We’ve been hunched over our laptops and glued to our phones for so long that it seems inconceivable to put them down for an evening, let alone two whole days. Seriously, can you picture scheduling a tech-free weekend? In our digital world, it sounds impossible.
Still, you know you need a break. Screen time can wreck your physical and mental health. We connected with other entrepreneurs to get their thoughts on putting down the screen over the weekend.
Why do you need a tech-free weekend?
Headaches, eye strain, insomnia, Carpal tunnel syndrome – spend too long on the computer, and your body starts to protest. These are serious problems on their own, but excessive screen use can increase other issues. Christine Emilie Lim, CEO and Founder of The Short Spine, suffers from chronic migraines that only get worse with excessive screen time.
“One of the ways to mitigate migraines is by not over-indulging myself on screen time,” she wrote. “Because of that, I’m intentional when I don’t look at my phone or laptop. I’m also out of my desk by the time it gets dark outside on a weekday and I schedule my weekends to avoid intense work in front of the laptop. Doing this regularly avoids debilitating headaches and helps me choose my health first above others.”
The stress of constant connection
Ding! When a notification makes us drop everything to check our phones, it’s hard not to feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs. You may want to feel connected to your business 24/7, but that can easily build up stress.
“I think today’s ‘normal’ relationship with technology looks very much like addiction,” said Sleepout Co-Founder Hannah Brennen. “The awkwardness, anxiety, or fear of missing out on something important are all real – your phone and most of the apps on it are designed to make you feel that way.”
Erin Wade, the founder of Vinaigrette, Modern General and The Feel Good, raised a similar concern and talked about how relieving it was to step away. “When I took a month off from screens, the most profound moments were little things that involved paying attention to all my senses again,” Wade said. “I would walk in the grass barefoot or lie down in the grass and stare up at the blue sky. When I first laid on the ground and looked up at the sky during my tech-free weeks, I started to cry. I could not remember the last time I had just looked at the sky. You end up having way more access to all your senses.”
Caroline Lee, the co-founder of Cocosign, discussed the importance of mental health. “After being constantly available to my clients, I started feeling stressed out and tired. I was constantly rude and got mood swings,” she said. “I understood that I was not taking care of my mental health. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms. You’re either healthy or you have a mental illness. The truth, however, is that even those who are ‘mentally healthy’ can still improve their mental wellness.”
When speaking with these entrepreneurs about going tech-free, that feeling of relaxation and relief came up over and over. Having a break not only lowered their anxiety but also helped them return to work refreshed. So how can you make it happen?
1 – Start gradually
Going from spending twelve hours a day staring at a screen to no contact over a weekend is a difficult adjustment. Some entrepreneurs recommended gradually building up your tech-free time to get a feel for it.
Hyre Founder Eropa Stein shared her insider tip. “It’s easier to start with tech-free afternoons or evenings and then work your way up to a day or a weekend. Make sure you let those who typically need to reach you know ahead of time so that they can accommodate your absence.”
2 – Make space for a break
Entrepreneurs often struggle with the pressure to work harder and hustle more. If you feel guilty about being unproductive, consider Josephine Walters’ advice. The Noots Pets founder works around that feeling by having a productive day before a tech-free weekend. It helped address some of the stress of a lingering to-do list.
3 – Remove the temptation
Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best choice. If you’re struggling with the constant urge to check Instagram, delete the app, set a screen time limit on your phone settings or disconnect it from the internet. Applications like RescueTime, StayFocused or Freedom can automatically block your go-to distracting websites. Turn off everything but the most crucial notifications, either manually or through Do Not Disturb.
If you can physically distance yourself from your tech, that can make a huge difference, too. Kara Hoholik, M.Ed., CEO of Social for Good Co., keeps her phone in an entirely separate room.
“I took a month-long break from social media and technology during the pandemic. I was managing virtual school for my kids, and I was overwhelmed. The constant barrage of negative feedback I was getting on social media was amplifying my anxiety,” she explained. “I deleted the apps off my phone, left it plugged in upstairs and made goals for myself for what I wanted to accomplish during this time. I was worried that the break would affect the new business I was starting, but in fact, it grew while I stepped away.”
4 – Communicate your plan to others
Talk about your plans with other people so that they know not to contact you unless it’s an emergency. Alison Muir, Founder of Square Peg Coaching, suggests blocking out the time in your online calendar to let your clients and employees know. If you can set the boundary, others will respect it.
5 – Find activities to look forward to
This is the real appeal of the tech-free weekend. Instead of spending your day glued to your phone, you can take the time for your favorite hobbies and activities. When asked what they do with their newfound time, entrepreneurs discussed everything from walking the dog to kayaking to having dedicated time for painting or writing.
Kristine Daub, Founder of Bycurated, suggests making a checklist of everything you look forward to doing. Not as a to-do list, but as a way to organize your thoughts and get excited for the weekend. Spontaneity is fun, but if you have a plan in mind, you’re less likely to turn to your phone out of boredom.
Dozens of entrepreneurs came forward to talk about how stepping back from screens did wonders for their health and productivity. If you had an entire weekend away from tech, what could you do for yourself? Share with us!