Biz & Books review: '24/6' suggests turning off screens one day a week

Between two inches and three feet. That's the average distance between you and your cellphone when it's not in your hand because you must have it close.

What if someone needed you? What if The Boss called? What if there was an emergency? Or, as in the new book “24/6” by Tiffany Shlain, what if you just unplugged from it?

Nearly a dozen years ago, in the same week, Shlain learned that she was pregnant and that her father had incurable brain cancer. Nine months later, she says, “… my father left this world and my daughter entered it — within days” of one another, and all Shlain wanted was to “slow down time.”

Shortly afterward, she and her husband found a way to do that, in the form of what she calls a “Technology Shabbat”: adapting one of the Ten Commandments, Shlain and her family take a rest one day a week from all internet-based devices.

Research shows that while smartphones are our friends, they're not good for us. Our world runs ‘round the clock, but employees who do the same aren't nearly as productive as well-rested ones.

Shlain cites a Neilsen study that says American adults spend nearly eighty hours a week looking at a screen; other studies show that such activities alter our brains and our attention spans.

Even so, detaching cold-turkey may be difficult, at best. Start by seizing non-phone hours on the weekends and work your way up. Get a landline, and print important phone numbers on a piece of paper, so you're not tempted to turn on your cell phone.

Learn to keep notes, so you can jot down reminders and things you need to do later. Make the day important, with a special meal or treat. Tell family and coworkers about your “Tech Shabbat.”

And finally, remember that “a culture needs those common days of work-free reflection, to undertake activities both idle and vital. We languish without it.”

Overworked and underpaid. We say that, we laugh, and then we go back to work. But is disconnection the answer? Author Tiffany Shlain says it is, and in “24/6,” you'll see why.

And therein lies a problem: a lot more heed is paid to the why and what of a “Shabbat,” which is information that's really pretty intuitive, but there's very little on the how; fewer than 15 pages, in fact, offer cohesive, solid tips for reaching a point where you can survive a one-day turn-off. Those instructions can be read in about 10 minutes.

The rest of this book largely consists of various repetitions on reasoning; a basic history of Judaism, religion, and culture; and personal stories from Shlain's life and family. Interesting, yes. Readable, absolutely, but not a whole lot of help to a time-crunched, frustrated business person who feels permanently attached to a cell phone.

This is a book to read, or maybe just to skim; it's useful, but only to a certain point. You'll get some information from “24/6,” but it just doesn't quite go the distance.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind “The Bookworm Sez,” a self-syndicated book review column published in more than 260 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. She can be reached for feedback, ideas and links to reviews of books on a broad range topics at


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