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National Day of Unplugging: Mission accomplished

Mar 10, 2014 @ 8:34 am

By Sheryl Rowling

Sheryl Rowling
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Sheryl Rowling

Contrary to the doubters and the nonbelievers out there, including myself, I actually was able to keep my cellphone powered off, and stayed away from my iPad and computers for 24 hours.

Was it earth shattering? Life-changing? Eye-opening? Not really.

It's true that I was anxious, concerned about what I was missing and worried that I was not reachable in an emergency. I was also bored. As a multitasker since childhood, not being able to read e-mails, check Facebook or play Words With Friends while in line or waiting for a meal made me fidgety! Just take a look at my diary for the first night (transcribed from scribbled notes):

Friday 5:50 pm - After finishing my last-minute e-mails and phone calls, I turn off my phone and leave it in my bedroom. The sun is setting. dddddd

5:55 pm - In our dining room, I join my husband and uncle for dinner. We share pleasant conversation and tasty food. So far, so good.

6:45 pm - It's Friday night and we have no plans. My husband and uncle have been complaining that tax season has kept me unavailable and they'd like to spend time with me. So, I sat on the couch waiting for their company ... and waited ... and waited. I turned on the TV, noticing that my uncle was sitting at the counter on his laptop while my husband was watching YouTube videos on his phone.

7:15 pm - It is so hard to just sit and watch TV. I'm bored. I want to play on my phone. I want to catch up on a few work items while my show is on. But, I can't. I ask the guys if they want to sit down with me. They claim they are too tired. I grab last Sunday's New York Times and read while the TV drones on.

8:00 pm - I give up. I don my jammies, turn on the TV in my bedroom and open a book. I actually read a third of the novel (written by a client) before turning off the TV and shutting the lights. Because I committed to not using my phone, I set my alarm clock to wake me in the morning.

Starting my Saturday without checking e-mails, texts, Facebook, or phone messages felt strange and disorienting. I had a full day planned including a kid's birthday party followed by dinner I was putting on for my uncle's birthday. What if a guest needed to get hold of me? What if I need to look something up? How do I keep tabs on the world?!

I'll admit it; it was hard to do without my electronic lifelines. Yet, I'm not convinced that I'm better off without them for 24 hours in a row. Not having access to my phone made me distractingly focus on that — instead of creating space for me to more fully enjoy the people, places and things around me.

But the experience was not devoid of lessons. What did I learn? For one, I learned that it's a good idea to ignore my phone sometimes so I can read. I learned that I can be reachable without checking my phone constantly. And I learned that nobody noticed the difference. Not one person said, "Hey, you haven't been on your phone." The only comment I got was from my husband and uncle who complained that I was on my phone and iPad all night instead of talking to them. Go figure.

At 5:50 pm Saturday, when I finally turned my phone back on, I had 105 e-mails and five texts.

Did you try unplugging? Comment below and then let us know how you did.

Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.


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