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The Zen of Disconnecting


When you’re done reading this, turn off whatever device you’re using. I’m serious. Turn it off. You can do it. Give yourself a break. Find your zen. Even just five minutes of disconnected, gadget-free zen.

But not yet.

First, I have to tell you what I learned while reading Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project. It has changed the way I ease into and out of each day.

When I started reading Bailey’s book, I thought to myself, “I bet I’m doing a lot of this already.” Ummm … no.

The Productivity Project is about more than just disconnecting. Chris Bailey went several weeks getting by on little to no sleep; he cut out caffeine and sugar; he lived in total isolation for 10 days; he used his smartphone for just an hour a day for three months; he gained ten pounds of muscle mass; he stretched his work week to 90 hours; a late riser, he got up at 5:30 every morning for three months — all the while monitoring the impact of his experiments on the quality and quantity of his work.

It’s a fascinating read, full of surprises and inspiration. I was so inspired, in fact, I decided to go an entire weekend without my smartphone.

I would like to tell you that it was bliss. It was not. It was horrid.

I was adrift. My family was annoyed because they couldn’t reach me. My friends were ticked because they couldn’t text me to make plans. I didn’t know what time it was. I was suffering from withdrawal. I missed the buzz of my phone vibrating in my bag, alerting me to all the (obviously essential) emails, Instagram pics, snaps, Facebook updates, tweets, and texts that were waiting for me. So many things I wanted to know! How do people live without Google at their fingertips?

I actually had to pull out the dictionary to look up a word. I was forced to glance out the window to get a read on the weather. I was a mess. It was a weird combination of being restless, stressed-out, and bored. And when I turned my phone back on that Monday morning? Ugh. I went from feeling adrift to feeling completely overwhelmed.

Okay, so that didn’t work.

To be fair, Bailey admits that his first few weeks going without his smartphone were “rough.” In time, he says, “I quickly settled into a new equilibrium and got accustomed to how peaceful I felt when I disconnected.”

Oh, how I wanted that peace. I needed it. So how else could I unplug? I decided to try something Bailey says he does every day.

Every day I shut my smartphone completely off between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. – one of my favorite daily rituals – so I can ease into and out of each day without wasting valuable time.

That was a few weeks ago. I now have two peaceful, leisurely hours every morning and every night. These hours are MINE. The difference is astonishing.

Did all those years of beginning and ending my days with my phone in my hand make me feel that frazzled? The answer is yes. Could reclaiming these hours as gadget-free time really make me feel that peaceful? Again, the answer is yes.

I won’t lie and say it was easy. It was not. The first few days were torture. I needed my phone. I reached for it countless times and finally had to turn it off and put it in a drawer. At first, I’d just walk around our apartment, not knowing what to do with myself. But gradually, I settled into it. I found other things to do at the beginning and end of my days.

I make tea. I take a really long shower. I meditate. I do a few sun salutations. I putter. I do the dishes. I listen to music. I cuddle with my husband. I walk the dog. I play with the cat. I color with my stepdaughter. I read. Sometimes I sit in a cozy chair and stare out the window. I literally just sit and stare. It’s lovely.

It has been – and I do not use this word lightly – miraculous.

My mornings are brighter. My days are more productive. My nights are calmer. Go gadget-free from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Try it, I really think you’ll like it.


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