At this point we know that spending too much time looking at screens is bad for us. More is not better, it’s only more. There is value to having open access to information, ideas, and communities. What we end up missing is the context of the real world. We spend all of our time taking in information, and none of our time applying it. There has to be some downtime to process the information we’re bombarded with. That’s why unplugging boosts creativity.
Have Less Activity, More Quiet Time
Lately I’ve been stumping for more curated experiences. This covers everything from taking the most enjoyable, rather than the most efficient, walk to get places, to cutting the number of RSS feeds in my reader to those that are the most useful or fun. I spend less time online. There are times when I don’t have on any music or background noise. I meditate before and after long stretches of writing and other project time. It’s not only more pleasant, but both my concentration and the quality of my creative output have improved. At the very least, I’m less stressed.
Spend More Time Making Things
Last Sunday I tried to take a day off. There were no pressing deadlines to keep up with. My schedule for the coming week meant that I didn’t need to try to catch up, or get ahead. I could have some downtime. I ended up working anyway. It wasn’t that I didn’t try to spend more time reading, or to watch a movie. Creating thing felt more relaxing. I’m sure there’s something about feeling in control, or the endorphin levels of a flow state, that explains it. All I know is that the more time I spend making things, the less time I want to spend being passively entertained.
There have been periods of my life where opportunities and resources were lacking. I had to find creative solutions, up to and including inventing my own job. Those limitations also either cut me off from access to television and the internet, or didn’t leave me significant amounts of time to watch TV shows or surf the web. It gave me more time to think about solving problems and making things. I’m actually grateful for those limitations, even though at the time I thought they sucked. Having to be unplugged led to greater creativity and happiness.
Unplugging Boosts Creativity
I’m not an internet native, but I did grow up with ubiquitous television and radio. The experiences are similar, if not exactly the same. You become so used to something being there that you take it from granted. It becomes the default state. The radio was always on when I was a kid, broadcasting music and news. Later, it was MTV or CNN always there in the background. Now it’s my laptop and my phone keeping me connected to all manner of entertainment and information sources. It’s not the healthiest or most productive way to live. We need to make a conscious effort to back away.