make sure to unplug on the weekends so that my mind and my eyes are refreshed for the week. I think I am going to work harder on turning off the technology and living presently in the real world.

  10. says

    While visiting family over my kids’ spring break, I barely touched a computer for 4 days. Just enough to check on my Etsy business. In fact, that’s how it is every time we visit. There is so much other great stuff I want to be doing, conversations I want to be having, or be doing nothing at all, which is also fantastic!

    It helps me put technology in perspective… When I come home to many days’ worth of emails (and facebook posts and so on), with so much to deal with I know I can’t look at it all and it is actually easier to dismiss the unimportant and move on. I need to apply that perspective on a daily basis!

  11. says

    I completely agree with this idea – it’s great! So often I find myself mindlessly surfing the internet or watching TV even though there’s nothing really on… and before you know it, hours have passed! I really like the idea of committing to one day a week of being offline… now I just have to choose which day!

  12. says

    What a fantastic idea. My kid’s school encourages a screen free week every term, but we’ve never gone beyond being TV free (and computer free for the kids but that changes almost nothing). My work is in web, so I can’t go completely screen free without taking a week off work, but I’ve recently started limiting drastically the amount of work I do at home/night – or really, not so much the amount as the spread over time – and it feels awesome to have my nights back again, and yes, to get to bed earlier.

    Of course, I’m writing this on my smart phone while nursing my toddler in the middle of the night, LOL! Wonder if I could get her back down now?

    (Actually, I wrote this in the middle of the night the other night, but for some reason didn’t press submit! I did get her back down though :) )