Our devices are both sources of digital distraction and essential tools for modern-day knowledge workers. "Computers are a necessary tool in our lives. They help us work and learn, they connect us to colleagues and loved ones, they can inform us and bring us music and laughter," says David Sax in his book The Future is Analog.
One technology-free hour a day can help us make the best of both the digital and analog worlds. If you've tried the Internet Sabbath, digital detox, or quitting social but haven't been able to, this is a viable alternative.
One technology-free hour a day is long enough to reap the benefits of uninterrupted concentration and not so long that it's unrealistic for people who have day jobs, children, and other responsibilities.
When you start the day by reaching for your phone, scrolling through your newsfeed, and clicking on links, you're inundated with digital stimulation. "**Stimulation begets stimulation, and distraction begets distraction. The more distracted we become, the more we want to continue distracting ourselves in order to stay at that highly stimulated level, and it's hard to come down," said Chris Bailey in an interview on the Unmistakable Creative. **
If you start your day with digital distractions, you'll stay distracted all day. But if you take one technology-free hour per day, you can focus and stay calm.
The Benefit of One Technology Free Hour Per Day
Our calendars are full, inboxes are overflowing, and news feeds are vying for our attention, which is then sold to the highest bidders. But it's this whitespace we reclaim our most precious resources: time, attention, and energy.
One technology-free hour each day can provide us with a window of non-stimulation, which is critical in a world where information overload is making us stupid, unproductive, and poor.
"We have become such massive consumers of high-tech, spending the vast majority of our waking hours using one more device, and we have not really had much practice sustaining our attention on just one activity and ignoring the lure of others," says Adam Gazzaley in his book The Distracted Mind
This window of time can be used to focus on activities that demand our sustained attention, like reading a book, playing music, or writing. It can also be used to simply sit and be present with our thoughts and emotions, which is critical for problem-solving.
Or we can use this time to connect with the people who matter most to us and form deeper relationships with them.
What You Don't Schedule Doesn't Get Done
Think about your most important obligations and commitments. If something is truly important, it's scheduled on your calendar. This is why it's important to schedule one technology-free hour per day on your calendar.
When to Schedule Your Technology-Free Hour
"Our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day. During the sixteen or so hours we’re awake, they change—often in a regular, foreseeable manner. We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others," says Dan Pink in his book, When: The Secret Science of Perfect Timing.
Because cognitive functions are highest between sunrise and noon, for most people, early morning is best. But If you have to feed an infant, change diapers or drop your kids off at school, you can either get up earlier or schedule this time later in the day. And if you're a night owl, the best time might be before you go to bed.
Have a Plan for Your Technology-Free Hour
If there's anything that will cause you to cave into distractions, it's not having a plan for what you'll do during this hour. Rituals provide rhythm and reliability. And it's why some of the most prolific creators, successful entrepreneurs, and cultural icons have daily rituals.
Read a Physical Book
Unlike reading on a device, nothing else is competing for your attention when you read a physical book. Additionally, because people scan rather than read when they use devices, they're more likely to remember what they learn when they read a physical book.
Write in a Journal
Like physical books, when you write in a journal, nothing competes for your attention.
When you open your notebook, you automatically unplug. It momentarily pauses the influx of information so your mind can catch up. Things become less of a blur, and you can finally examine your life with greater clarity. -Ryder Caroll, The Bullet Journal Method
Don't worry if you're not sure what to write about. The purpose of this habit isn't to produce the next great American novel, although it will often spark some of your best creative ideas. Just use this time to observe, reflect and write
"Morning Pages are for Westerners, a uniquely potent form of meditation. They allow us to empty our minds and hearts of disturbing distractions and simultaneously open our minds and hearts to deeper reflections," says Julia Cameron in her book, The Right to Write
Spend Time Talking with Family or Loved Ones
After my nephew was born, I realized that spending time with him during the first four months of his life was an opportunity I'd never have again. So, most mornings, I spend time talking to him, reading to him, or listening to music with him. And because he's always smiling, it's become one of my favorite parts of my morning ritual.
Turn Off Devices At the End of the Day
Many people don't turn off their devices when they're done for the day. They may log out or close their laptop lid, but the moment they log back in or open the lid, digital distractions are easily accessible.
Shutting down applications and turning off devices is a way to avoid this because of a principle called activation energy, which is the number of steps it takes to complete a task.
By shutting down applications and turning off devices, you increase the number of steps it takes to access devices and distractions. This makes it much easier to follow through on the habit of one technology-free hour per day.
What If One Hour Sounds too Hard?
When you're struggling to maintain or adopt a habit, James Clear says to reduce the scope but stick to the schedule. If one hour sounds impossible, start with a few minutes each day. Once that becomes easy, readjust the scope and increase the amount of time. Eventually, the habit of one technology-free hour per day will become part of your identity.
The Secret to Success in All Fields
The secret to success in almost all fields is large, uninterrupted blocks of focused time. And yet, how many people organize their days or lives to make this possible? -Ryan Holiday, Discipline is Destiny
In windows of non-stimulation, we cultivate self-knowledge, and develop self-awareness and cultivate wisdom. One technology-free hour per day might feel like a counterproductive indulgence. But The value of shifting your mind into low gear in the short run is that it leads to higher levels of productivity in the long run.
By disconnecting from the world around us, we reconnect to the world within us. We create space to plant the seeds for creative breakthroughs and our most impactful work. In Stillness and silence, artists have birthed their greatest creation, leaders have resolved conflicts, and ordinary people have solved extraordinary problems.
What begins as a habit evolves into a ritual, serving as an anchor that gives us a semblance of certainty in an inherently uncertain world.
Starting our days without technology can help us spend the day in a state of focus. The first hour of the day creates a ripple effect that impacts every other part of our day.
And if all it takes is one technology-free hour per day to accomplish more of your goals, and become happier and more productive, isn't it worth giving it a try?