Every day, I try to do at least one activity that is both engaging and smartphone-free—and if it’s social, that’s a bonus. Sometimes it’s group exercise class at the YMCA. Sometimes it’s choir rehearsal. Sometimes it’s as simple as spending an hour reading a physical book.
I’m always amazed at how quickly my mind quiets down when it isn’t staring at a screen. Even though I’ve already adapted both my phone and laptop to eliminate notifications, noises, and so on, it’s still kind of like looking into an infinite possibility portal (that comes with a side order of infinite demands), and it’s nice to limit those possibilities to the book or the music or the group of us steadily working our lower abdominals.
I’m the first person to admit that I’m a workaholic. When running a start-up and hopping between video meetings, emails, texts, photo shoots to more emails, it can sometimes feel like I fall into this incessant, internet-driven work cycle. Picking an activity that makes you disconnect and be more present can be very grounding at the end of a chaotic day.
Having a non-work hobby or activity that disconnects you from your smartphone and connects you to your body, other people, and/or the natural world is also an excellent way to stave off burnout. Yes, sometimes work and life can be so involving that the thought of squeezing in a run or exercise class or choir rehearsal becomes overwhelming, but I’ve found that I always feel better after I get back from one of those kinds of activities. They’re rejuvenating, perhaps because they ask me to be present in a physical space instead of a technological one.
Plus, getting a hobby that puts you in regular contact with other people is a great way to form low-stakes friendships.
So if you don’t have a hobby that actively engages you in something besides a device, it might be time to get one. There’s cooking, knitting, birdwatching, weightlifting, singing, dancing, tabletop board gaming (though you have to be really careful because it’s easy to spend tabletop sessions with one eye on your phone), family walks after dinner, friend hikes on Saturday mornings, basically anything you can think of that puts you in a different kind of present tense — and, after the hobby session is over, leaves you relaxed.
And if someone might need to reach you during that time, you can always tell them to call your phone twice in a row.