How to Take a Break from Technology Without Moving to the Woods

The views were breathtaking.

snow covered mountains in Park City, UT

Park City, Utah

After a client conference last week, I took a day off in nearby Park City, Utah. If you’ve never been, the landscape is breathtaking, and I didn’t even have a chance to hit the slopes. If you’re not a skier, there’s plenty of other sights and sounds to entertain you.

There’s almost a magical quality to Park City, with its old-fashioned Main Street, Mom and Pop shops and mountain backdrops. As I was heading back to the airport the following morning (in a snowstorm), I realized my stress level was much lower than it had been when I arrived. Why? I tried to limit technology as much as possible for a 12-hour span.

Technology transports us to new worlds, allows us to work remotely and offers nearly unlimited learning opportunities. It’s also addictive, available 24/7 and difficult to get away from in our lives today. I’m not suggesting that you move to the woods and shun all forms of technology, but there are ways to take a break from technology and lower your stress level.

How technology gets us hooked

How to Take a Break from Technology and Reduce Your Anxiety Level

  • Switch Screens: Some days you have to be plugged in all day; there’s no way of getting around it. It helps me to switch screens, going from my laptop to mobile, when possible. Something about not standing (or sitting) in front of a computer makes me feel like I’m not as plugged in.
  • Take a Break: Most people work better in spurts, and as counterproductive as it may seem, taking short breaks can make you more productive. You may have a mountain of work to do, but taking a quick walk or heading out of the office for lunch can give you a productivity boost for the rest of the day. I try to move around in between projects to break up the work day.

Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

  • Go Old School: Can you lose technology for any part of your job (even once in awhile)? I love to write outlines and rough drafts on paper. A blank page is much more inviting to me than a flashing cursor, and the process of writing by hand is soothing to me. Pick up a physical business book or attend a conference in-person to hone your skills instead of reading an article or attending a webinar online.
  • Change Your Environment: When I worked in corporate America, I loved to go out to lunch to change the scenery. Oftentimes, I would come up with an idea or solve a problem while sitting at a local cafe or coffee shop. Changing your environment can drive creativity and refresh you, which is why coffee shops are popular alternative working locations.

How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity

  • Adjust Your Schedule: What is your typical work schedule? Do you have any flexibility? Try to group projects so that you’re able to enjoy some time off, even a few hours. Maybe you can schedule more on 3-4 days a week so that you can regroup and plan on lighter days or even take a day off. What works best for you? If you’re an early bird, work on your most important projects first before you lose momentum. More of a night owl? Save more thought-provoking work for later in the day. We all work our best differently, so try to make your schedule work for you.
  • Shut It Off: Take a vacation, even one day. It’s amazing how much more relaxed you’ll feel when you leave your phone at home or at least don’t check it every five minutes. As a small business owner, I understand how difficult it is to clock out, so to speak, but I always feel so refreshed when I do. You may not be able to take a week-long vacation to some tropical destination, but enjoying an activity you like — ice skating, shopping, getting a massage — can pull you out of the digital world back into the real world.

As amazing as technology is, it’s important to unplug regularly to recharge and enjoy the world around us. You may be surprised at your reduced stress levels and improved productivity and efficiency. So turn off your computer, put your phone down and head outside. The world awaits!

Your Turn: How Do You Unplug?

How do you take a break from technology?
What’s your favorite getaway destination?
What are your favorite activities that don’t involve technology?

p.s. It’s a coincidence that I wrote and published this post on the National Day of Unplugging. It’s not a coincidence that I wrote it in a coffee shop. 😉

An old school Gen X’er in a digital world,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about unplugging, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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33 Lessons in 33 Years

I recently came across a fun post, 32 Lessons from 32 Years of Life. The timing was perfect as I was pondering what to post about on my birthday (Yep, Pisces here.), and I had actually been toying with the idea of this type of post.

I hope you find these short lessons useful, and please feel free to chime in with your own at the end. So, here goes… lessons I’ve learned from 33 years of living:

1. You’re only as good as your word. Don’t break it. (Read: If You Say You’re Going To Do Something, Do It!)

2. Take care of your body. It’s the only one you have.

kicking toward the finish line

Running makes me happy and clears my mind. What’s your favorite activity?

3. Own your decisions. You are responsible for you — not anyone else.

4. Pay it forward. Karma has a way of reciprocating. You’ll  benefit more than those you help anyway. Trust me.

5. Make time for you. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary to recharge and be at your best.

6. Some “vices” are OK. If you really enjoy something, do it (unless it harms others).

7. Pay attention. You’ll learn so much by being observant, in business and in life.

8. Learn from the past, look forward to the future, but live in the present. It’s the best show there is. If you’re constantly reliving things or worrying about future events, you’ll miss a lot of wonderful moments.

9. Learn to give — and receive — constructive criticism. (“This is terrible” or “you’re stupid” is not constructive.)

10. Listen, listen, listen. It will take you far in life.

11. Follow your gut. It’s your instinct for a reason.

12. Try new things — foods, adventures, travels. You never know what you’ll fall in love with. (Like ice skating, for me.)

ice skating

Snow, wind & ice. Lots of ice. Enjoying some time on the pond — the best part of winter.

13. Respect your values and beliefs. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, it’s OK to walk away. (Read: Gray Area: Do Ethics Still Have a Place in Business?)

14. An interview is a two-way conversation about an opportunity. Relax.

15. The devil IS in the details. Handle those and the rest will follow.

16. Do something special for yourself monthly, or more often if you can. Because you’re worth it. (Thanks, L’Oreal.)

17. Don’t project your bad day outward. Just because you’re in a bad mood, everyone else doesn’t have to be.

18. Social media’s great, but get social in real life too. (Read: Social Media’s Nice, But It’s Not IRL)

19. Embrace the mundane. It’s 80% of life. (Listen: This is Water, David Foster Wallace)

20. If you feel like getting dressed up to go to the store, go for it. Likewise, if you head out in workout gear, it’s no big deal. Life doesn’t hinge on what you’re wearing. (Granted, there are occasions where your dress is dictated by the occasion. Embrace it.)

21. Sometimes, you can buy happiness. Just don’t try it all the time.

22. Value those close to you. Don’t take them for granted, because some day they won’t be there.

Color Run Akron 2013

My sister-in-law, brother & I after Color Run Akron.

23. Make the extra effort. It usually pays off — even if no one’s watching.

24. Have a strong handshake, a genuine smile and a killer pair of earrings. (Gentlemen, I hear cuff links produce the same effect.)

25. Laugh a lot. It’s the best medicine, and you don’t need a prescription.

Yours truly, enjoying the moment

Yours truly, enjoying the moment.

26. Don’t waste too much time worrying. It really doesn’t change things.

27. Think through major decisions but don’t be afraid to act. Indecision can be paralyzing and leave you watching from the sidelines.

28. Be impulsive every once in awhile. Do something crazy at least once in your life.

29. Celebrate birthdays. Age brings wisdom and life experience. Appreciate them.

30. Think — every single day. It never goes out of style.

31. Listen to your body. It’s amazing what it can tell you.

32. “Never being satisfied” makes a great motivational poster but leaves you feeling empty inside. Always wanting more can leave you broke and alone. Enjoy your achievements and appreciate what you have. Remember, perfection is unattainable.  (Read: What’s your riddle?)

33. Be genuine in everything you do. It’s easier in the long run, and people will appreciate you for it. Eventually, you’ll even find people who like you for who you are.

“And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”  –Lester Burnham, American Beauty

stick em up!

Bonnie & Clyde… back in the day.

I’ve never really grown up (vertically challenged here), but I have learned a lot. Like a good hat can make up for just about anything, even a really crappy day.

Share Your Lessons

What lesson(s) have you learned?

Do any of these lessons resonate with you? Do you disagree with any?

Maybe we can all learn to navigate this crazy thing we call life a little better.

Cheers,
Jaime

Life lesson: Connect with others!
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Wilson: Friend, Confidant & Idea Man

As I’ve noted before, I like to get moving when I’m trying to think,  brainstorm or solve a problem. It just works for me and apparently I’m not alone, as I’ve seen this tactic cited in various business and news publications.

Related reading: Need an Idea? Just Walk Away…

Granted I’m an active person and sometimes need to dispel a little extra energy, so sitting behind a desk just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes I’ll hit the trails for a blood-pumping run or a quiet yet vigorous hike, where I’m always inspired by the sheer beauty of nature.

Hocking Hills Resevoir

The beauty of nature inspires me.

On other days, I’m content to take a brisk walk around my neighborhood, through the park, soaking up the sunshine, to get the ideas flowing. That’s when Wilson joins me.

Wilson -- my idea generator

Meet Wilson, my friend, confidant & idea man.

Wilson is my friend, confidant and idea man. I’ve hashed out many a good plan bouncing Wilson while traversing the streets of my neighborhood. I’ve made decisions, outlined blog posts and constructed marketing plans for clients with him by my side. For some reason, he inspires ideas within me. Perhaps it’s the added activity of bouncing the ball or the rhythmic feel of the worn, fuzzy surface hitting my hand. Whatever it is, it works.

Yes, Wilson is a pink, fuzzy tennis ball. On a whim, I picked up a tube of tennis balls on clearance at Target a few years ago. (Hence, the pink.) I don’t own a tennis racquet, so clearly that wasn’t the plan. I just knew when I looked at that tube on the shelf that I needed to take Wilson (and his bros) home. Who knew?

I’m curious… what unexpected item or situation sparks your genius? Are you a mover and shaker or do you like to meditate and chill out? Do you have a lucky charm that you always take to presentations or always drink the same tea while writing? Do you hit the cinema or catch a poetry reading when you need to crank up the old brain?

What inspires you?

Cheers,
Jaime

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Need an Idea? Just Walk Away…

Are you trying to come up with a creative idea that’s eluding you? Whether it’s a great idea for an article, the basis for a new campaign or some way to improve a current situation, it can be frustrating to come up with nothing. But don’t let frustration get the best of you! Following are some tips on inspiring some creativity in your life:

–> As the title of this post implies, walk away! Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re doing something completely unrelated to the task at hand. Go see a movie, spend time with family or friends or have fun with a hobby you enjoy.

–> Have a brainstorming session. No, you shouldn’t have left these powerful pow-wows behind in college. Write down every idea; nothing is too silly or worth skipping over. Giant sticky notes to stick to walls are great, but that could just be my affinity for sticky notes. If you don’t have anyone near to bounce ideas off of, take advantage of social media. Hold a chat on Twitter (use a hash tag to follow your conversation) or take advantage of the group capabilities on Google+.

–>Get physical. Go for a walk, run or bike ride, even for a short duration. Stuck at work? Take a walk up and down the stairs or around the parking lot. Physical activity engages our brains and can help the juices flow.

–> Write it down. Yes, I can be old fashioned when it comes to certain things. However, paper still serves a purpose in this digital age. The power of putting pen (or pencil, crayon or marker) to paper can do wonders compared to being overwhelmed by a blinking cursor on a blank screen.

–> Embrace failure. Creative people aren’t necessarily geniuses; they just keep trying. Most great inventions came after thousands upon thousands of failures. To keep this in mind, remember this great quote. “Accept failure. Enjoy it, even. Embrace the suck, for the suck is part of the process.” –A.J. Jacobs

–> Look at the challenge from a different point of view — literally or figuratively. Sit on the floor or look out your window. Ask yourself how others view the situation. Remember, there’s at least two sides to every issue.

I hope one or more of these tips help you the next time you’re in a creative bind. Or do you have a tried-and-true solution that you turn to when the creative wheels are stuck? If so, I’d love to hear it! Please let me know in the comments section. I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas!

Cheers,
Jaime