It was National Unplugging Day on Fri (mainly in America from the bits I’ve gathered)

What is National Unplugging Day? Well It’ll come as no surprise that it’s a day of going off-grid, albeit temporarily.

NDU – Join The National Day Of Unplugging – March 7-8, 2014

The guys behind NDU, Reboot, say:

We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerry’s, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of “silence” that our earphones create.

My friend, IT expert, Richard Tubb, told me about NDU just the day before, and told me about his plans to go out for the day and leave his phone at home – was I in?

Hmm…. An unscheduled Day Off (that’s unheard of for me), and not only that, an invitation to disconnect as well? Well, I didn’t jump at the suggestion.

I mulled it all over for the afternoon and in the evening sent a text to Richard, ‘What are your plans for the day?’. I needed more persuading.

It turns out Richard was going to visit the new Library Of Birmingham for the first time. Hello! That’s my favourite new building in the city.  And after that, some lunch and a film. Oh, I can do that!

‘Ok, I’m in!’, I texted back.

Preparing to disconnect from the internet

Taking an unplanned day off, as well as disconnecting meant that I had to work later into the evening the night before to make sure I was as up-to-date as I could be and that my clients were taken care of.

I sent a couple of updates on twitter and facebook.

That was it in terms of preparation. A little more work the night before and a few updates online.

I started feeling quite excited about it all! At bedtime I switched everything off. That was it. I was unplugged. It may not sound like a big deal but as I my work revolves around the internet and social media, it was a big deal for me, as well as being a first!

The day of unplugging

I’m so used to updating ‘everyone’ on where I am, what I am doing, where I am going, who I am with that to be out in the ‘wild’ with no-one knowing what I was doing or who I was with felt really exciting! Quite liberating and with some resemblance to being anonymous.

I has arranged to meet Ric at the library at 10:30am. With no phone and no watch, I was extra keen to try and spot some public clocks so I could gage the time. I didn’t want to be late. I arrived at 10:24 (the library has a digital clock). Plenty of time to spare!

Come 10:30 I expected Ric to appear. 10:31 nothing. 10:35 not a sight of him.

Ordinarily I would have received a text or a twitter update, but we had both left our phones at home so I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

I didn’t like it. I didn’t like not knowing. As the minutes went by I started to feel a bit anxious. What if he didn’t turn up? Well, I could still have the planned day and have lunch and see a film, I decided.

How long should I, would I, wait? Was he late due to bad planning on his part? Was it for another reason? I decided I would wait for 30 minutes because we were friends. Though if I was meeting a date, I wouldn’t wait more than 15 minutes!

Also, I was stuck in one spot. I could wander around and amuse myself in case he turned up and I wasn’t there.

10:39 and Richard arrived. His train was delayed.

And so started the day of being unplugged

I lost count at the amount of times I went to get my phone out. It was an habituall move rather than ‘I must get my phone out’. During some parts of the day I felt like I had forgotten something.

I may have taken some photographs, but instead I had to store the ‘photographs’ in my memory! I would definitely have tweeted out, but instead had to talk to Richard (hahah, joke!).

Lunchtime and I didn’t check-in anywhere! How was anyone to know what I was eating?! lol

It was nice to have a conversation over lunch without the interruption of a phone, picture taking, tweeting etc.

At the cinema, we didn’t have to turn out phones off. (Gravity, recommend!)

Plugging in again

Despite needing a little persuading to unplug, and it being a 24 hour experiment, I didn’t actually switch my phone on until this morning, 60 hours later! I think I could have probably lasted until tomorrow (Monday). I wasn’t itching to re-connect like I thought I would be.

Yesterday (Saturday) I did check Ric’s blog to see if he had written about his unplugging experience and I went on youtube to watch some videos, but that was it.


I enjoyed the experiment more than I thought I would, and in fact, I think I will unplug regularly. It’s like taking a digital break.

I also liked the feeling of being anonymous that came with being offline and no-one knowing what I was up to. I’m not answerable to anyone and I don’t owe anyone an update about what/where/who/when. Though of course I like sharing those things too.

Twitter: It made me re-think how I use twitter. I am usually quite responsive on twitter and I check it regularly and reply swiftly to tweets. However, there really isn’t anything that is that time-dependent on there. I don’t need to check-in as often as I do. Although it’s nice to respond quickly to people, a few hours won’t make my response any less valid. I shall tame twitter and not the other way around!

I didn’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime-time-sensitive-email or tweet!

I had more free time! Always a bonus.

Some Uplugging tips

I really recommend some unplugging time!

You could do it just for a few hours, or start a new routine where switch your phone off an hour earlier every day.

Take it even further and have a whole 24 hours unplugged! Or even more if you are really enjoying the experience.


If you ever really want to drop-out of the internet, Lifehacker have a guide on how to delete yourself.


Thanks to Ric for inviting me to unplug for the day!

This article has 6 comments

  1. Karen – thanks for joining me in unplugging. It was an experience made all the better by sharing it with you! 🙂

  2. Very interesting reading – I didn’t know you’d done it at such short notice, so well done you as I know you have to be as plugged in with your clients as I do. I think the missing people when one of you is late thing is the thing I’d struggle most with – yet it wasn’t that long ago that we all had to do that, was it! Well, I got my phone 14 years ago, but I managed until then without getting furious or lost!

    I am going to try this and not just sitting at home but out and about. I missed you on Facebook, though, as that’s where I see you most – and I managed to miss the alert about this post, presumably because I was unintentionally fairly off grid on Sat and working hard all Sun …

    • Hi Liz! 

      I must admit, I’d surprised myself with the short notice too! Working later the evening before felt a bit hard as I was getting really tired, but it was worth the late night ‘push’ to have the unscheduled day off and take part in the experiment! 

      Yes, it’s hard to believe that that was the way we used to meet up with people, not that long ago either! And it causes extra worry too. With a phone in hand, it gives your more freedom. If I had known Ric was going to be late, I could have had a wander instead of being glued to one spot. 

      Lovely to hear I was missed on Facebook! Thank you. 

      I do recommend it and I think going out instead of staying in will make a difference. Do let me know how you get on and how long you unplug for! 🙂 

  3. How brave of you! I’m not sure I could have coped without my phone for a whole day, as I’d be paranoid that all my clients’ websites had gone down or my kids had got sick at school and the staff were desperately trying to contact me.
    I do try to regularly unplug from social media and email though, and have just instigated a new system where my personal email is completely separate from my work email, so I can easily unplug from the first one while at work and the second while at home. Although too many people use the wrong one!!!

    • Hi Rachel! 

      Good to hear about your systems. I can see how easy it is to worry about ‘murphy’s law’ – the moment you switch off, something happens. I wonder if there is justification for an SOS phone number for your clients; if something goes wrong the first course of action can be that they phone you on your SOS number. 

      I try and keep personal and business email separate too. Easy to blur the lines though! 

      This experiment has highlighted that it’s ok, and even healthier, to take a little break, even for a day 🙂 

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