Mt. Vernon Register-News

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September 2, 2013

Labor Day: Just the time to give the apps a nap

(Continued)

To avoid temptation, you need to examine how integrated your work, digital and personal lives have become. When did you start falling asleep with your smartphone on your chest? Thinking in tweets? Seeing the world through Instagram-filtered glasses? Put your phone in a drawer overnight. Instead of checking email or Twitter first thing in the morning, try stretching, walking or running. Exercise is one way to counteract the little rush you're missing from each retweet and like. Those are no match for adrenaline surging through a body in motion.

Sit still

Make sure you're not simply replacing the constant busyness of being online with the constant busyness of remaining offline. You don't want to deny yourself the simple pleasure of being in the moment. Leave the house without your devices. Part of what you're doing is proving to yourself that you can. And that you don't need to broadcast your every encounter. Or peruse every restaurant and concert option available. Or have the world's information a click away. All that is great, yes, but you appreciate it more if you give it up every now and then.

Plug back in - thoughtfully

On Tuesday, when life rushes back to normal, take what you learned during the long unplugged weekend with you. Try adding some "airplane mode" moments to your day. See if it makes you more productive and more creative at work; breaks have a way of doing that. And see if it makes you feel less like you're simply managing chaos.

A three-day weekend isn't enough for a total transformation, but that's not the point. Lasting change starts small, with new habits you build on. After his break, Thurston, who had at one point had averaged 1,500 tweets a month, began unplugging for several hours during the week. He instituted a no-appointments week four times a year. He gave up text-walking, reminding himself to look around at his surroundings — and avoid tripping or getting hit by a car. "The greatest gift I gave myself," Thurston said of his break, "was a restored appreciation for disengagement, silence, and emptiness."

That, he hopes, is one way to plug into a more balanced, fulfilling life.

Salter is a senior writer at Fast Company and editor of the new book "Unplug: How to Work Hard and Still Have a Life," from which this article was adapted.

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