Gearing Up For A Digital Cleanse. How Do You Un-Plug?

The most enlightening and purposeful hour of 2013 for me came unexpectedly when I sat on the balcony of my room at a beautiful resort. I watched the clouds pass by. After that hour, I wrote, painted, danced, and felt the energy of joy and intention. They say the grass is greener where you water it, and it’s clear that my creative self needed care.

Creativity needs space. It needs no accessories and doesn’t arrive with pretense. Your creative self needs you to simply show up to watch the clouds pass by. When you give yourself space and start to quiet down, everything becomes possible.

In Stefon Harris’ TED talk, his wisdom resonates with me. We are both jazz musicians, after all, but his lessons can be applied to any creative process.

“I have no idea what we’re going to play. I won’t be able to tell you what it is until it happens.” {Stefon Harris}

When I make space - when I allow things to happen - my creativity flourishes. I schedule time to play. Free play, truly free play, is not a structured game. It’s day-dreaming and make-believe. Who do I want to be? I won’t be able to tell you until it happens.

There are a few ways I make space in my life for creativity and time for play. I take longer breaks where I go offline and into the world for weeks. I also have a weekly practice of unplugging on Friday evening through Saturday evening.

I believe in taking digital detoxes. I’m about to embark on one soon, and I’ve already started unplugging. For the past few weeks, I have been preparing and reducing the noise in my inbox, my feeds, and my devices. The less noise I have, the more I can hear and think my own thoughts. There might be an app for that, but do I really need it? Mostly the answer is: no.

During my cleanse, I do not check email, my social feeds, update my blog or otherwise communicate digitally. I give myself some boundaries, though. I rely heavily on Google maps to navigate, for instance, so I give myself permission to use it throughout my cleanse. But to everyone, I’m offline.

Less noise in my life means more space for possibilities. I’ve begun to eliminate the feeling of being buried and overwhelmed with information. Instead, I go through the day with a lighter, clearer, and more free perspective. I give myself the gift of peace by unplugging.

For a deep digital cleanse, I take a few weeks offline, up to a month, and make a play date with the world. I find the winter to be the most magical time to unplug - but all seasons have their own magic. Long walks in the snow, exploring museums, sipping tea at a cafe are on my upcoming agenda.

I give myself Power Hours. I draw (with pencil). I write (with pen). I paint (with watercolor). I take things apart, and I put them back together. I create my own puzzles, and solve them. I reflect on zen koans while I go for long runs.

To maintain my new perspective after my long cleanses, I unplug on Friday evening through Saturday evening every week as I can. On Friday evenings, I make pizza at home with my family. It’s a fun ritual and we never know what our pizza is going to be that week. Spontaneous and playful, after a long week it is nice to relax with the people that I love.

During my digital cleanses, I produce my most creative work and find new ways to play and interact with people, places, and things around me. I savor the quiet and treasure it. It’s difficult to come back, and I come back a better listener.

Are you ready to consider a digital cleanse? Would you like to start a practice of unplugging weekly? If you are curious about getting started, check out Fast Company’s #Unplug: The Complete Guide.

There are no rules. There are no schedules. Get comfortable with the possibilities that unleash when you unplug and give yourself time to play.