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walking in forest

National Day of Unplugging (and why IT workers should care)

March 04, 2014

Looking for a boost to get through a big project? Need to be more productive at work? Perhaps it's time to cut the digital cord—or at least unplug it for a bit. In celebration of National Day of Unplugging, TEKsystems urges IT workers to remember that there is a whole world outside of our screens. And rediscovering that world can bring a host of benefits, including the ability to work more productively and creatively.

First, a disturbing statistic: the average American spends nearly 12 hours a day in front of a screen. And it's a safe bet that IT pros log even more time. Compare that with the average time we spend on sports, exercise and recreation: a mere 19 minutes.

Quiz: Do you need to unplug?

Take this short quiz to find out:

  • I use multiple screens at the same time (e.g.playing with a tablet while watching TV)
  • I automatically reach for my smartphone for entertainment while standing in a line of any length
  • The first thing I do every morning is check my email
  • I’ve lost time wandering aimlessly through social media (a.k.a. “the Facebook fugue”)
  • I’m not performing at peak level at work
  • When running into a burning house to save my most precious possession, I’d have a tough time choosing between my laptop and the dog

Did you answer yes to any of those questions? Then you might need to unplug for awhile. You probably understand that turning phones, email and other devices off while working helps you focus. But perhaps it’s time to take it a step further.

According to an emerging body of research, nature can be a great cure for attention problems. Numerous studies have shown that taking a walk in a forest or other peaceful outdoor location can relax and recharge your mind. And this effect carries over to your next tasks, boosting focus, creativity and critical thinking. So the next time you’re stuck on a problem or in a work rut, why not take a walk outside?

The National Day of Unplugging begins at sundown on Friday, March 8, and lasts 24 hours. The rules are simple: turn off your computer, TV, phone and any other digital leashes. It's probably harder to do than you think, but the rewards will be enormous.  

Nature within reach?

Would you like to get out in nature more but don't have the time or transportation to go far? You’d be surprised at how many natural refuges you can find near—or even inside—major cities. You might check for these types of public lands:

Or you can search, which has an easy-to-use site finder with information from a wide variety of sources. Give it a whirl. My personal go-to getaway is kayaking, and the database turned up some interesting spots I didn't know about. Padding is a great way to get away for short times; even crowded city waterways offer a new perspective as you’ll see different vegetation on the shores and birds going about their business. can also help you find spots to throw in a skiff.

For optimal benefit, you should make unplugging a routine part of your week. Find at least a few hours to read a book, take a nature walk or hang out with friends. There's also a list of screen rules for the adult set. I plan to adopt them. Do you?

Now turn off your computer and go outside for a few minutes!

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