There is a growing anxiety in our digital age that all our screen time may have its drawbacks. Certainly, the more we connect, the more it feels like our concentration and energy are being stretched in too many directions. Programs have sprung up to facilitate a digital detox process, tearing our hands and eyes away from our screens. Some advocate hard and fast rules about the length and degree of the disconnection, or long term changes.
But you don’t need a retreat or a year-long resolution to make your life a little less digital. Take some steps to getting away from phantom vibrations and that itchy impulse to check your screen, and reclaim a small piece of mind. Instead of thinking of it as another area to exert your will power, just relax, put your phone away, and take a deep breath. We all know the real world is not just on a screen. Here are some steps to remind you to take a break.
1. Put out the alert
If you are planning to disconnect, whether it’s for a weekend or a few weeks, make sure to alert those who rely on your favored form of communication. If you need to stop fielding work emails outside the office, make sure to let your boss and coworkers know you won’t be available. If your addiction is more social, a quick post to let people know you be unavailable for a specific time period may be helpful. Facebook even has a timed deactivation option, so you can go incognito for a few weeks and pop back on everyone’s radar once you’ve broken the habit of checking your notifications every 15 minutes.
2. Do it in baby steps
If the habit lies heavy with a few apps, consider a step-by-baby-step approach instead of going cold turkey. Deleting your seriously addictive apps off your phone will keep you from mindlessly scrolling when you could be double checking for your keys or even just daydreaming. If you find yourself scanning the screen at a stop light, keep the phone in the purse or on the dash instead of in our hands. Give your eyes a rest and your brain some time to daydream!
We can always reinstall the apps we miss, but you may be surprised by how little you miss them when you set a few limits.
3. Be kind to yourself (and others)
This one is the hidden difficulty of the digital detox; suddenly you feel unreachable, and friends feel far away. Without the ego boost of likes and comments, crabbiness may crop up. Try to be gentle with yourself as you attempt to kick your digital habit (or at least reduce it). The end game isn’t to drop technology altogether, but to use it in a more conscious way.
You may find other people are skeptical of a digital detox, or scoff at it. We live in an age when it is difficult and unusual to consciously unplug yourself. Patience is key! Most of us feel obliged to be on our social media channels and available by email 24/7. If it’s easier to pick a day of the week, or stay off of certain platforms and maintain others, that’s okay too. Your digital detox is only for you, and you’re in control!
4. Get rid of the time sucks
If you’re having a hard time deciding where to start, eliminate the extras. If your phone is loaded up with games, delete them for 24 hours and see what happens. You’ll gain time you usually spend swiping, and some storage space as well. If your work day is sucked away by Facebook, try a tool like Self Control, a browse add-in that automatically blocks access to sites of your choosing after you’ve exceeded a personal time limit. Be strategic, and do your best. Small steps can lead to a big change, at any time of the year.
Would you try some sort of digital detox? Please share!
Also by Haley: 5 Tips for Working from Home and Staying Productive
Illustration: Haley Houseman