Your Digital Detox Guide

Feeling overworked, burnt-out, anxious, worried, or disconnected? 

Life in the digital age can be pretty great. Our electronic devices provide convenience, connection, and excitement. But sometimes the always-on, always-connected lifestyle of the 21st century can be draining. 

A few months ago, I committed myself to a seemingly daunting task - an entire weekend without my phone. When I emerged from my 48-hour digital detox, I did what any 20-something marketer would do… I blogged about my experience

The response to that blog post was great, and many readers asked how they could incorporate a digital detox into their lives. Whether it’s setting aside an hour of time every day, or going a whole weekend without technology, the benefits can be incredible. Here are 5 ways to manage your digital fatigue:

1. Turn off push notifications

While receiving constant updates on what’s happening in the world can be informative, it can also be very distracting. Each time your phone alerts you that your high school BFF uploaded a new photo or Gmail notifies you that Kohl's is having a sale, you get distracted from the task you were working on. One easy fix is to turn off as many notifications as you can live without.

2. Put your phone away during meals

It’s become a common sight to see an entire group of friends out to dinner with their noses buried in their phones. And if that’s not the case, at least 4 out of 5 of them have their phone on the table within arm’s reach. Take some time to be fully present. Whether you are eating out with friends, at home with family, or by yourself. 20 minutes of undistracted time, enjoying a meal can be a great jumping off point for further disconnecting from your devices.

3. Designate tech-free hours (or minutes)

Spending hours of time without your phone or TV to keep you company sounds brutal, right? So start small. When you wake up in the morning, rather than immediately reaching for your phone, spend 30 minutes stretching, reading, or just getting ready for the day without the distraction of all those notifications you received overnight. Spend the last 20 minutes of your day reading a book in bed. Eventually you can work your way up to turning off email notifications after 5pm, or spending a couple hours each weekend with your phone on airplane mode.

4. Limit yourself to one screen at a time

When we’re attempting to work (or watch Dancing with the Stars) and we start scrolling through Facebook, our brains get a bit sidetracked. Multitasking is actually terrible for our brains and prevents us from fully focusing on the task at hand. Next time you have to write that work report, book airline tickets for your Caribbean vacation, or you’re on the couch watching a romantic comedy, put the phone away. You’ll find yourself far more engaged in what you are doing without the constant barrage of notifications or the endless scrolling on Instagram.

5. Download more apps

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But there are apps that can actually help you cut back on your screen time. The Moment app can track how often you use your iPhone and iPad each day and also lets you set daily limits; the Freedom app lets you block whatever sites distract you on your mobile device or computer, with the goal of helping you focus; and an iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb” setting (or Off-Time for Android) allows you to selectively block calls, texts, and notifications. Continue to use your devices for convenience, connection, and entertainment; just be more aware of how much time you spend refreshing your Facebook feed. 

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These are just 5 simple ways that you can incorporate some digital freedom into your daily routine. Pick one to start, do it consistently for a week, and assess how you feel at the end of your ‘experiment’. 

If you’d like to take things to the next level, begin blocking out periods of time where you can turn your phone off (or at least put it in airplane mode), keep the laptop closed, and the TV screen black. Start by dedicating one evening a week where electronics are off-limits (Tech-Free Tuesday?). Then try spending every other Saturday performing a digital detox. See how it makes you feel. If you’re anything like me, the answer is likely ‘anxious’. But that feeling fades after a few hours, and becomes a sense of freedom the more often you detox.

A few last tips for performing longer digital detoxes:

  • Announce it on social media. Let everyone know that you’re going offline for the evening, Saturday, weekend, whatever.
  • Tell those closest to you that you will be unavailable and have a back up plan for how they can get ahold of you in case of an emergency. Maybe put your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ but allow notifications from those people, or if a friend, family member, or spouse is with you (and still using their phone) have them contact that person.
  • Stock up on books and magazines, plan a dinner party, or go on a hike. You’ll find yourself extremely bored at first. We don’t realize how much of our lives revolve around our devices until we no longer have them as a safety blanket when boredom comes around.
  • Take note of your feelings. Similar to other addictive substances and behaviors, our devices allow us to escape from anxiety, boredom, anger, etc. Without your Twitter feed to distract you, you’ll be forced to sit with those feelings and explore them. It will be uncomfortable at first, but ultimately will help you to grow.

Good luck on your first digital detox. You might just find you enjoy your tech free hours, be more productive at work, and your personal life will improve in the process.