Turn Off the Noise… Unplug Yourself

Living the “online lifestyle” can be a rigorous and intense job (whether you know it or not). As a matter of fact, you’ll be shocked at how easy it is to burn yourself out on this glamorous thing we call the internet… Take me for example. Back in 2006/2007 I had one of the hottest shows on the internet with my Photoshop Quicktips Podcast. I was getting millions of downloads, thousands of hits on my website and countless emails, messages, and tweets. At first I was all about it. I ate, slept, and breathed that show and my “image” 24/7. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to answer emails. Hell, I’d even take my phone to the bathroom with me and tweet while I was… you know.

If you’ve paid attention to this crazy career of mine, you know that somewhere along the line I lost my focus. In fact, I all but disappeared from the web for nearly a year. I left my show in the peak of its popularity (and mine for that matter) and let it sit by the wayside. I burned out, plain and simple. However, if I had taken the time to unplug every now and then, I don’t think I would’ve crashed out the way I did. These days I’m much better about unplugging myself from the internet, and I’m finally feeling like I’m back.

There are a lot of people like me. Those of you who live to tweet, message and publish. I get that, I really do… But seriously, we all need to take some time and smell the roses just a little. I’m at the point now where I set aside little parts of my day as a designated “quiet time.” These are small, yet carefully planned moments where I just simply get away from the screens that surround me and just breathe. My favorite time to unplug is in the mornings when I run. Yes, I still listen to my iPod but my iPhone remains in Airplane Mode for the duration of my workout. This allows me to simply get away and focus on my task at hand… running! I also take several strategic breaks during my “workday.” These might be 5-10 minute intermissions where I go take a walk outside or just hangout with my dog, but I’m NOT connected whatsoever during this period.

Giving myself these little strategic breaks allows me to remain focus while I’m at my desk and I believe it keeps me from burning myself out too. I’m also trying to work in 1 day per week where I unplug for at least 75% of the day… This one is going to take some time (and patience) but I’ll get there. Eventually I want to be able to unplug completely on the weekends, but I realize that’s not happening for quite some time. This past summer I stunned my wife by unplugging for an entire week during our honeymoon, but that was a first and a last as far as I’m concerned… Sorry honey!

No matter what your chosen profession or how much you love creating the content your creating, you always need that time to simply unwind and take a breath. Trust me, if you don’t, you’ll wind up just like me back in those early days, and that’s not a good place to be. Now I’m sure many of you are wondering exactly how to do this, well let me give you some suggestions.

  1. Find a non-technical hobby –In 2011 I embarked on a journey for health and wellness, thus my new hobby is working out and being active. Whenever I feel like unplugging, I go for a run or a walk.
  2. Get a pet –Seriously, having a new pet is great for unplugging. You have to attend to them regularly (especially a dog) and you’ll enjoy the 5-10min “playtime” you get with them during the day.
  3. Practice meditation – This is a great idea! Meditation is something you’ll need to study and understand before you do it, but it can be one of the best forms of relaxation. Plus it will help you clarify ideas and become a more balanced person.
  4. Pick up a book… and read it – Yeah, this one sounds simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people have abandoned the traditional “art” of reading.
  5. Make a list of to-dos – No, not a computer list. Make yourself a list of things to do, whether it be around the house or in the yard or whatever… Just make a list of things that need to be done that don’t involve a computer, phone, or internet connection.

Ok, there you have it. I hope you take this serious and start to find ways that you can unplug in your everyday life. If you do, I promise, you’ll thank me for it… and so will your wife/husband! Oh, and one more thing… Be sure to keep those iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, or whatever it is that you carry with you, in AIRPLANE MODE while you’re doing this. That’s the whole point of unplugging yourself. You want nothing but complete and uninterrupted silence.

Justin Seeley is a graphic designer, author, and online content creator. His work can be seen on platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Lynda.com, CreativeLIVE, and Pluralsight. Justin loves helping both individuals and businesses reach their professional goals through education, creative services, and social content strategy.

13 comments On Turn Off the Noise… Unplug Yourself

  • Great advice. I try to take most of Sunday off and do take breaks from being connected, especially while editing photos. I think I need to create some more time being unconnected and just be still….

    • Thanks for the comment Jonathon, I totally agree with you. You’ll appreciate what you do a lot more if you take time to just back away completely for a while.

  • Great article Justin. I saw your post on G+ and had to respond. Brother, I have been there myself. I USED to do a lot of side work creating graphics and web sites for people. The side money came in handy, especially for Christmas and vacations. It was soooo easy! Right before Christmas I would contact a former client and ask if they knew someone who needed a web site, and bam, extra Christmas money. After a couple years of this, I too burned out. I discovered that my creative side was much happier when I did stuff for my own happiness, not a client that had a deadline. My photography is a hobby for me, not a job, and I intend to keep it that way. I tell people I am a passionate photographer, not a professional. I have sold a few pictures I have taken to friends and family, but I do not see a day when I have to get out to get a shot for a client. For some folks, photography/design/web is their job, and there are a lot of extremely talented folks out there, but I am happy with my 9-5, and what I do on the side is purely for me.

    Great post, keep it up.

    • Hey Tim, that is an interesting perspective… Thanks for sharing. I guess there are folks out there more suited to do the creative stuff as an escape rather than grinding it out 9-to-5 like me! Haha, thanks for checking out the blog and for the comments.

  • Great stuff! Just found your blog through your work on Lynda.com. I like your style and attitude. But I think you’d be wearing a computer around your neck if you didn’t unplug during your honeymoom. ( :

    • Tim, thanks for checking out the Lynda.com stuff, I really appreciate that. To your point, yes, I would’ve been in a LOT of trouble if I didn’t unplug that week, for sure!

  • This is a great editorial Justin. I really enjoyed reading this one. I enjoy reading it because it served as a reminder to me about the things that we seem to forget to do for ourselves. Today it seems really easy to get lost and sucked into the “social” media & technology.
    I was lucky early on to schedule & make “me times” for me to do things that make me happy & make me relax. I draw, photograph, write in my journal, and read books. These where my forms to escape & unplug myself. It is nice to see that I’m not the only thinking these things.
    Thank you for writing this editorial. Much appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I have to totally agree. I have recently learned to slow down and take a moment to just breath and relax. Turning out the lights, sitting and listening to soft music, and just breathing, is something I do almost daily recently. My phone never goes to the machines at the gym, it stays in my locker, until after workout time. I started doing yoga and have found this a great way to forget about the stresses of life. Thanks for sharing your experiences, struggles, and things you have gone through this year and in the past. I feel that this helps me and others who read it, know that when life gives us lemons, we can make lemonade, it just might take us time.

    • You are 100% correct. Life is simply a game of patience… Trust me. There have been times when I thought I was down and out for good, but life has always allowed me to rise back up and try again. I love sharing my personal stories, both good and bad, because I know I’m not the only one out there going through it. If I can help someone else through the things I’ve been through then my day is complete ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great post Justin! I especially love this statement “Life is simply a game of patience”.

    Disconnecting for a while is far more important than people realize. I too paid the price for too much “on” time which manifested into the physical. All the time and efforts I had put into my work came crashing down when my body gave out. It was complex and painful. At the time it was hell being a freelancer who could not work. Now I see it as a gift and a reminder to step away. Time each morning is now spent in meditation with a gratitude journal. On an as needed basis, I get to pet-sit for friends allowing me to take “paws” ๐Ÿ™‚ and see the world through a dog’s eyes and the joy they get in the moment of a Frisbee.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Yeah- I need to get back to my kayaking days. This last ten years is so different- I remember the go phone, 1000 dollar computers with 2 gig hard drives. You had to work at it. Now things are so easy and intuitive, and it is easy to get trapped with electronics. Learning how to play the guitar, and starting to shoot more photos has encouraged me to get outside and unplug.

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