Technology isn’t terrible. It’s amazing.
It makes our lives easier and more interesting. It connects us to communities we would’ve never been able to reach. But for many of us it also takes us away from other important things. It serves as our main source of entertainment and information. It shortens our attention spans. It serves as a way to disconnect from the world, from others and ourselves.
Technology is designed to get us hooked, so it’s understandable if it’s hard for you to resist your smartphone and tablet. The more you use it, the more you want to use it. If you missed the opportunity to take a break from technology on March 9th through March 10th (for National Day of Unplugging), below are some wonderful ways to give it a try in the days and weeks ahead, whether you’ve got five minutes or fifty or an entire day.
- Reread your favorite children’s book.
- Write a poem.
- Take a walk with a loved one.
- Take a nap.
- Draw something in front of you.
- Spend a few hours at a museum.
- Make a meal from scratch.
- Declutter one category in your home: clothes, bills, magazines, towels, sheets.
- Study the sky.
- Jot down your feelings.
- Brainstorm ideas for your first or next book.
- Write a letter to a loved one about your day.
- Write a letter to someone you miss. Tell them why you miss them.
- Play an old-school board game.
- Go to the library, and copy down your new favorite words, from a random book you select.
- Light a few candles, and sit in silence.
- Reflect on your values.
- Go on a lunch date.
- During your lunch date, communicate using images only. Sketch whatever you’re going to say to your friend, and ask them to do the same.
- Read a magazine.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Sip your coffee or tea while looking out the window.
- Go to bed earlier.
- Start a garden.
- People watch.
- Come up with a project you’d like to pursue.
- Try a yoga, dance, tai chi, ballet, spin or boxing class.
- Play a game you loved as a child.
- Take an hour-long walk, and jot down what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel.
- Visit the zoo.
- Make a collage titled: Who am I?
- Discover a new author.
- Go to the park, and swing on the swings.
- Make your own music: Play the piano or guitar or violin. Bang on some pots and pans with your kids. Make up silly songs.
- Pick up a new hobby, or learn a new skill.
- Doodle everything you do today. Doodle your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Doodle whatever chores you’ve done, and new adventures you’ve enjoyed.
- Walk a trail you’ve never walked before.
- Reflect on a story you’ve been telling yourself about something you can’t do, something you’re not good at. Revise this story to empower yourself, and start fresh.
- Start a daily series: Take a photo of something beautiful each day; take a creative self-portrait; ask a curious question, and find the answer.
- Write your own fairytale—or a prequel or a sequel to your favorite book.
- Read interviews with people you admire. Jot down vital tidbits.
- At bedtime, write down one thing you don’t want to forget.
- Listen to someone. Look into their eyes.
- Buy a super small notebook, and jot down an observation every hour—an observation about your surroundings, a person, the weather.
- Look everywhere for the color green.
- Write a letter to something or someone you’re letting go of because it’s no longer serving you—alcohol, social media, a toxic relationship.
- Let this question guide your day (not all tasks, of course, but maybe most): “Is what you are doing right now feeding your soul?”
- Start working on something you think you don’t have time for.
- Go on a scavenger hunt, and bring along a magnifying glass. Explore everything from an anthill, to the woodgrain of a cafe table, to a raindrop on a blade of grass.
- Start your morning with a prayer, like this one from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Waking up this morning, I smile,
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.”
These are just some ideas of the many things you can do when you don’t have a phone in your hand. Again, it isn’t that digital devices are horrible. It’s that sometimes, maybe many times, they distract us from what’s important. They take us away from savoring adventures, whether outside or at our desks. They make intimate moments less intimate, thoughtful moments less thoughtful. They take away time; time that could be spent on something else more worthwhile, more interesting, more supportive.
Reflect on your relationship with technology, and make your own list of 50 things you could be doing if you left your phone somewhere—somewhere you can’t even remember.
How would you spend a few hours or an entire day without any digital devices?
P.S., Here are 50 more things you can do.