How to Take a Tech Break

During one of my frequent deep dives into productivity research, I came across some interesting data: Apparently, humans are most productive when they work steadily for 52 minutes, followed by 17 minutes of downtime. I can’t remember where I read this, but I decided to try it, adding my own twist: turning my phone off during those 52-minute increments.


Those periods of phone-free time have turned out to be incredibly freeing and hyper-focused. I shouldn’t be surprised, though: Most every adult has experienced the lingering sense that their smartphone use is fracturing their attention, drawing their focus away from their friends and loved ones, and ensnaring them deeper into an addiction to distraction.


Smartphones are so new, so there’s not a ton of research into their effects on our lives. Still, early study results are bleak. Smartphones are taking the blame for narcissism and insomnia, even (unsurprisingly) a decrease in relationship satisfaction.


Of course, smartphones are also great for a lot of things, like FaceTiming your parents so they can see their grandkids and reminding you of that doctor’s appointment. But, if you’re feeling like you could benefit from a digital detox, here are some ways to start:


Delete all unnecessary apps

The New York Times’ tech columnist, Kevin Roose, kept messaging services and “non-distracting” utilities, like cooking and navigation apps. He pared down his home screen to just his calendar, email, and password manager.


Consider how you want to spend your time

Think about why you pick up your phone. Do you love to gaze at nature porn? Grab some gear and head outside instead. Obsessed with cooking videos? Invite some friends over for dinner and tackle that recipe you’ve been meaning to try.


Create speed bumps

Catherine Price, author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” suggests the following tricks aimed at getting you to pause before using your phone: put a rubber band around it, as a physical reminder, or set a lock screen image that prompts you to think about whether you really need your phone right now.


Don’t charge your phone in your bedroom

According to one study, people who don’t charge their phones in their bedrooms are significantly happier than those who do. Grab a book instead and rediscover the joy of snuggling up. 


Buy an alarm clock

By now, it’s common knowledge that the blue light from our phones likely causes insomnia. Instead of relying on your phone as your alarm clock—which tempts you to scroll through Twitter just one last time before bed—buy an actual alarm clock. Not only is it functional, but it can be a stylish addition to your home decor.

Erin Klabunde is a writer, editor, and Second City-trained comedian. Her work appears on Amendo and Medium. She regularly performs in the shower, mostly Celine Dion's back catalog. She lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @klabundles.

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