In an effort to be more present in her own life, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain started a weekly “Tech Shabbat,” a full day when her entire family remains screen-free. The benefits of the practice—which she has now been observing for 10 years—have been so monumental to Shlain’s family that she compiled her personal story, along with practical advice and research, into the book “24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week” (Gallery Books, September 2019).
In addition to being more present, Shlain says Tech Shabbat has offered a myriad of other benefits. She sleeps better, bonds with her kids more, feels more creative and makes more space for general self-care.
For the “how,” check out the steps below, straight from Shlain herself:
Get a landline—A landline will allow you to stay somewhat connected while still screen-free. Give the number to the family and friends who may need to get in touch. If you miss someone, this is a great opportunity to reach out for a long catch-up call.
Use a printer—The day before going screen-free, Shlain prints out schedules, maps and any other information she might need. She also recommends printing a list of your most important contacts (relatives, best friends, doctors, takeout restaurants, etc.) to keep near your landline and in your purse.
Carry a notepad—Do you typically type to-do lists and reminders into an app? Carry a Tech Shabbat notepad and pen to catch all those easy-to-forget notes to self.
Get a radio, boombox, Bluetooth device or record player—Music, podcasts and books on tape are great forms of screen-free entertainment.
Add a tradition—“The idea is to have something extra and unique,” Shlain says. Her family kicks off Tech Shabbat by making challah and sharing a big meal. But your tradition can be absolutely anything that marks the day as different, like a long morning walk, afternoon of board games or a bedtime dance party.
“During the lockdown we have been doing a zoom check in with family and friends at 5:30 p.m. and then by 6:30 p.m., we turn all of our screens off,” Schlain says. “We have a great family meal together where we set the table, make it special, and then we are offline for 24 hours to regroup, refresh, reflect, replenish and take some much needed time off the network.”
Schlain continues, “While there have been many great new ways to connect during this period that I love, there is a lot of stressful news and it’s easy to get overstimulated. Doing my Tech Shabbats and creating a boundary of a day without screens—and a day that is different from all the others, which are starting to blur together—has been so needed.”
Tell people—Use social media to alert friends and family that you’ll be offline. Give your landline number to family members or close friends who can’t fathom being totally out of touch.
Make an activity list—If you have young kids and are concerned with keeping them occupied, specifically when you need to get something done, keep a potential activities list (build a fort, create a scavenger hunt, put on a play, etc.) on the fridge.