Unplugging in a Digital World

unplug

How often have you been at a restaurant and seen people with their faces buried in their cell phones? Or attended a meeting where everyone had his or her laptop open and spent more time watching it than the speaker?

As freelancers, many of us work on a computer most of the day. When not writing
or designing before a screen, we’re reading, texting or emailing from smart phones.
A good chunk of non-working hours may be spent online as well: paying bills, watching TV or reading e-books. ‘Analog’ time—reading newspapers, magazines or other printed materials—seems to decrease each year.

While the digital world allows us to work as freelancers, it has drawbacks ranging from eyestrain to social isolation. Some critics say we’re not living authentically if we don’t unplug on occasion—this led one organization to introduce an annual
Day of Unplugging in 2010.

As creative freelancers dependent on digital devices, how do we strike a balance?
What are the best ways to unplug? Here are a few ideas.

Revert to Pen and Paper

The purposeful act of creating with pen and paper forges a deeper connection between thoughts and language. Many writers use pen and paper to boost their creative output, including Quentin Tarntino, Joyce Carol Oates and Jhumpa Lahiri.

When I hit a writer’s block or need to sort through ideas when editing, the physical act of writing often helps me clarify my thoughts. Proponents say it combats designers block and offers additional benefits, such as saving time and providing a clear visual guide to clients.

Buy a Coloring Book

Coloring books are recommended by therapists and doctors to alieve stress and increase concentration. The physical action of coloring forces you to focus on the task at hand. For designers, while coloring inside the lines may sound mundane, many artists credit the action to helping them relax and work through creative blocks.

The activity must be working. According to The Washington Post, Nielsen BookScan estimated 12 million coloring books for adults were sold in 2015—a meteoric increase from the one million sold in 2014.

Connect with Someone—In Person

Instead of an online meeting or phone call, set up an in-person meeting. Instead of chatting with a friend over WeChat or Facebook, meet for a drink after work. Drive
to a store instead of ordering online. If you work remotely, make it a point to take your analog work with you to a coffee shop or shared office space. Nothing beats human interaction and connection to stimulate ideas through conversation.

Other Suggestions

If you’re stuck in a creative rut, or if you want to increase your creativity and output, the best way out may be to unplug. Taking a broader view, unplugging provides a plethora of other health benefits as well.

What are you doing to unplug? Share your thoughts for a future article.

Authored by Cheryl Syrett

Cheryl Syrett is a marketing communications writer and editor and former Freelance Forum board member. You may reach her at cherylosyrett@gmail.com and connect through LinkedIn.