Do you find yourself with your phone in your hand more often than it probably should be? I was the same. I am the same. Our entire lives have been digitised whether it be connecting with loved ones & sharing precious moments to finding out information and organising our lives.
However, let’s be honest, we are all aware that quite often we spend too much time ‘plugged in’. And I’m gonna tell you a secret – it’s not entirely your fault. Technology is designed to make our life easier while simultaneously making money for the companies who created it.
So in a world where we need our devices, how do you effectively digital detox & declutter?
Undoubtably in 2020, connectivity has been invaluable to so many people. It has made it possibly for millions of people to effectively work and learn from home.
We’ve been able to share virtual moments with friends and family. Those vulnerable in society have had the ability to shop online without too much stress (unless you needed loo roll in March!)
But having constant connectivity also comes with its issues.
Even before 2020, there had been numerous studies into the effect our digital lives were having on our wellbeing, mental health and mindset.
In many cases, our devices are the first and last thing we see each day.
We have been duped for years into believing that having smartphones makes us more productive because we can manage several things at once, but it’s a myth that has gained far too much traction.
Our brains actually work better when we can focus one task at a time, meaning we are more engaged, efficient and productive. That obviously leads to finishing tasks quicker and having more time for self care and those that matter most.
The problem is that without a digital detox or mindful use of technology, the lines between productivity and procrastination can become blurred.
To often I find myself sucked into a scroll on social media when I should be researching a blog post.
Many times I’ve lost myself in my inbox, sifting through the mountain of emails to find that one I actually wanted to read.
When my device use began affecting my life, I set out to make conscious changes for the better. This was compounded recently when I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix and expanded my knowledge of the algorithms that are used to keep us scrolling.
My goal was to create a digital life that supported my reality and didn’t overpower it. Enter… The Digital Detox, baby!
In 2015, the Fast Company invited 35 people on an all expenses paid trip to Morocco in order to observe their behaviour variations when plugged in and unplugged.
The neuroscientists studied participants facial expressions, body language and interactions with each other.
They noted that after 3 days their posture changed with them to looking up into other peoples eyes more often when talking. This in turn lead to deeper, more meaningful conversations.
The absence of the all knowing ‘Google’ also allowed space for longer, more engaging conversations and without technology, their memories improved.
Unsurprisingly, the participants also slept better due to the absence of blue light emitted from their screens.
Blue light interrupts the production of melatonin which helps us to sleep. So if you habitually indulge in device time before bed, it might be time to stop.
Digital Detox in a Digitised World
Our experiences of a digital life vary on our generation. I am part of the last generation who remembers a time before smartphones, social media and constant connectivity, which may be one reason I find it easier to digital detox than some. I’m not saying it hasn’t had its challenges, but I’m at a point now when I don’t stress too much if my phone dies or I don’t answer a message straight away.
In 2017 I found myself becoming more immersed in the digital world, most likely because as a Body Shop girl I used Facebook to communicate with customers.
I had no boundaries in place and a naive ignorance surrounding social media.
I wanted to be successful, to show up for my customers and team members. I equated that to being available for them 24/7 which wasn’t healthy.
When the Middle HIMA shockingly was diagnosed with Meningitis just before he turned one we were obviously distraught, concerned and focused on caring for our sick child.
But my phone was still dinging and buzzing with notifications from Team Members and Customers, and despite the situation we were facing I felt a responsibility to reply.
It caused a lot of tension between me and Mr.HIMA while I felt both guilt for being attached to my phone and disconnected from it.
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Changing My Digital Landscape.
Our son recovered and has grown to become a bright, bubbly 4 year old.
I now have a much better relationship with my digital life and I think that has been profoundly influenced by that event. Over time I’ve changed my mindset. I didn’t have to be at the bec and call of my phone or other people.
The world doesn’t end if you don’t reply straight away.
Through a lot of mindset shifts and personal growth I’ve detached myself from the ‘scroll’ and created a digital life for myself that not only balances with my day to day reality, but supports it in the most beneficial way.
And you can have a positive relationship with your devices too, by undergoing a thorough digital declutter and digital detox – s regularly.
Many people define a ‘digital detox’ as a one time event where you put down you devices and engage in the ‘real’ world. But I want to suggest that rather than a single digital detox, you create daily habits around how you engage with devices and social media in order to create more balance in your life. Just like with your relationship with food, everything in moderation.
Start off by assessing what your priorities are.
Why do you need a smartphone or tablet? How can you use it to benefit your life?
Is it to connect to digital friends, feeds of strangers and opinionated threads?
Do you primarily use it for work?
Where did you really want to spend your time, energy and focus?
These simple questions led me to better understand how I use my devices and in particular, social media. It also helped me figure out what role they would play in my daily life going forward.
I realised that my use of Facebook was primarily for staying in touch with close friends and family, Twitter to absorb news and opinions and Instagram for following people I respected or enjoyed content of.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve worked to cut down the amount of time I spend on social media that isn’t work related.
Now I’m on Facebook for less than 2 hours a week while Instagram and Twitter is about 4 hours each, though this does vary depending on my workload and current events.
The majority of my use of devices now is related to researching and creating content for amazing women.
In order to do this though, I have to ensure that my daily digital detox is supported by positive habits, mindful processes and firm boundaries.
RoadMap To Your Digital Detox
I monitor my Screen Time In my settings. It allows me to see exactly where I was spending time on my devices and set appropriate limits. With the addition of Downtime, it now means when I am working, I can only access the apps that I actually need to use.
I also set dedicated times to check social media and my emails, so I don’t waste hours getting sucked into the newsfeed or my overflowing inbox.
I removed social media apps from my home screen. I find that having apps I’m easily distracted by on my home screen means I’m more likely to click and scroll when I open my phone.
Instead I replaced them with productivity apps that I actually need to use daily including Trello, GoodNotes (to access my digital planner and PDFS) and ClickUp. I’ve also made use of Apple’s new ‘Stacks’ to view my activity at a glance and pick up Podcast’s where I left off.
Finally I have Headspace which I use regularly for meditation and Audible.
I switched off push notifications from Social media as well. John Misner discussed the effect notifications can have on our device usage in his Ted Talk.
Similar to the Pavlov’s dog experiment when he demonstrated how to make a dog salivate on demand, social media platforms understand that the dings and buzz of notifications create a habitual reaction to reach for our devices. Once the app is open, the algorithm is designed to keep us on the platform as long as possible by providing us with engaging content.
By switching off those notifications and choosing a set time and duration to engage with your social media, it puts you as the user in control.
I set up filters for my Inbox. In Gmail and several other providers, you can create rules that automatically categorise your emails without your intervention. It makes it easier to check important emails and skip the rest till later.
I keep my bedroom phone free and put down devices at least 30 minutes before bed. It’s incredibly important to our wellbeing and sleep to keep devices out of the bedroom.
Studies have shown that the blue light emitted from our devices interferes with our ability to sleep well. This happens because it blocks the melatonin hormone that makes you sleepy.
So if you find yourself laying in bed, scrolling before sleeping and then suffering a less than restful night, remove your device from the situation completely.
Buy an alarm clock or at a minimum, put your phone away from your bedside table. Not only will you then not be inclined to scroll before sleep, you’ll need to physically get out of bed to turn off your alarm in the morning.
I have digital detox days at least twice a month. I commit to a minimum of 2 days a month completely device free (though I do want to do this more often and plan to make this at least a weekly occurrence).
Devices go on silent and out of sight and I set up autoresponder emails to send from important inboxes. Then I spend the day focused on self care, family and connection.
Like me you might experience that ‘itch’ the first few times to reach for your device at the first sign of boredom. But this is one of the big problems digital connectivity has created – it has stopped us from being comfortable with boredom and finding ways to create our own memorable experiences.
John Misner talks about a Social Free Saturday where everyone was bored. Instead of giving in and going on devices, he gathered up all the cardboard he could and asked his children ‘If you could build ANYTHING, what would you build?’. They went on to build a working ski ball game that day and created some of his favourite memories.
I regularly reaffirm why I want a less digital life. As with any goal or new habit, the best way to focus on making it stick is to focus on why you’re doing it.
Your why will help your willpower and motivation.
I also find it helps to enlighten myself regarding how social media and technology works. Watching shows such as The Social Dilemma helps educate users on their own behaviours and how they can be manipulated by platforms.
When we are aware of our behaviours and what influences them, we can then take control to change them for the better.
You Are In Control of Your Phone. You Get To Decide How and When You Connect
There’s no doubt that our devices and digital life are useful and beneficial. But there is no need for us to be constantly connected, and allow ourselves to get lost in social media for hours on end.
Taking back control by incorporating digital detox’s into your daily life will leave you feeling better rested, more present, less overwhelmed, more productive AND healthier! It’s a bit of a no brainer right?
What’s your biggest struggle with Digital Detoxes?
Let me know in the comments!