Ready to try a digital detox?

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Does your smartphone run your life? You might be the perfect candidate for a digital detox…

By Ann Gomez

Do you ever wish you had your own “off” button so you could power down and recharge like your phone?

With our phones at our fingertips, we have a digital tether that is hard to sever. Even during downtime, we’re always once click away from access to anything online. But just because we can stay connected doesn’t mean we should.

If this constant connection absorbs more of your time than you’d like, consider a digital detox.

In her book, 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week, Tiffany Shlain cites many compelling benefits to turning off screens from the perspective of  neuroscience, philosophy, psychology and even history. Drawn from the ancient ritual of Shabbat, one day of disconnection can nourish our minds, and help us stay focused, present, and less distracted when we eventually return to our screens.

But is this realistic? I use my phone actively in both my work and personal life. On weekends, I’m coordinating carpools and using Google Maps, listening to podcasts, checking my calendar, and staying in touch with friends and family. I even use my phone for meditating: I’m a big fan of the Headspace app.

Flat out abstinence feels unattainable. But I can wrap my head around a routine I like to call my “phone detox” on evenings and weekends. I chose non-business hours because this is when I find technology detracts more than enhances in my life.

I don’t do this every evening and weekend, but whenever I find my distraction and stress levels high, I return to it. Like many routines, it’s not a science. But we can always return to a routine when we need to.

Here is what my detox looks like:

  1. Park my phone: I put my phone in its charging station from 6p.m. until 6a.m. I will still use my phone occasionally (see #3, below), but I know parking it will help me stop using it so much.
  2. No more email: I won’t check email on my phone during this time. (Of course, I avoid following this routine during peak periods at work when I’m expecting to respond to inquiries from clients and colleagues). If I feel compelled to check email during the evening, I’ll power up my laptop. And, as a bonus, I find it much easier to apply the One-Touch principle when I’m on my laptop.
  3. Limit use: I will continue to text, make calls, snap pictures, and use other core apps, but I will limit any indulgent phone use (like social media), at home and when I’m out and about. I find it helps to move all non-essential apps to another screen to prevent unconscious clicking. I want to pause and consider whether I’m clicking on an app out of dire urgency or simply out of curiosity.

Of course, if there is an urgent situation, I will bypass these rules.

Disconnecting is tough to do, but well worth the effort. This type of break is restorative and refreshing and, rather than mindlessly consume information, we are far more likely to create and innovate.

For more strategies you can use to set yourself up for success, see Ann’s latest book, Workday Warrior: A Proven Path to Reclaiming Your Time, published by Dundurn Press, 2022.

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