Unplugging All Over Again

A while back I started some unplugged experiments.

Whilst I didn’t – and don’t – spend vast amounts of time online on what I’d consider meaningless activities, I wanted to hone the quality further, and reduce my overall time each week spent on a device connected to the internet.

The experiments went well, and both aims were achieved. I was online less, and when I was connected, the quality (or, put another way, the meaningulfness) was higher.

I felt a lasting positive effect of unplugging in the months since I began.

But last week for one reason or another (including a fairly intensive week on screen in my day job) I just felt a little burned out, and in need of a break.

So at the weekend – from Friday evening until Monday morning – I unplugged and stayed offline.


The break was so refreshing I plan to make it a regular weekend fast again.

However it’s not a 100% ban on the internet.

As I found in previous unplugging experiences, it becomes counter-productive to jump through hoops to stay offline entirely for the sake of a two minute query that enriches the day.

So here’s what I will still occasionally grab my phone for –

What’s App – messages mostly to family just for general updates, sharing the odd family photo, or arranging to meet up.

Google – for looking up answers to questions posed by enquiring young minds – and to encourage that enquiring.

Google – for activity ideas, for example, recently, how to mix up your own slime, build Lego machines, bake fairy cakes, make marmite popcorn, and lace up trainers in cool different ways.

Google – to find opening times and prices for swimming pools, activity centres, parks and gardens and so on.

Met Office – to see the weather predictions for the day/weekend/week that might affect plans.

Sat Nav (Google Maps app) – to find out how to get to places, and how long it’s likely to take so we’re not late. Very helpful for trips to trampolining and dancing competitions and the like. And my ongoing explorations of the ancient churches of Sussex.

Google Photos – to edit a few photos I’ve recently taken (ie choose which ones to delete).

As before, I’m reviewing the time I do spend online with a more critical eye.

So here’s what I’ll be doing less of throughout the week when I am connected, that I don’t feel is a very good use of time –

1. Searching for and watching on eBay cameras and lenses I don’t need.

2. Researching reviews of cameras and lenses I don’t need.

Er, they’re the main ones.

Finally some simple techniques that helped previously, and did again this past weekend –

1. Leaving my phone in the bedroom, not in the main living room.

If I physically have to go and get the phone it’s an impossible to ignore prompt to question whether I need to pick up my phone at all.

2. Leaving my iPad and MacBook asleep (and also in the bedroom).

Again, if I have to physically seek them out, I’ll stop before I wake them from sleep.

3. Reading more books, and having them around in the living room.

I usually prefer to have a dedicated undisturbed reading session when the house is quiet, but by leaving a current book I’m reading in the living room this weekend (instead of the bedroom) there were a few times I was able to pick it up and read a few pages.

Which is much more useful than doing the same thing with a phone to browse eBay.

I plan to do this with a paperback book, plus a photo book, so they are more readily available to dip into, and this will increase my (offscreen) reading time overall.

How about you? How much time do you spend online each week? Are you happy with this amount?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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15 thoughts on “Unplugging All Over Again”

    1. Yes. Sometimes it’s fun, and educational, and inspiring. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just when it becomes a repetitive meaningless activity that has no real purpose.

  1. Work makes it slightly difficult as I have customers and suppliers in multiple time zones, but I have decided to pull back from Facebook. The service that was supposed to connect us all has done more to divide humanity that almost anything else I can think of…

  2. Nice list Dan. I used to be deeply distracted by the internet, and now I am doing deeper work because I’m practicing digital minimalism. It’s a work in progress and never done though. A few things I do is: 1) have a note book with WNO on the cover. I write in there what I need to do When Next Online. 2) turn off the devices, because if you have to boot them on then you will wait until you have to do more then the one thing you’re thinking about. 3) I no longer use a smartphone (my iPhone 5s is wifi only, and mostly a camera now) and I went back to the flip phone. Do a search for Cal Newport and you will pick up a lot of great information. Here is another great article https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/03/smartphone-mobile-children-tech-addiction

    1. Yeh Frank it’s those opposites of distraction versus focus. We can be deeply distracted, deeply focused, or anywhere in between. Worryingly, we seem to be increasingly spending our lives at the distraction end.

      I like the WNO notebook, excellent idea. So much time is wasted checking just in case – especially if we have say three or four social media accounts, we can be constantly flitting between them checking for updates. Much more productive to do one check in “When Next Online” and get it all done in a batch. This is true for most online activity.

      Thanks for the article link. I keep hearing about Cal Newport and the Digital Minimalism book, it’s on my Amazon wishlist!

      The phone sounds like some of the early Nokias I had. At the time it felt revolutionary to send text messages on those little mono green screens!

    1. Getting outdoors is a major short cut to cutting screen time. Aside from (digital) photography, if that’s you’re thing (as it is mine), all screens can be forgotten for hours in the great outdoors!

      Thanks for stopping by Jennifer.

  3. i spend either saturday or sunday offline, except for podcasts. I am still seeking balance when it comes to blogging, At first I committed to once a week. Then I got on a roll and was posting daily. Then I went back down to once a week. That’s why I’m going to try the 36 hours. The blog posts run current with my preschool days, if I wait to long I’m wading through photo’s and forgetting what I need to post next. Also with holidays I need to post more so its timely. No matter how much I decide to post, or need to, I’m still reserving Sat/Sun. It’s especially tempting NOT to do this b/c our spring is this year, just a really long winter so far.

    1. 36 hours might just be the sweet spot you need. Sometimes I feel I have enough to publish every day, but generally if I stick to the 36 hours this allows for two or three days when I don’t write anything new, and I just let the buffer of posts run down a little.

      We have plenty of signs of spring round our way, but we’ve had frosty mornings that last two days and the temperature has barely hit double figures during the day, so we’re still awaiting a warmer spell.

  4. This is something I work on a lot as well. I don’t charge my phone in my bedroom so I am screen free when going to bed and waking up.
    Not on Facebook and really try to limit time of Instagram. Wasn’t on that for ages for started it again this year for a photography project that I am doing.
    Monitor my screen time through out the week.
    Try to have screen free blocks of time.

    1. I think it’s sensible to physically remove devices from where you’re likely to be,if you know you might be tempted.

      I’ve read articles about sleep quality (or lack of) and many talk about the poor entry into restful sleep watching any kind of screen gives us – TV, phone, tablet etc. I bought a sleeping mask a year or two ago as my wife often watches TV at night.

  5. Such a great idea Dan. I haven’t done that in a long while but you’re right, it’s so refreshing when you do. I have a nice Nokia phone which is just that – a phone. With buttons and everything! Now and again, I ditch the iPhone for a weekend and stick my SIM card in it. It’s a lovely device (awful camera, mind) and the detox is great but The Twitch shows up incredibly quickly! I don’t think we realise just how subconsciously we reach Google, YouTube and social messaging until it isn’t there!

    1. Thanks Richard. For convenience, the internet (mostly with Google as the entry point!) offers so much these days. This is why I made a decision to not ban it entirely on my unplugged days/weekends, because sometimes two minutes looking up something online is genuinely the best option.

      It’s all those “twitch” like uses we need to be aware of, you’re so right. Changing that behaviour that when we feel bored/lonely/sad/hungry/whatever we reach for the smartphone before thinking about whether there might be a better option.

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