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September 2, 2013

Labor Day: Just the time to give the apps a nap

If there's one weekend that calls for a break, a timeout, an email-free day (or two — or, dare I suggest, three), this is it. Do you really want to be the person who can't stop laboring on Labor Day? Sorry, that's not a badge of honor. I'm not just talking about work-work, either. Managing your digital life — photographing and obsessing over status updates that convey your clever, care-free online persona — has become practically a full-time job.

I work at Fast Company, a magazine that focuses on hyper-achieving, hyper-connected, hyper-stressed innovators. Recently, we released a book about unplugging, about our need to gain control over the increasing demands — digital and otherwise — on our attention. It's called "Unplug," and we had the audacity to publish it as an e-book, which the Irony Police were quick to notice. But where else would we find our target audience?

Here's some of the advice we've gleaned, tips that apply to this weekend and beyond.

Get the word out

Last year, our columnist Baratunde Thurston went offline for 25 days. Before vanishing, he warned everyone in his social network. If you suddenly stop answering texts, video chat requests and work emails, people, you know, notice. Best to prepare them.

Thurston sent out what he called a "smoke signal." He changed his profile pictures in social media to an all-black rectangle with the dates for when he'd be offline. For everybody else, set up an automated vacation message saying you won't be returning emails — and mean it.

Turn off the noise

People aren't the only ones tugging at your sleeve these days. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you have apps. And if you have apps, they want to talk to you, too. To let you know when you have new Instagram followers, when a friend has commented on a Facebook post, and when there's important breaking news — an Atlanta Braves comeback win, in my case. This next step isn't fun but it's necessary: go into your device settings and disable alerts from your apps.

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