As someone whose career and personal life surrounds tech, living without it might seem impossible. But as I hit a near-breakdown from the amount of info in my head last month, I decided I wanted to take a full week off. Yep! No kinda-sorta checking emails, no Facebook, no texts, no (gasp!) Instagram, no tech at all.
So what does a week without it look like? I probably couldn’t answer this question while staying at home, so I used a recent vacation as my time to test it out. My family and I were visiting the lake my dad grew up on in small-town Indiana — a place where the cell service is limited and the wifi is non-existent (at least in our house). Of course, there were many takeaways from this experience, but these are the top five things that I learned. Spoiler alert: I survived.
I learned to clear my head.
Not having access to email is so much different than telling yourself not to check it. It’s like being forced to think about something else. And when you’re on a lake with your family, that usually means fishing, boating, and — dare I say it? — nothing.
For the first time in awhile, I wasn’t obsessed with checking every notification the second it came in. The anxiety that usually comes with “more” when it comes to tech — more likes on Facebook, more emails to read, etc. was lifted. I really felt like I had no worries on my mind, other than which type of ice cream to order that night, which was completely refreshing (both literally and figuratively). A solid reminder to spend a day a week without tech, even when back in San Francisco.
I learned to (re)prioritize.
Once my head was clear, it became much easier to see what was really important in my life. Ask me my priorities any day of the week and I’ll probably give you a list of work-related things. Not having technology, though — and finally having the opportunity to think about something other than work — gave me the chance to prioritize ‘life’ things and not just ‘work’ things.
Like keeping in better touch with my brother, taking long morning walks, and sleeping. These are all things that I usually don’t feel like I have time for, but after realizing how much they positively affect me, I’ve started making the time.
I learned to spend time with people I care about.
Sure, you can go on any vacation and spend time with the people you care about, but how often do you look around and see everyone on their phone? Some might even bring their laptop and work — I know I’m guilty of these things.
But when you go to a place where phones and computers can’t function, you’re bound to squeeze in more meaningful conversations and memories. On top of that, I didn’t feel the pull of tech taking me out of conversations. Instead of cutting a convo short with my dad to aimlessly scroll, I talked to him on the dock for hours. And not once did I have the guilt of looking at my phone while pretending listening to him. I don’t know when I started prioritizing our devices over the people I love, but it’s time I stop.
I learned to truly relax.
At this point in my trip, my head was clear and I had realized I needed to prioritize myself and not just my job. So what was left to do? Truly relax for the first time in forever.
And I’m not talking scrolling on Instagram relaxing — my usual go-to. So much of my “relaxation” at home stems from tech, which is actually still clogging my brain and taking up energy. In Indiana, I played cards, I swam, I cooked — things that actually replenished me. I even slept better because I was so zenned out.
I learned to think creatively.
My job as a freelance writer is to be creative, but when I’m neck-deep in the day-to-day grind, it’s hard to get out of my own head. My writing even becomes forced because I’m writing on autopilot.
I found that once all the tech and distractions were gone, I could finally pick up a book — something that always inspires my writing but I rarely do because #Instagram. I even had time to daydream and feel naturally inspired (the unlimited vacation wine helped too). Sure, this might be work-related, but it’s something I can’t do sitting at my desk surrounded by task after task.