So, here’s what happened: My eight year old daughter recently asked me, “why are you always on your phone or computer?” I was stunned. It didn’t used to be like this. I was the last of my friends to get a cell phone and only bought a lap top computer for my business last year. Over the past few years I have become more and more chained to my phone and computer. The (seemingly) urgent buzz and ping of my devices has left me feeling alternately distracted, drained, and overwhelmed. My daughter’s innocent question inspired me to make a change, so I did a little research to find out the best strategies to help reclaim my time and detox from the digital world:
Get Real About Your Usage
Most people are overtaken by the impulse to be both accessible and responsive all the time, and become unconscious of their amount of daily screen time. The app Moment will track how much you (and your family) use your devices each day, and help you set limits on screen time usage.
Make Rules About When to Unplug
It’s far too easy to be plugged day in and day out. Decide ahead of time when you will stow your devices away and take a breather. Our family has a rule that there are no devices or computers out during dinner time so we can be present and actually connect and engage with each other. I also make sure to put my computer and phone in my office by 10pm each night so I don’t have blinking lights or texts distracting me, or disrupting my sleep. Establish clear boundaries for yourself about when you will unplug and make sure to honor the commitment you make to yourself – and your family.
Batch Your Emails
Instead of checking throughout the day, try picking a few times per day to read and respond to your emails. Incoming messages often trigger a sense of urgency. You can update your email settings to hold emails and send them out to you every few hours, instead of in real time, which can be both overwhelming and distracting. This kind of activity batching can help you stay focused and increase your productivity.
Turn off Notifications
Turn off distracting notifications that can make you feel like you need to respond immediately. With the switch of a button you can reduce stress by preventing those pesky email and phone alerts, reminders, and sounds.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Apps like App Detox, Self Control , and Freedom can be set up to help monitor where your screen time is spent, as well as restrict your own access to social media, websites, mail servers, or anything else you find distracting on the internet. Author Zadie Smith credits the Self Control app with enabling her to focus when she needs to complete a book or big project. You can listen to her interview about it right here.
Streamline Your Apps
Start by deleting all of the apps on your phone you don’t use and then organize the “keepers” by category on the second page. This only took me about fifteen minutes and I love seeing a clean home page and being able to find the apps I need easily.
Try a Tech Shabbat
Every weekend filmmaker, Tiffany Shlain, and her family practice a “technology shabbat” from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. During this 24-hour break, they stow their gadgets and completely unplug from all technology so they can be more present with themselves, and each other. During their tech shabbat, they get to spend time together and get back to simple pleasures like gardening, reading, cooking, and doing art. Tiffany says that the simple practice of unplugging once a week has completely changed her life, making her a better wife, mother, and individual. Interested in trying your own tech shabbat? You can watch a short video about it right here.
Are you on information overload? Tired of feeling chained to your mobile device or computer 24/7? By periodically unplugging, you can reduce stress, recharge, and focus on relationships, community, and real connection. How will you make space to unplug and recharge this month?