Public Relations Today
Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • September 7, 2015

Unplugging: How to Step Away From Screens

Hello edtech friends - and Happy Labor Day! As the school year ramps up, we imagine you’ll be logging a lot of screen time. Grading on your tablet. Checking on assignment submissions via your phone. Sitting on your laptop and devising lesson plans - screens as far as the eye can see!

Step away from the phone and no one gets hurt.

On this day off, here are some tips for unplugging. You can put them to use today - or perhaps during future weekends and holidays when you’re granted a brief break from the grind.

Decide Why You Should Unplug (And to What Degree)
To some, unplugging means taking an internet break. For others, it means a full-on vacation from screens. Phones are turned off, computers shut down, and tablets locked away for another time.

We suggest setting your intentions. Exactly what will you be unplugging from, for how long, and why? Perhaps you need time away from a specific project so you can approach it with fresh eyes and an open mind in a few days. Maybe it’s a mission to de-stress.

If you’re unplugging in a way that will make you harder to reach, send a quick FYI to any colleagues or family who might be worried (or annoyed) by any delayed responses. Extra points for developing a quick backup plan for anyone who really needs to reach you. (For example, I like to tell colleagues to call or text if anything urgent comes up while I unplug from work platforms.)

Pick Your Activities
Maybe this seems obvious. Maybe you have that beach weekend planned or your garden is just calling your name.

But if you don’t have any specific activities planned for your unplugged time, consider brainstorming a quick list of screenless adventures. Books, art projects, culinary undertakings, hikes, home organization. I’m sure you can think of some good stuff - but boredom is an easy excuse to slink back to your screens and fall into old patterns.

Switch from a Push to a Pull
For a lighter commitment, try turning all of your push notifications into pulls. This means trading tech that buzzes, beeps, and steals your attention from other tasks for a workflow that allows you to check in when you want.

For example, if you’re using Chalkup to run your classes, you can set your notifications to email you about submitted work/discussions instead of a text message. You’ll be able to catch up with your class when you’re ready - not when your phone harasses you.

Similarly, you can temporarily keep your work email/messaging platforms from alerting you with a push notification on your mobile. When you want to dive into work mode, you can check your email and/or reset everything to alert you of new messages.

In short: instead of being constantly available, set aside hours when you’ll check in. Beyond that, your tech should be programmed to leave you alone.

Make it a Game
If you’re unplugging side-by-side a friend, there are plenty of ways to gamify this. I enjoy the game of “first person to check out and start playing on their phone pays for drinks/dinner” or the classic “three strikes and you’re out” approach to a screen-free weekend.

You (probably) have to go back eventually. But take note of what you get out of wireless vacations. Maybe it’s renewed creativity or a more focused mind.

By setting intentions and thinking about the results of your time away from tech, you’ll be more able to plan these unplugged sessions when you need them the most during the school year.

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