Are you plugged in or present? (Most of us can’t be both effectively.) When was the last time you spent an entire day not tied to your mobile phone, computer, laptop or tablet? If you can’t remember, you should consider a digital detox.
What is a digital detox?
A digital detox is switching off all mobiles, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers for a certain length of time. Ideally, you should try for at least 24 hours, but 48 or 72 hours is best. Why? Research shows that too much time with technology can disrupt sleep patterns, hinder your ability to think deeply, distract from face-to-face conversations, and increase stress (just to name a few). Taking a step away enables you to spend screen-free time relaxing, recharging, or doing whatever you enjoy. As the digitaldetox.org puts it: “disconnect to reconnect.”
Does the idea of completely disconnecting make you feel uneasy? Plan your digital detox to feel more comfortable with the idea:
- Set a time: Choose a time that’s realistic for you to switch off for 24 hours or more. Weekends and holidays may work best. Put ‘digital detox’ in your calendar if it helps. Tell anyone you need to that you’ll be away from your email and smartphone, and let them know when they can expect to hear back from you. It’s common for people to announce on social media that they’re about to do a #digitaldetox.
- Make plans: Plan enjoyable activities for your time off—things like cooking, walking, volunteering, or spending time with friends and family. Pick up a neglected hobby or spend time reading. Explore the city you live in or go somewhere new. Spending time in nature is a great thing to do, as it is a proven way to restore your attention.
- Log off completely: You might feel uneasy, and may have a strong urge to check your phone or computer. Just wait—these feelings should pass. Get on with the non-screen activities you planned, and start to notice the time and space you’ve given yourself.
- Enjoy! During a digital detox, people tend to feel like they have plenty of time (rather than rushing against time). You may sleep better, think more clearly and more deeply, and feel re-energized. It can help you gain perspective about what’s important in your life. Enjoy the change and notice your reaction to not being ‘on call’.
When your allotted timeframe is up, and you must return to the digital world, do so slowly. A barrage of information and multiple demands can be overwhelming. Redefine what is urgent, what is important, and what doesn’t require your attention or response. Unsubscribe to any email lists you no longer need. And try new behaviors, such as checking personal email or social media during pre-set, shorter time periods.
Are we too connected?
A 2017 study conducted by Deloitte reports that 89% of consumers look at their phones within an hour of waking up, and 81% check their phones before going to bed.
Additionally, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that professors at St. Cloud University in Minnesota surveyed their undergraduates and found that the average college student checks Facebook 20 times per hour.
Does this sound like your habits?