"There’s not enough time in my day."
“I wish I could spend better quality time with my family and friends."
“I don’t get outdoors enough.”
“I have trouble falling asleep or get poor quality sleep."
“I feel drained by my work week and uninspired.”
If this sounds like you, then “funplugging” from your tech life might be the trick to solving every single one of these pain points. Picture a few hours or more without the use of your phone, TV, or laptop/computer. Getting anxious at the thought? Then you’re the perfect candidate to try it out.
Many people have taken small steps to be less dependent on their phones and have found that they are overall happier, connect more with their loved ones, and can achieve focus and clarity more quickly in their work.
Reboot, a non-profit organization, started a movement where each year on the second Friday of March, people around the globe take a 24 hour respite from technology in honor of the National Day of Unplugging. This year, Live Offline welcomed this observance with open arms through an Offline Scavenger Hunt. That’s right, offline. No Google to look up facts, Maps to see nearby destinations, or crowd-sourcing the answer on social media! Just you, your trusty team, and an open mind to ask passersby for help. Forty-five brave souls took on this challenge (in the rain!) and raced around Mission Beach on foot armed with nothing more than a clue book and pencil to hunt for 10 different destinations. They collected bits of info along the way as their “ticket” to the final destination, where we awarded prizes to the top 3 teams and celebrated spending the day offline. Here’s a glimpse at how the day went:
Although the National Day of Unplugging has come and gone, there’s no need to wait a whole year to try unplugging nor does it have to be for a full 24 hours. In fact, small adjustments in your day will lead to a better likelihood of sticking to a routine of being on your phone just a tad less. Start by just giving physical space between you and your phone. If you’re one of those people that has it on your body constantly or in view ready to interrupt an actual social moment, try tucking it away in a bag or drawer where it’s not visible while you’re working. Then work your way towards set periods of offline time, whether 30 minutes in the evening or a full day on the weekend to be without technology. Other tips include turning off app notifications and turning your phone to grayscale. Observe how these changes makes you feel and adjust accordingly.
Remember, it’s not about abandoning your phone completely. There are countless benefits to having technology in our lives. When it starts to go beyond a tool and slowly morph into an obsession or even addiction, it’s time to assess your habits and pull yourself towards a more healthy, balanced tech lifestyle. Just like detoxing from junk food or alcohol can bring benefit to your health, so can digital detoxing.
Our mission at Live Offline is to help develop healthy phone habits so you can get more time to well...live. So go on and give it a try. You just might end up having fun!
It’s one month into the new year...how ‘bout those offline resolutions? If you’ve already slipped up, no sweat. Only about 8% of Americans actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. That’s still not an excuse though to stop reaching for your goals, regardless of the time of year. Goals are naturally meant to be challenging, but also within reach. Remember, the more specific your goal, the more likely you’ll be able to accomplish them. If you’re stuck, try one of these specific offline goals for size. Yes, start with one.
Sticking with resolutions is really about forming new habits; that’s why it’s so difficult! Success begins with understanding how habits work. In this past weekend’s “Phones + Families” Meetup, we had Family Educator, Lucia Soqui, of Parenting Tidbits, join us to share some tactical tips on how to control the Habit Loop. Based on the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, habits follow a 3-step loop:
This cycle is our brain’s way of chunking steps into automatic routines in order to conserve brain power for more intensive functions. Using this knowledge, you can figure out what habit is getting in the way of reaching your goal and hack it. The first step begins with awareness of what triggers the routine. This may take some introspection to properly pinpoint.
Let’s say your goal is to get to bed one hour earlier than usual. Picture your evening routine and try to tease out what bad habit you want to change that’s preventing you from getting to bed. For the sake of this example, let’s imagine it’s the lull after dinner and you and your family settle down on the couch. Perhaps it's phones that you bury yourselves into or Netflix takes center stage. Before you know it, you’ve launched a binge fest of screen time and it’s well past bedtime. When applying the Habit Loop, this breaks down into:
Now that a potential cue has been identified, you’ll then have to ask yourself whether the reward is what you are actually craving. Is it truly effortless entertainment? Or perhaps you’re actually just craving social time with your family. Once you’ve identified the reward you’re seeking, experiment with different routines that could deliver that reward.
For example, if it is indeed effortless entertainment you’re seeking after dinner:
Try switching the medium to audio instead and play a podcast. Just be sure you don’t have it on auto-play of the next episode!
If instead, it’s social time with your family you’re wanting:
Switch from moving to the couch to taking a family walk or playing a game together--something that is still time-bound that can get you to bed earlier but still satisfies your craving of socializing with your family.
Identifying the right cue and reward pair could take several attempts, but don’t get discouraged! It will enable you to have more self-awareness, which is half the battle. What can help is tracking your behavior by jotting down the number of times you catch yourself doing your bad habit, such as the Netflix or phone binge fests.
You’ll know you’ve successfully hacked your habit when after 15 minutes of trying your new routine, you no longer crave the old routine.
To try this out on your own, download Lucia’s handy worksheet below on How to Control the Habit Loop. We’d love to hear what new routines you are trying and what works (or doesn't work) for you!
It’s early January, so I’ll give you one guess ::drumroll please:: they all have the same New Year’s resolution! And that is to be more present in their daily lives. While eating right, exercising more, and being more fiscally responsible remain the top 3 resolutions, Self Care attracts more resolvers each and every year. These wellness resolutions may be phrased in a variety of ways, but they all boil down to the same fundamental premise. If we are more present and focused and in the moment, we will be mentally stronger, healthier, and happier.
In fact, I’ve heard the word “present” so often recently, I'm ready to declare it the 2018 Word of the Year. (If my dad’s using it, it must be trending.) Business Insider interviewed 30 executives about their personal resolutions and seven of them revolved around this concept of presence. But what does it really mean and how can we achieve it? Kim K might be on to something: “I plan on being on my phone less to be more in the moment.” Yes! Reframing these resolutions to living offline has all the same benefits of being present, while being much more specific. And the more specific your goal, the higher chances you have of achieving it. Here are some for you to try:
Replace 20 minutes of screen time every day with a different activity.
We recently tested this experiment with a class of teenage girls in the midst of applying to college. It’s the most stressful time in their lives, but they managed to find 20 minutes every day for two weeks to do an offline activity of their choosing, like learning to play the ukulele. Many students reported feeling less stressed as a result and realized they weren’t missing out on anything online. Having trouble starting? Delete an addicting app.
Set a digital sabbath.
This one’s for all you workaholics out there. I’ll let Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff explain: “Every year since 2016, my New Year’s resolution has been to take a digital Sabbath from Friday sundown to Sunday night. That means no email, text, or Slack. This past year I was successful three out of every four weekends...I come to work Monday morning refreshed.”
Socialize like it’s 1995.
Pick a buddy for this one. Next time you want to hang out, choose a time and place in advance. Can you actually meet up without texting each other updates every two seconds? “Just leaving!” “Be there in 5…” Most of the time, these updates are unnecessary. (Bonus: let your mind wander by not using your phone in transit at all.) This might just inspire your group to be less flakey with each other. And of course, keep the phone away while you’re together.
Talk, don't text.
Resolve to invest in your personal relationships. Every time you reach for the phone to stalk a close friend on social media or send them a text, set a date to call them and really catch up instead. Even better - if they live nearby - plan a coffee date or dinner party.
Start meditating, app optional.
We’ve all heard about the health benefits of meditating. Meditation apps are very popular and can help you get started, but try weaning off of them as you get more practice. I recently talked to a friend who’s very dedicated to yoga. She told me that the first time she felt truly able to clear her mind during the meditation part of class was after a digital detox weekend!
Keep devices out of the bedroom.
The easiest way to practice this is to keep your chargers in a different room. If you must use your phone late at night, most models now come with nighttime modes to reduce blue light! As always, we’re not about banning tech - if you have an Amazon Echo, it’s better for your sleep patterns and mental focus to talk to Alexa than stare at your screen every morning and evening.
Do you have specific phone goals this year? Let us know in the comments below.
PS We also found a lot to like in this article about tech-y resolutions in general, like being nicer on the Internet.
Our friends over at Lodged Out are having another fun unplugged retreat: winter edition! Imagine escaping to the beautiful snow-laden Tall Timber Ranch in Leavenworth, WA for a 3-night unplugged retreat. They've got a fantastic line-up of inspirational speakers and fun workshops including creative writing, astrophotography, and sustainability in fashion. If you're a maker, doer, entrepreneur, musician, writer, photographer, adventure, or just anyone who wants to unplug, learn and play in the snow, this retreat's for you!
Treat yourself in 2018 by breaking free from your tech, become inspired, and make some friends along the way. Be sure to use discount code "LIVEOFFLINE" for 20% off.
It’s that time of year, just after Halloween when the year seems to fly by without notice. We first eat our hearts out for Thanksgiving which starts the mad shopping rush to get everyone you know the perfect gifts at the best prices, starting with “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday,” and finally “Cyber Monday.” Looking back at my teenage years I remember these times sitting at the dinner table with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles sharing stories and playing board games.
For those of you who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, you may also remember these stories about how tough it was way back when. “When I was your age I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to school. You kids have it so easy nowadays.” Our parents and grandparents always like to tell us how hard it was to help “toughen” us up or make us appreciate what we have. How have these stories changed and what will they turn into moving forward?
The Neilson Company reports that 88% (2016 Q3) of the US population has a smartphone, which was up 8% from prior year (2015 Q3). The top three leading age groups in the market are: 18-24 year olds, followed by 25-34 year olds and 35-44. You probably already knew this because where do us older generations go for all the tech questions we are too impatient to figure out? Our children or our nieces/nephews and younger cousins.
What does this mean during big family parties and dinners? Have you noticed the change in behaviors as I have? Eating or talking to cousins with more heads down texting, playing Candy Crush (if that's still a thing anymore), or your grandparents trying to take a million pictures on their new “digital camera,” a.k.a. cellphone so they can show their friends. Technology is everywhere and we seem to accept it but let’s not forget our natural instinct of face to face conversations and interactions. Teenagers’ stories with parents might change from walking to school in the snow to remembering the infamous “Zach Morris” cell phone or how you had to go to 10 different stores and wait 2 hours in line to find a gift instead of “free 2-day shipping.”
Has technology replaced our human interactions? What are we missing while we are consumed by our phones in line waiting to buy something or sitting at dinner talking to a friend instead of a relative? Think outside the “phone”… box, and get “hands on” during this holiday season.
Are you that neglected friend who comes second to anything that remotely sounds like a phone’s buzz? Fret no further. We’ve got seven fun ways you can encourage your friend to live offline a little more with you...or at the very least, get them to laugh about their addictive habits.
7. Stare at them in silence as they furiously tap and swipe on their phone.
Silence can be deafening and may even cause your friend to stop in their tracks as they experience an epiphany of, “Oh, was I being rude?” Or if they’re just completely oblivious, they may just get through their Snap or text that much faster. It’s no coincidence that trying to send a text while talking to someone can take 40% longer than it should. Too aggressive of an approach? Option B: ask them a question. That’ll be sure to leave the ball in their court with an open invitation to silence.
6. Text them while they’re on their phone and say, “Hi, I’m up here :)”
Two can play this game. Just be sure it doesn’t turn into a texting marathon!
5. When they pick up their phone while you’re mid-conversation, start talking about something completely random to see if they notice.
One of our favorite tactics is to tell classic fables in modern day language. “So then she went on to try out one bowl of soup at the table next to ours and spit it out saying it was too hot. Walked over to my bowl, tried out mine and said ‘gross, that’s way too cold.’ I kid you not, she ran around to every table doing this until she found one juuuuust right.”
4. Similarly, rather than switching topics, go on your phone and start playing ’N Sync’s “I Want You Back". Loudly.
They’ll probably look really confused at first but hopefully get a chuckle out of it. Or even drop their phone and start singing and dancing with you. Who doesn’t like to reminisce over ‘90s throwbacks (and Justin’s ramen curls)?
3. Suggest an unplugged retreat to go on together.
There are tons of digital detoxes out there. We’re big fans of Lodged Out. Not ready to commit to a multi-day event? Head out to the wilderness on your own for a night of camping or some day hiking, just as long as you can't catch a signal. Nothing bricks a phone faster than the wilderness. If you’re really feeling bold, grab those passports and head for the border. Just be sure you’re not constantly wi-fi hunting.
2. Get real and talk about it head-on with the backdrop of some cold, hard facts.
Sometimes it helps to break the ice by curiously checking your phone usage stats together and see where you each stand. Are either of you over the 5 hour average use per day? How do you feel about it?
1. Send them an “old fashioned text.”
Who doesn’t get smitten when seeing a handwritten postcard, letter, or greeting card in the mail? It’s the simple things in life that can make such a big difference. Now get offline already!
7. Nicki Minaj .gif from Giphy.com
6. Text .gif from Giphy.com
5. Ron Burgundy .gif from Giphy.com
4. Justin Timberlake photo from "I Want You Back" YouTube video
3. Camp Four Echoes photo on LodgedOut.com and ParkRoadPhotography
2. Phone usage tracking from LetsLiveOffline.com
1. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
The average smartphone owner in the United States spends 5 hours per day on her device. Take a second to think about your own behavior. Do you think you’re above or below the average? The good news is you have all the data you need to figure that out already at your fingertips hidden within your phone’s battery settings (see step-by-step instructions left). We all know that the first step to solving any problem is being aware of the problem in the first place, right? Why not make one of those daily visits to your phone a visit to your usage stats instead. This is the first step towards living offline!
We’ve done this exercise with many groups of people - everyone from strangers at the mall to a class of high school girls - and nearly every person underestimates their usage. One high schooler spent 13 hours over the past 7 days on Snapchat. One parent: almost 4 hours staring at his screen yesterday. It’s not uncommon for people of all ages to have the actual “Phone” function of their smartphone show up at the bottom of the app list. You can start tracking your time just like you would count steps on a Fitbit.
The iPhone actually provides the most robust statistics. Not only can you check the amount of screen time since your phone’s last full charge, but you can break it down per app and per week in number of minutes or by percentage of battery used. We guarantee you will find something surprising. Android users might have to settle for total screen time, depending on which hardware manufacturer they’re using. Either way, it’s good to have some quantitative methods to measure your offline progress.
Ask yourself: what could I be doing with an extra X minutes in my day? Hours per week? Make it a habit to write down your daily screen usage and see if you can bring the number down. Every minute counts!
Leave us a comment with any stats you found surprising and what you’d like to change.
I think of myself as an old-school guy living in a new-school world. As I look back at my life, I’ll never forget my very first interactions with two major technologies: the computer and the cell phone. It was around 1993 when my family got our first computer; I was 12 years old. I think I was the most excited in my family about what it could do. I was drawn to the games and Adobe Photoshop. I remember the retro Apple logo, the big heavy monitor, and the single-click mouse.
Over 10 years later in 2004, my second most memorable tech connection was with a Nextel Direct Connect by Sprint. I mostly used my Nextel while working for my family since I had only one friend with this service. I can still hear the chirp it made when I hit the walkie talkie button on the side. At the time, everyone still had land lines and if Billy wasn’t home, his dad told me which friend to call to find him. With the expensive pay-by-the-minute plans, my parents tracked my calls by the second and by the area code. The only way I could hide a call to a friend was through the direct connect and back then data/texting was not an option. As I look back at these two moments, I can remember spending very little time on either device, as most of my time was spent playing, studying, and hanging out with friends. How time has changed in the last 25 years.
It’s safe to say that when the iPhone came out, life on a phone would never be the same. I held out for almost three years before I got one because BBM (Blackberry Messenger) was my thing. I enjoy technology but never found myself consumed by it or even that I used it excessively. Socializing for me was physically being with friends or playing a sport with a group. I was not as much an online socializer but an old-school “strike up a conversation with anyone” guy. Before Syp, Katie, and I founded Live Offline, I thought I was not attached to my phone, but I later noticed otherwise.
The idea of excessive technology usage for me didn’t start until about five years ago, when I first started dating Syp and unlimited data plans were at a peak. I was always annoyed at people texting me multiple times (more than three) instead of calling me, which gradually grew into using my phone more often. It started with more frequent text exchanges every day, then went into searching online for “things I needed,” and eventually flowed into my job with emails. As my relationship with Syp progressed, I would constantly check and text her because she loved texting. I changed my habits because I really liked her and knew this was my only way to get to her. She used to say she had to train me to text her more because I was so bad at it; she was right. Then after we made our relationship really official and purchased a house, I used my phone to look up new appliances and search YouTube videos on how to install them. I was replacing my “old-school strike up a conversation with anyone” personality with searching online and being in my own world.
At about the same time, I received a smartphone for work which meant email communication was constantly at my fingertips. My work phone made it so easy and almost expected by my company to always be available. I later realized this was making me less productive because I was always multitasking, checking emails while “talking” to anyone. I also noticed some physical effects along with some productivity loss because of my tech usage at work. This last year, I have had to get glasses because I am unable to see my screens clearly and have noticed myself forgetting things due to my multitasking. This alone built up stress on myself and in the end, drove my productivity down.
As creatures of habit, we need reminders to trigger small behavioral shifts that will give ourselves time to reset and repair ourselves offline. With the creation of the computer and phone we have been able to create new habits and are now realizing they are excessive habits. It is my hope that Live Offline can be that change for us so we can bring balance to our work lives and revive our old-school, undistracted and social selves.
Keepin' it real,
I used to have an internal catchphrase. As someone who sits firmly on the introvert side of the personality scale, whenever anyone invited me somewhere, I would tell myself, “Don’t Be Lame, Katie..." Just go, once you’re there, you will inevitably have fun! And most of the time it worked out. But it’s taken five years of telling myself this to realize it’s not just my personality that wants me to sit on the couch and scroll through my social feeds or binge watch TV, it’s also the way technology has been designed to ensnare us in its screens and not let go.
When Syp approached me to join her start-up about living offline, I won’t lie, I wasn’t immediately sold. I’ve always been skeptical of using technology to help behavioral addictions, e.g. budget tracking apps to manage finances or fitbits to stay healthy. And since we both work in tech, I assumed that’s where this was going. So I took some time to think on it. Sure enough, as soon as you become aware of a problem, you start to see it everywhere: groups in restaurants where half of the people are looking down at their screens, in meetings at work where most of the engineers are texting each other instead of engaging in the conversation, even my sister finally caving in and switching from a flip phone to an iPhone. It didn’t take long after that to decide I do want to be part of the solution to this digital dependency, especially if we could figure out a tech-free approach.
While researching the competitive landscape for Live Offline, I also took a closer look at my own smart phone usage by the numbers. (No new app necessary! Just check your battery settings.) While my own stats are below average, they still surprised me: almost an hour a day on Facebook last week?! I check my phone so often - even just for the time - that I now catch myself reaching for it for no reason. So I’m trying out a new slogan: “Catch Yo Self...” and do something more productive with your time, however you define that. I’ve slowly been able to find new activities to replace the time I’ve been wasting browsing celebrity gossip sites, reading the news, and going down the Instagram rabbit hole. Now, I spend every day after work playing piano or teaching my boyfriend how to read music, hiking down to the beach (admittedly with a podcast in my ears! it’s all about that balance, right?), or calling up an old friend.
Socially, it’s been more of a roller coaster. At first, it felt liberating to not immediately respond to every text, to miss the occasional Instagram announcement, to not filter every “cool” photo I take. But I swung too far the other way, sometimes waiting days to respond or even forgetting to respond at all. I think Snapchat has also made us feel less compelled to respond and just assume everyone else in the world is keeping tabs on us. These days, people live so spread out from their friends and family, that technology is truly the best way to keep in touch. But now I try not to get distracted every time I open an app or message and just respond to whatever requires my immediate attention.
Let’s talk about another common excuse for being attached at the hip to our devices: “But my phone is my camera!” Research has shown that people who take a ton of photos of their experiences actually remember them less. Never have I witnessed selfie culture more vividly than the time I went to the Broad Museum of contemporary art in Los Angeles (shown below, photo from Dreamstime editorial images). I was the only one not taking pictures of every piece, but I remember my favorites clearly! Or how about every single time I go to a concert - seriously what do people do with those crappy cell phone videos? These days, I focus on being somewhere in the moment to remember those moments more vividly.
Maybe we will figure out the right technology balance on our own, maybe it will happen sooner than we think. But I want to offer help to people who are struggling today, to help them catch themselves feeling unproductive and unfulfilled. There are entire markets built around other types of habit changes like losing weight or de-cluttering your home, why not for living offline? The time is now.
Simon Sinek, acclaimed TED speaker and author, has taught us to start with why. Come to think of it, Simon didn’t teach us that! Our 3 year old selves have taught us to question everything. Why is the sky blue? Why do I have a little brother? Why do we have boogers? As we grow older, we tend to lose this curiosity of wondering why we do things and instead, become followers. I never really understood why smartphones were so useful beyond Google Maps and searching anything instantaneously, but I got one anyway, being in tech and all. Then, I started to adopt the habits of smartphone users. “Well people bring their phones with them to meetings…I should too. It makes me look important or needed.”
But why really? Why do we need our phones? So many people experience anxiety when they realize they have forgotten their phones at home or have lost them for a mere two minutes. We have conditioned ourselves to be so hyper-reliant on a tool, that we are blinded by how it’s actually impacting our minds, health, and productivity. Ask five people why they feel they need their phones and you’ll probably hear responses like “to ensure my family is safe,” but who are we kidding? Sure, a handful of these times are actually to communicate our well-being, but that’s a tough sell when the “phone" app is the most underutilized app. What about all the other 142 times you pick up your phone in a day?
Smartphone apps, such as Facebook and Candy Crush, have been designed and engineered to keep you in the apps longer, using the same underlying addiction models built into slot machines. Our brains are constantly craving the next hit of finding that funny video or the euphoria experienced when the number of likes on your post increases. It's only human nature to crave it, but as you satisfy it more frequently, just like most addictions, it will require more to sustain the high.
I started realizing the relationship I had with my phone was competing with my husband when I noticed it was with me practically 24/7. In the car, in the bed, in meetings, in traffic, and like 75% of Americans, in the bathroom. In fact, I was heads down so much without any real repercussions, that it wasn't until I accidentally walked into a men's bathroom, said aloud to the man in there, "What are YOU doing here?!", that I knew it was time things had to change.
To live offline isn't to be permanently off-grid or even to police your usage. We at Live Offline are techies at heart and know a world without technology would be taking one step backwards. Live Offline, is however, a vow to be aware of our phone usage and ensure our lives are not puppeteered by our phones. It is to LIVE. To walk outside comfortably without a device in our pocket or hands. To ask a friend how their weekend was and learn the good and bad, and not just reflect on what was posted on social media. To spend time truly enjoying a meal with your loved ones without a beep or buzz interrupting.
Live Offline was born out of the urge to get ahead of this avalanche that will come crashing down some day, when the consequences of extreme phone usage become widespread. Its effects are nearly invisible at first glance, similar to the slow-forming effects of smoking, though we put no regulations on our usage. We are hungry to bring awareness, instill habit change, and bring our world closer together. That is what makes up my “why” to live offline and create this company. Two brave souls have joined me in this journey--my husband, Steven Siligato, and friend, Katie Ramp--who will soon share their stories with you. We have so much in store and hope you are just as excited to learn more about the WHYs and HOWs of living offline.
It's not a matter of IF you decide to live offline. The decision is WHEN you choose to. We are here to help make that transition back to the days where you owned your time, all while having fun doing so. Join us on this journey to a refreshed you.
May the offline world be with you,