How much time do you spend on social media? Checking emails? Watching videos? On Twitter? Studies on social media usage tend to vary, but one by the Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange says Americans spend up to three hours each day online. No matter how much time you spend online, unplugging—that is, spending time away from your computer—can be hugely beneficial. Unplugging isn’t easy. You have to make a proactive decision to avoid social media and other distractions, to explore alternatives for filling your time. But it isn’t impossible, and we have some great tips for being productive with your time, distracting yourself from your distractions, and even blocking the sites that drain the most of your downtime. Just remember: you still need iCampus. Don’t unplug from your classes!

SEEK DISTRACTIONS FROM YOUR DISTRACTIONS

So much goes into your day, from work and studying to family obligations and socializing. There are a lot of things you can fill your time with that don’t involve a computer. If you’re working fulltime and taking classes you’re probably on the go for a large portion of the day. The brief periods of downtime—in the morning, between work and class, between class and cooking dinner—are commonly used to check social networks. You can still check on occasion, but be proactive about your downtime. Fill the gaps in your schedule with positive, healthy things.

IDEAS FOR DIGITAL DOWNTIME

You’ve seen this scenario, likely on TV or in a movie: a family sitting at the dining table, yet instead of talking, everybody from the children to the parents and grandparents is plugged into their phone or tablet. Being constantly connected to your social networks deprives you of family time you don’t want to miss. In the evenings, spend some quality time with the people closest to you. Consider:

  • Starting a family book club. Reading for fun is a great way to spend time offline, but discussing a book with your family is even better.
  • Having a family game night.
  • Planning a family outing. Weekend getaways, picnics, sporting events, and outdoor activities all make for memorable family experiences.
  • Working on household projects together to stay productive and have fun.

Steve Corona, the Chief Technology Officer of Twitpic, once told LifeHacker that unplugging from social media for 30 days changed his life and helped him strengthen relationships with the people closest to him. “With a mind free to wander and explore, I started to create things, to make moves, rather than suck down a never ending stream of information,” says Corona. You may want to try:

  • Taking a yoga or meditation class
  • Joining a gym
  • Becoming part of a club or organization
  • Attending events in your community
  • Exploring new hobbies, or cultivating old ones
  • Tackling New Year’s resolutions

DIGITALLY DEPENDENT? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!

If you’ve really got the social media bug, you can remove digital distractions altogether. There are lots of time management and performance apps that can actually block you from accessing certain sites on your devices. Each one functions differently, with features depending on your needs. Some can block your selected sites altogether, with settings for choosing the length of time. Both Mashable and NPR have great lists of paid and free apps for removing digital distractions. -- Have you ever felt the need to unplug? If you spend all day at work in front of a computer, or have a heavy course load, you’ll be surprised how liberating it can be to come home and do something different with your time. How do you spend your time offline? Do you have any tips for unplugging?

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