Increase Focus with These 11 Ways to Unplug

Posted on July 15, 2015 by VITAL WorkLife

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.”

- Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sage advice when it comes to technology, screen time and multitasking. Continuously being connected without a break can cause anxiety and may inhibit deep thought.

family unplugging campingA study from the University of Michigan found multitasking heavily can fatigue the brain, which causes it to lose the ability to focus. Your brain needs a rest from the multitasking.1 Some recent imaging studies have found major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime.2 Just as plugging in and logging on is a habit, so should be taking a break from it. If you are not accustomed to breaking the plugged-in habit, it may take some diligent practice and rewiring on your part. Here are some suggestions for making the break.

11 Ideas to Unplug

  1. Challenge yourself to the 20-20-20 rule. After 20 minutes of computer use, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.3
  2. Say no to multitasking and allow yourself to do one thing at a time. Read a magazine, talk on the phone, or walk to a coworker’s cube to ask a question instead of instant messaging or e-mailing.
  3. Change your environment by going on vacation and making it technology free. It may result in a level of relaxation and free-flowing ideas you never imagined possible.2
  4. Be a part of nature. Go where cell phones don’t work, where there is no Internet, or where it is forbidden. For example, visit the ocean or a cave in the mountains or take a class.
  5. Start slowly. Create time each day, say 30 to 60 minutes, for no interruptions. For example, turn off technology an hour before bed or right before working out; try driving to work with no radio and no cell phone.
  6. Include the whole family. Limit children’s time on technology. Declare a TV Turnoff Week, with small prizes for contestants at the end of each day and the week.
  7. Practice mapping a destination instead of using the GPS.
  8. Go for a walk or jog without headphones; engage another person to go with you.
  9. Turn off notifications so you are not tempted to plug in.4
  10. Set aside time for socializing and networking – in person.4
  11. Move apps away from your home screen to avoid constant interruptions.4

Feel the freedom of single tasking. This means being comfortable working on one thing at a time, which helps sharpen focus and produce a higher-quality uninterrupted output. Balance is the key. While it is vitally important to be plugged in sometimes, it is equally important to recognize there is a world beyond the screens surrounding you.

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1Richtel, M. (2010, August 15). Outdoors and out of reach, studying the brain. New York Times. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from National Public Radio. (2010, August 24).

2Digital overload: Your brain on gadgets. Fresh Air. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from  Goudreau, J. (2010, June 21).

3Do computers really fry your brain? Forbes. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from Lepi, K. (2014, April 14).

4Why you should unplug. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from

May, C. (2014). Learn to disconnect. Raleigh, NC: Workplace Options.

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