Last month, I took 8 glorious days away from most of the internet. No social media, email, or browsing around. Each day felt longer and I was more present and aware of my surroundings. It was delightful.
If it’s been awhile since you closed your computer and ditched your phone or other digital devices for an extended period of time, consider a digital sabbatical.
Commit to unplugging for 24-48 hours. Call it a sabbatical, digital detox, or a Sabbath. Wayne Muller, the author of Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives points out that while Sabbath may be a holy day for some, it can be anything that provides a visceral experience of life-giving nourishment and rest. He suggests that Sabbath time can be a refuge from our modern life which is designed to seduce our attention.
Between hundreds of TV channels, calendar alerts, email, billboards and other cries for our attention, it’s no wonder that we often feel overwhelmed with day-to-day life, and then some sense of guilt for wanting to retreat.
The first few hours of your sabbatical might be challenging. You might feel the urge to check your email or see what’s happening on Facebook, but once you start connecting with everything around you, you’ll forget that you are disconnected.
5 ways to unplug and recharge
These steps will help you prepare for your digital sabbatical.
1. Tell your family.
Ask friends and family to unplug with you. If they don’t want to, ask them to support your digital sabbatical. Let them know what to expect and better ways to connect with you.
2. Hide your devices.
If your computers and phones are usually charging in your living room or bedroom, place them in a box or closet so that it isn’t easy to take a quick look or check in.
3. Go analog.
Pen on paper will provide the visceral experience that you sometimes miss typing and scrolling. Write about your experience and how you feel while you are unplugged. Notice how those feelings change from hour 1 to hour 24 or 48. Digital may be convenient but analog is delightful.
4. Let it wait.
The internet will be there when you get back. When you think about the things that have to get done, ask yourself what will really happen if they don’t get done right away. If you wait one day, what is the worst thing that will happen? If the worst isn’t as bad as you thought, let it wait. When you do come back, address the necessary and put an end to the endless game of catching up.
5. Customize your experience.
Try to get completely disconnected for your digital sabbatical. That said, if there is something standing in your way, customize your experience. For instance, if you want to stay connected to your family through FaceTime, make an exception. Or, if you have a time sensitive email coming through, allow a 15-minute check for that email only.
What to do on your digital sabbatical.
- Read a book. Unplugging creates all kinds of time to read.
- Try a new recipe. Make something that requires your full attention. Here’s a great playlist for your culinary adventure.
- Take a long walk. Not for exercise, just to see what you can see, to think what you can think and to be who you can be. Take that kind of walk.
- Light candles. The phones and computers are gone, why not the lights?
- Write a love letter. Mail it or don’t but put your feelings on paper. Be ooey-gooey and lovey-dovey or short, simple and direct with your words. Write to your lover or a friend, parent, child, local business owner, neighbor or someone you don’t even know. Tell them what you love about them and how they make your life better.
- Take a nap. Lay down and close your eyes in the middle of the day. Yes, that’s a thing. Try it, you’ll like it. If you struggle to rest, this will help.
- Take care. Bump up your investment in self-care. Do the things that make you feel good and consider these unconventional ways to take better care of yourself.
- Nothing. You are more than welcome to ignore all of these suggestions and do nothing at all.
You might not think you have time to do any of these things, but without the day-to-day distraction from all things digital, you’ll be surprised at how much time opens up. Use it in a way that refreshes your soul, feeds your body, and quiets your mind.
After your digital sabbatical, ease back in and set limits for the first week back. If you usually check your email before you get out of bed, wait until you’ve had breakfast before checking in. Make small shifts and re-engage more intentionally. If you enjoy your digital sabbatical, make it a weekly event.
By disconnecting, you’ll feel more connected. Don’t worry, you won’t miss a thing.