How to Take a 24-Hour Break From Your Phone

If you're like many people, the idea of taking a 24-hour break from your phone can sound simultaneously exciting . . . and scary. 

Here are some tips to reduce your anxiety and get the most out of the experience.

IDENTIFY WHAT YOU’RE TAKING A BREAK FROM

Are you just taking a break from your phone? Or are you avoiding any internet-enabled devices with screens, including tablets, smartwatches, laptops, and desktop computers. (I recommend the latter.)

TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU’RE DOING

Inform your parents, friends, roommates, bosses, and anyone else who’s likely to try to contact you for the next twenty-four hours. This is both to help you prepare, and to hold you accountable! If you are a big social media user, consider posting an update to your account announcing what you're doing and inviting others to join you. Click here for some free social media images you can use to announce what you're doing. 

GET OTHERS ON BOARD

Ideally, everyone in your household should participate in the twenty-four-hour break. It can also be fun to recruit a friend to do it with you.

MAKE PLANS

Schedule enjoyable things you can do (and people you can spend time with) during the time you usually spend on your phone. (For example: make a coffee date with a friend.) Also, set up your house to give you lots of options for non-phone activities. For example, you could put a book you’ve been meaning to read on your bedside table, print out a recipe you’ve been wanting to try, or leave your instrument out of its case.

SET AN AUTOMATED TEXT MESSAGE RESPONSE

Many of us communicate primarily through text messages—and the idea of missing a text or leaving someone hanging is enough to keep many of us tethered to our phones. The solution is a text message auto-responder, saying that you’re away from your phone and won’t be responding to texts till the next day. (Optional: provide your landline number if you have one.) Text message auto-responses are also great for when you’re driving. For instructions on how to set them up, see  here.

USE CALL FORWARDING

Speaking of landlines: it’s possible to have all calls from your smartphone forwarded to your landline. (We're not trying to stop you from talking to people; we're trying to take a break from mindlessly scrolling on your screens.) Instructions for how to do so vary by carrier, so do an internet search ahead of time. Alternatively, change your outgoing voicemail to explain what you’re doing.

SET AN OUT-OF-OFFICE EMAIL RESPONSE

If you’re stressed about not responding to emails, set up an email auto-responder (often called a “vacation reply”) that explains what you’re doing.

USE HARD-COPY INSTRUCTIONS

If you’re going to be driving someplace new, print instructions or write down directions ahead of time. (Yup, for this twenty-four-hour period, you will have to navigate without your phone.) Remember: You can always ask for directions from a real person.

CREATE A PHYSICAL CONTACT LIST

If you have a landline, write down the numbers of people you think you might want to call. Again, there’s no restriction on phone calls made on landline phones—they represent live contact with people.

GET A PAD OF PAPER OR NOTEBOOK

Use it to make a “To-Phone” list of things that you want to do, buy, or look up when your 24-hour break is over. You may well find that by the time you turn your phone back on, you’ll no longer care.

REFLECT ON THE EXPERIENCE ONCE IT’S OVER

Once you’ve made it through the 24 hours, take a moment to reflect on the experience. What did you notice? What did you feel? What was the best part? What was the most challenging? And what did you learn from your 24-hour break that you could take with you going forward?

And remember, this is just an experiment! If you freak out after spending two hours (two minutes?) away from your phone, you can always turn it back on. For me, at least, knowing I have an escape route makes it easier to try new things.