10 Empowering Reasons to Unplug and Reclaim Your Productivity

It’s been there for a while, gnawing at the back of your mind: the creeping suspicion that technological devices have reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to productivity.

Oh sure, being able to edit documents on a phone or create presentations on a computer the size of a dinner plate has been amazing and made us much more efficient than we were. But these devices work so well, we’re having trouble turning them off, and that’s hurting our output. If you’re having trouble convincing yourself, here are 10 reasons to yank the cord and take back your work day.

You Might Have an Inflated View of the Benefits of Staying Plugged in

According to Dr. Charlotte Fritz of Portland State University, the old maxim that more coffee equals more productivity isn’t necessarily true. In a series of studies, she found coffee breaks were actually connected to higher fatigue levels (although that could simply be due to tired people drinking more coffee). In fact, any little breaks — for coffee or to surf Facebook — during the work day did not lead to more energy unless they involved something work-related, like complimenting a coworker. At the risk of being stoned, it might be time to think about unplugging the coffee maker and the router.

You’ll Read Faster

No doubt when you shelled out $500 for that iPad you insisted to your significant other, “But, Honey, I’ll get so much work done on it!” Even if you’d been honest and said you wanted it to watch How I Met Your Mother in the bathroom, you probably didn’t realize that reading on e-readers actually takes longer than it does with print. That was the finding of tech expert Jakob Nielsen in 2010. Specifically, Nielsen found readers go 6.2% slower on iPads and 10.7% slower on Kindles.

More recent studies have shown more repetition necessary to retain information that is consumed via screen than paper, which is another way of saying reading takes longer and hampers productivity.

Your Creative Thinking Will Flourish

Ever start to feel like your mind is becoming as cluttered as your desk with all those gadgets? Recently, marketing firm Prophet carted its employees off to Iceland for Unplugged: a four-day break from Facebook, texting, phones, and computers to focus on innovation and brainstorming. They recognized that even if all this technology is helping American workers do their day-to-day jobs, they’re hindering our ability to stop and think about creative ways to work more efficiently. Efficiency goes hand-in-hand with productivity, and sometimes unplugging is the mother of invention.

We’re Not As Important As We Think

We hate to burst your bubble, but chances are good (especially if you’re fresh out of college) that for most of us worker bees, the boss does not need to be able to get in contact with us at 11 p.m. to get our advice on a merger.

Of course, certain jobs require staying plugged in round the clock, like those in the medical industry. But the rest of us don’t need to be constantly checking the email or the cell for texts. What we need to do is concentrate on the task at hand so that we do it well, get promoted, and become the person who is vital.

Multitasking Hurts Productivity

Multitasking may be the biggest myth perpetrated on American workers since the latest jobs report (there’s a little political humor for you). Using technology to do two (or more) things at once is supposed to make things go twice as fast. Sorry, pal; turns out it makes each task take 25% longer on average.

Splitting our attention between email and a phone call, say, simply leads to more mistakes that require more time to fix than they saved, not to mention the time needed to refocus on what you were doing before you switched tasks. The human brain is simply not wired for multitasking, period. So do yourself a favor and stop fighting nature — your productivity will thank you.

It’s Healthier

If your morning routine involves watching TV or surfing the Web, consider unplugging and going to the gym. Not only is it obviously healthier, but your productivity at work will get a kick, too.

According to research conducted at the University of Bristol, employees who exercised before work, and even those who waited to work out until their lunch break, were “better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them.” Nearly three-fourths of the participants in the study claimed they saw an improvement in their time management on days they worked out.

It’s the Best Way to Make Your Vacation Pay Off

What kind of world are we living in when we don’t even think we can unplug on vacation, for God’s sake? While staying connected from an exotic locale might (repeat, might) mean a modicum of work production that you would otherwise miss out on, it decreases your chances of unwinding and returning to the office reenergized.

And when that becomes the case, you miss out on a boost to your productivity, according to corporate coaching guru Lois Frankel. “Vacations play a big role in superior job performance … But you only get that benefit if you return relaxed and refreshed.”

It’s Cheaper

So you have a $550 Galaxy Note for taking notes in meetings and a $500 iPad for reading The Wall Street Journal on the subway? Has your productivity gone up that much more than it would if you bought a $1 paper, a $.50 spiral notebook, and got a free pen from a bank? Not to mention the fact that these latter items are much, much less likely to distract you to use them for anything other than those work activities. You could doodle or make a newspaper hat, but that’s pretty much it.

You Can Decrease Your Stress

Fitness freak and blogger Mark Sisson points out that basically all lab animals are constantly stressed. His solution? Work outside. If sunlight, fresh air, and the inherent freedom of being outdoors can’t lower your work-related stress, nothing can. And you can probably guess why we bring this up. That’s right: stress goes down, productivity goes up.

And with wifi hotspots, portable keyboards, and Bluetooth, there isn’t even a need to strictly unplug from all your business contacts. It’s more like unplugging your most valuable asset — your body — from an environment that may be stifling your productivity.

You’ll Sleep Better

So much of what we think about productivity is just flat wrong. For example, we think staying up late using the phone and/or the computer for work makes us more productive. Actually, it seems not only does it not increase your output, it makes you stupid.

Late-night computer use can lead to sleep problems and increased stress, which we’ve already mentions hinders productivity. But think how much less you get done when you’re yawning constantly and can barely keep your eyes open. Unplug and go to bed, folks!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at OnlineCollege.org!

About the Author: Melissa Venable, PhD is an Education Writer for OnlineCollege.org. Melissa’s background includes work in higher education – private, public, and for-profit – as an instructional designer and curriculum developer. Melissa is also an experienced instructor, academic advisor, and career counselor working with both undergraduate and graduate students. She is actively involved in research related to online education and the support of online students. Her work has been published in The Career Development Quarterly, TechTrends, the Journal of Computing in Higher Education, and the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Follow Melissa on Twitter!


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