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5 tips on how to do a digital detox

Gorging on information streams, hungry for just one more click, our mental and physical systems are becoming overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded.

Yet many of us don’t realise this until we either take a step back, or until it is too late and we burn out.

Here’s a chance to opt for the step back option. This Friday to Saturday (7th-8th March) is National Day of Unplugging (originating in the US, with people in many other countries also taking part).

This is a chance to switch off, shut down your digital devices, and recharge your own batteries for once.

Why should you try a digital detox? The best evidence for this comes when you experience it for yourself. Try it, and you’ll see …

Ask someone who’s done a detox what they experienced, and they’ll be likely to mention some of the following benefits: feeling less stressed, feeling calmer, a sense of perspective, a sense of being unhurried, quality time with those you care about, a chance to think, lack of demands, better sleep, a sense of freedom, time slowing down. Not a bad trade off for pressing the off button.

However, pressing the off button can be surprisingly difficult. Why is this?

Detox implies we’re dealing with something toxic. And we are.

Toxic is the anxiety caused by being constantly on call. Toxic is the waste of precious time, as our attention is pulled away from the things that really matter to us. Toxic is the pressure cooker of our own making, as we chase perpetually after digital demands.

It is precisely because it is now so difficult for us to disconnect that we need to make sure we can do it.

On an individual level, constantly connectivity is having an impact on our health. We often don’t equate being constantly wired to feeling constantly exhausted. We often don’t realise that being ‘always on’ is the reason for our stress or burnout.

On a wider business and economic level, ‘always on’ culture is contributing to lack of workplace productivity, poor decision-making, lack of time management, shortened concentration spans and employee sickness and absence.

While a digital detox can’t solve all of these issues overnight, it’s a very good place to start.

The National Day of Unplugging from 7th-8th March is a 24-hour detox from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. During this time, you switch off from all digital devices – including laptop, mobile, smartphone, tablet, and computer.

If you need solidarity in deciding to take part, there are hundreds of inspiring photos from people around the world sharing the reasons they switch off.

Keen to try it? Intrigued? Ready to give it a go?

If you’ve never done a digital detox before, what can you expect and how should you go about it?

Try these tips:

1) You’ll probably feel withdrawal symptoms in the very early stages after switching off. These might include a strong urge to check your phone/email/social media, a feeling of boredom, and a sense of unease. Stay with it and these feelings should pass within a couple of hours.

2) Before you switch off, a common concern is missing out. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is one of the strongest pulls that keeps us checking. However, notice whether – when you eventually switch back on – you did actually miss anything. In reality, things like boredom are usually harder to cope with during a detox. Instead of thinking FOMO, think JOMO – Joy of Missing Out. Enjoy playing your own thought soundtrack instead of having your thoughts led by social media. Enjoy setting your own agenda instead of answering to other people’s demands.

3) Get prepared before you press the off button. Print out maps, look up any travel or visiting information you need, and if you’re arranging to meet someone say you’ll be there on time but not available by phone. Yes, old school. But a different way of doing things can sometimes be refreshing.

4) Don’t expect too much of yourself if this is the first time you’ve tried a digital detox. Aim for 24 hours. But if you get to 12 hours and break, don’t worry or be harsh on yourself. Just notice how those however many hours felt for you, and take it as an experiment. Try again another time. Enjoy however long you do spend switched off. Just press the off button and see …

5) Plan something for your digital detox time. It’s a good idea to swap screen time for an interesting activity. This could be quality time with friends or family, a trip to an interesting place, or hours reading a good book. Dream, cook a great meal, or pick up an interest you’ve neglected recently.

Good Luck and enjoy your digital detox

This blogpost also appears on The Huffington Post website

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Suffering from information overload? Time to look up from that screen …

Do you feel like you are constantly on call these days? As though your day is dictated by the beep and ‘pling’ of messages and updates, pulling you this way and that?

Picture the scene: you’re in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and their phone beeps. They turn to their smartphone, saying “hmm, what was that,” as they pretend to listen to you. How does that make you feel?

Here’s another snapshot: It’s the end of the day, and you stand up from your desk feeling frazzled and wired. Yet when you tot up what you’ve done you realise it amounts to little more than fielding email demands, your attention pulled this way and that. You’ve been busy, and you’re stressed, but somehow you didn’t get round to the one thing you were meant to do today.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone …

People often ask why I wrote The Distraction Trap. It was because I started to notice that everywhere I went, people were staring down at screens. You’ve probably noticed them too, on trains and buses, or walking down the street veering in front of you. Perhaps they’re even in your own front room …

I started to question whether this constant connectedness was really healthy, or productive. Had we all really opted in to being on call? Was everything really so urgent?

Researching these issues, I found that the reasons for our behaviour around digital media are complex.

We check, and check, and check again. It’s a habit, verging in some cases on addiction. We check our smartphones every few minutes. We check our social media all the time because of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). We check our email because we feel like we should (though the expectation we put on ourselves is often far heavier than the expectation of others).

And while we adopt these new behaviours, other things go by the wayside; things like concentration and communicating in person.

In this blog on digital life, I’ll be exploring some of these issues. I’ll look at the huge pressures constant connectivity puts on us, the cost of distraction to productivity and wellbeing, and how to – whisper it – press the off button now and again and do a digital detox.

Can you be happy and disconnected? How much is too much when it comes to screen time for young people? And is it possible to spend a bit less of your life checking email?

These of the some of the questions I’ll be answering.

This is not about saying technology is bad. It’s about exploring how we choose to use technology, and understanding the pull digital devices have on us. It’s about being in control of how we fit digital devices in to our lives, rather than being ruled by them.

Long, long ago, in a past far away, there was a time Before Google (BG). Those of us old enough to remember it can vouch for the fact that there was also a time before mobiles – never mind smartphones. Somehow, the world turned.

Then, things changed. And fast.

In the 10 years between 1997 and 2007, huge swathes of our digital landscape as we know it were formed. We started emailing en masse, went mobile, and met Facebook and Twitter for the first time …

It’s strange to think that these changes were so relatively recent. We’ve embraced platform after platform, without even stopping to look up.

However, as anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by information overload knows, sometimes we go a little too far.

Now, it’s time to take a step back, and look around. This is a chance to regain a sense of digital balance, and to decide what a healthy, productive digital life means for you.

Try this today: Notice how often you check your smartphone

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How to do a digital detox

Frazzled by constant demands or exhausted by information overload? A digital detox could be just what you need …

 

Detox is a word we often associate with New Year. During the January hangover from the December before, we cut out all that is bad for us, and latch on to the latest detox trends.

But while the idea of detox is familiar to many of us in terms of health, it can also be useful in a slightly different guise – as a digital detox.

Just like a health detox, the aim of a digital detox is to improve your overall wellbeing.

And what better time to try this than the ‘second new year’ of September? It could make all the difference to your stress levels in the season ahead.

So how do you go about it?

A digital detox means you switch off your smartphone, laptop, tablet, and any other digital devices for a certain length of time.

While the idea of this may fill you with dread, the best evidence of the benefits of a digital detox come from trying it yourself.

Once you do, the chances are you’ll feel calmer, less stressed, and able to think clearly at last. No beeping, no pinging, and no incessant demands – for however long you choose.

This gives you chance to focus on what you want to do, be that properly paying attention as you spend time with people you care about, or pursuing your dreams and goals.

So if you’re interested in doing a digital detox, how long should you switch off for?

How long does a digital detox need to be?

To get the maximum benefit from a digital detox, you should switch off for 72 hours.

Don’t panic. We wouldn’t suggest you start with this – a full 72-hour detox takes some building up to and planning.

There are other, gradual steps you can take first.

Press the off button on your smartphone. How does it feel? See if you can keep everything switched off for 15 minutes. Next time, aim for half an hour, then an hour.

Many people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they first switch off. These symptoms vary from person to person, but may include feeling disconnected, bored, or worrying that you are missing out.

These feelings will gradually pass.

Once you’re ready to aim for a more lengthy digital detox, why not aim to switch off for a full 24 hours? This is long enough to notice benefits. Repeating a 24-hour detox every so often is a great way to recharge.

A good time for a digital detox is the weekend. Could you, for example, switch off on a Friday evening until a Saturday evening? Or press the off button for the whole of Sunday? Decide what works for you.

Another ideal time to do a digital detox (and to try an even longer spell switched off) is while on holiday. One key to a successful detox is making sure you have other activities to fill your time, and a holiday is a great opportunity for this.

If you’re ready to do a digital detox, then why not give it a try …

If you want more advice or support to help you achieve a digital detox, get in touch with us to book a one-to-one digital detox session.

– Frances Booth is author of The Distraction Trap and an expert in digital detox. She works with companies and individuals on productivity, digital distraction and digital health.

© Frances Booth