In the United States, 95 percent of Americans have cellphones and a majority say they couldn't imagine life without their phone, according to Gallup. More than half of smartphone owners check their devices several times an hour.
On Friday, March 10, billionaire Richard Branson joined thousands of people around the world to celebrate the National Day of Unplugging. For the holiday, which was created by Jewish cultural organization Reboot, participants disconnected from their cell phones and computers for 24 hours.
Starting at sundown on Friday evening, Branson and the rest of his Virgin.com team refused to blog, post or even look at social media until 6 p.m. Saturday.
"I really believe that being in the moment is the key to happiness and success, and being constantly glued to your phone can have a big impact on your relationships," Branson wrote in a recent blog post.
"While I love technology and social media, a text or a tweet can never replace the real value of conversation," Branson said.
Branson said he already tries hard to focus his attention on whoever he is with by listening and taking notes while he is in meetings and catching up with his family when he is at the dinner table. "It's all too easy to miss out on the important moments in life because you're too busy staring at your phone," Branson said.
According to Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow, disconnecting from your digital devices may be difficult if you're a "successaholic" — or someone who is addicted to achievement and success — as she argues in her book "Sleeping with your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work."
"We're obsessed with work because of the satisfaction we get from the kudos for achievement, not because of some deep-seeded satisfaction from working long hours, as an end in itself," Perlow explained in a Harvard Business Review article. "And what this means is that it is the definition of success, not some ingrained personality issue, that is at the source of why we are always on."
In a study conducted years before Reboot's project, Perlow found that when teams disconnect from their devices at least one night a week — ignoring their phones and disengaging from work — they felt more productive and fulfilled.
When trying to unplug, "your first reaction is likely one of anxiety, not delight," Perlow added. However, seeking accountability workmates can help you break the cycle.
Branson says finding a hobby that allows you to spend more time outdoors can help you be happier. "If you're finding it hard to be in the moment because you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, don't be afraid to take a break to recharge. We all need time to rest," Branson said.
"It's a great way to boost your mood and feel more in control," he added.
For example, going hiking, biking or windsurfing are ways he feels "connected to nature and re-energized," but you can also do something as simple as taking your dog for a walk in the park.
"It's all too easy to miss out on the important moments in life because you're too busy staring at your phone," Branson said. "We need to remember that we are the masters of technology, it is not the master of us."
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