When was the last time you switched off for 24 hours?
If you can’t remember then a digital detox might be what you need.
I recently wrote about the day I left my phone at home and I thought I enjoyed being less connected and "on call" I felt that "to fully feel the benefit of being without my phone I think I would have been better to totally "unplug" and leave my laptop at home too!" So that's what I've done, a digital detox.
On Friday night at 11:00 pm I put both of my phones and my laptop in a draw and didn't retrieve them until 8:00 am on Monday. 57 glorious hours free of distractions and significantly improved sleep.
What is a "Digital detox"
A digital detox just means taking a break from using your beloved devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers. This can be for any length of time you choose but around 24 hours is the minimum for you to really feel the benefit.
Disconnecting from the world in this way enables you to spend screen-free time doing whatever you love or frees up time to simply relax and recharge.
The benefits (to name but a few!)
1.You will feel more in control of your own time, meaning you can decide to do the things you love rather than answering other peoples demands. I personally found more time to read, something I enjoy doing.
2. A digital detox is good for your relationships as it gives you a chance to spend time with the people who matter to you. You'll be more present in true social interaction, which people will notice. I spent most of Saturday with my mum doing things we love doing together but hadn't done for ages.
3.It's a perfect opportunity to spend time in nature. You will find you are more aware of birds instead of your latest podcast. I walked along the beach and appreciated the sound of water lapping the sand and the squelch under my feet.
4. You may even feel health benefits as you feel less stressed or anxious as you're not on edge waiting for a reply to expecting your iPhone to ping.
5. It's a great way to up your productivity. Much like when you relax and you feel more energized afterwards, a digital detox helps you to "reboot". You return recharged, feeling more productive and with a different perspective on things.
6. When you go back to your desk, you will be ready to work again with a new found focus.
7. Great ideas come when allow our thoughts to fully form without being interrupted by distractions. I came up with more blog post ideas so watch this space!
OK I'm sold! How do you do a digital detox?
It's easy. Anyone can do it. Simply turn off your digital devices (preferably for at least 24 hours.) Put them in a draw, get out in nature, see friends and family, read that book you've been meaning to for ages and live more!
In a day to day in the digital world where we’re so used to being permanently connected, its can be surprisingly difficult to do...
Think about what you want to get out of your digital detox. Having a reason for doing it will help you stick to it.
Is it as an experiment to see what it feels like? Is it because you're burnt out and need to recharge? Do you need proper thinking time? Or to spend quality time with people you love or a project you're passionate about?
Choose a time that’s realistic for your digital detox. Monday morning probably isn't a responsible time to pick (as nice as that would be!.) Weekends and holidays are great times to switch off for 24 hours +.
Put ‘digital detox’ in your diary and tell anyone you need to that you’ll be away from your email and smartphone. I told my mum and best friend what I was doing and, posted it as my Facebook and Whatsapp status. You could change your voicemail message or even put an out of office on your email or do none of these and go into stealth mode, it's entirely up to you.
Straight after switching off, you might experience FOMO and have a strong urge to check your phone or computer. Be strong, these feelings will pass very quickly and life isn't as exciting as you think it is!
You don't have to go crazy but to really enjoy your digital free time, plan to spend it with friends or doing an activity you love. You could pick up a project or book your never finished or a hobby you don't have time for any more.
You could go on your favorite walk, visit a beauty spot you love or explore somewhere you've been "meaning to go to."
Just don't do nothing, that will totally miss the point of you having time to do what you love!
Enjoy the feeling of having plenty of time and not being "on call". Notice how you sleep better (because you're not staring at a blue light before bedtime) and feel refreshed the next morning.
Turning your devices back on after a detox can be overwhelming. You will have multiple types of notifications from whatsapp groups to emailed newsletters, most of which you will just delete and think, "So what? Yesterday my life went on without me knowing that".
Re-evaluate and change habits
If you're anything like me you will find yourself your notifications and changing your digital habits.
I have turned off some app notifications, deleted some apps entirely (when I thought I already had a lot less apps than the average person.) I unsubscribed from some email lists I didn't miss (again I didn't think I had many superfluous emails, turns out I do) and I think I'll be checking my email and social media profiles less often.
I'm also going to try and not use my phone an hour before I go to bed as studies show that the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin in the body, which makes us more alert as we are going to sleep.
Do it again
Once you’ve done this once you’ll find yourself reaching for the off button again. Just like we recharge our phones we need to recharge ourselves. Plan your next digital detox to be longer maybe, have one weekend a month free of digital distractions, or make it a regular thing and have a device free day once a week!