Healthwatch: Take a restful break on National Unplug Day

By Dr. Michael Jacobson, D.O., M.P.H., CHM Medical Director

*Editor’s note: This information was published in the March 2022 issue of Heartfelt Magazine, CHM’s monthly magazine that provides CHM membership-related tips and tricks, medical advice from doctors, testimonies from CHM members, and more. Please refer to the CHM Guidelines and applicable web pages for the most up-to-date information regarding CHM membership, sharing eligibility, and ministry news.*

According to Pew Research, the average American family has five connected devices at any given time. Unfortunately, as our connection to the digital world has scaled, our connection to one another (and even ourselves) has suffered.

Recognizing this, a Jewish community proposed designating the first Sabbath in March (2009) as a National Day of Unplugging (NDU). Their intent was to raise awareness and to encourage others to slow down and gather for “tech-free Shabbat dinners.”

Interested individuals can register their event with NDU or just decide with friends or family to turn off all digital devices and connect for however long they want.

The need to put away devices is certainly nothing new, nor unique to this special day in March.

Concerts and events politely ask attendees to turn off their cellphones during the program so that they will not be a distraction to themselves and others.

Similarly, many leadership teams and boards ban digital devices during meetings so that attendees will be fully present and focused on the topic at hand.

In 2017, retired CEO and “techie” Michael Hyatt announced a new paper planner (of all things)! Some thought he was crazy, and Hyatt himself wondered how this analog solution would be received in our digital world.

The launch proved to be one of the company’s most successful. Hyatt’s hybrid approach (use digital for content that needs to be tracked and shared and using paper to record meeting notes and live in the moment) to planning and task management has helped me greatly.

Further, through his coaching, I’ve discovered that I’m more productive when I regularly take time to push myself away from my work and other distractions to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Here are some things I do to "unplug" and find whole-person rest on a regular basis. As I expressed above, I use a paper planner and journal (Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner) to augment my digital tools. There are several reasons for why I do this.

  • My planner is replaced every quarter and I need access to my notes in perpetuity. For this reason, I actually take notes in my planner/journal, then dictate those notes as soon as possible (while the thoughts are fresh on my mind) so that they are captured into a permanent digital journal (which I close out at the end of each year).
  • There are times when digital devices are distracting, if not inappropriate.
  • I don’t want to be glued to my devices 24/7. I prefer to look at a paper list of tasks and appointments rather than always opening my phone, tablet, or computer.
  • Research has demonstrated that memory, reasoning, and problem-solving are better using paper than just capturing and formulating information in an exclusively digital format.
  • Each day (I’ve been very bad at this, but am working diligently to improve!), I ‘disconnect’ from the office by closing down my devices using paper for family interactions and activities. Digital devices are not allowed at the dinner table (unless someone is sharing content as part of our dinner tradition). They are also discouraged in meetings, unless they are a necessary part of our process.


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