Signing off! Digital Detox in Baby Steps

When was the last time you were without your phone (or another device) for several hours and not asleep at the same time? I know. I have a hard time answering this question as well. These days, we all seem to be online all the freaking time! And striking a balance between our real and virtual worlds feels like a pretty complex task.

I don’t know about you, but I am an all-in-or-all-out type of person. That makes it really easy to kick bad habits or build new ones. But it complicates matters enormously the moment moderation is required—because I totally suck at that. Unfortunately, moderation is about the only reasonable approach to social media and today’s armada of gadgets and devices.

Of course, everybody needs to find their own approach, but I thought today I’d tell you a little of what has worked for me and invite you to share your experiences and tips!

My turning point came last November when I simply could not take a single word about politics or voting anymore (I’m not proud of it but that’s how it was). So I spontaneously put up a temporary profile pic, Closed for Spiritual Maintenance, on Facebook and left. Any other social media I simply ignored. And you know what? I had close to zero withdrawal symptoms. It was pretty amazing! But as I knew I’d be back eventually, launching a new website and blog and whatnot, I used my social media detox to consider what I wanted my usage patterns to be upon my return.

So I read Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” (if you haven’t read it yet—it’s a lifesaver!) and went to a digital mindfulness workshop (check it out here!) and that really got me thinking how to step up my signing-off game. And this is what I learned for myself:

Hide your phone

Do you know how often you pick up your phone every day? I’ve seen my number and it’s shocking. A good approach is to leave the phone someplace where you are usually not—in my case, that’s the kitchen—so that you don’t automatically pick it up all the time. Out of sight, out of mind. If I want to use my phone, I have to get up from my desk, go downstairs and get it—which I do only when I take a break between work sprints.

Do focused work sprints

Work sprints mean that you’re at your desk, with your butt in your chair for the entire duration, no bathroom breaks, no putting on the kettle for a cuppa, no nothing. The phone is off and email, messages, WhatsApp closed. It’s work only for however long you’ve decided to sprint. I prefer 50 minutes, with a 10-minute break before the next sprint, but 25/5 is probably more common. Just try it out and see what works for you!

Schedule social media time

Try using a timer that shuts the browser window after a certain number of minutes or making your social media time an agenda item and see what feels right. My current system is to check Facebook only twice most weeks, namely on days when I blog anyway. Then I take the time to read and interact with others too. I am on LinkedIn and Instagram daily, but for a maximum of 15 minutes, and I quit all other social media.

Ban devices from the bedroom

You are most likely aware of the studies that show clearly how bad it is for our sleep and general wellbeing to be on an electronic device before bed. I sometimes wonder if watching movies on your tablet at night is the new smoking or drinking. I knew that those were bad for me for a long time before I quit, but I’ve recently added the bedroom ban for my devices and I love it. There’s still Alexa to wake me in the morning though …

There are of course tons of other things you can do. What I listed here are just the ones that have made the biggest difference for me. Biggest difference as in: less time spent on the phone translating directly into much better focus, concentration, and mood. Plus, I reach out more to people in real life because I don’t have the feeling that I’ve already spent all my extrovert time in the virtual world.

But now I’m excited to hear what works best for you! What can you recommend?
Let’s help each other take a few more baby steps toward a more mindful approach to social media and online/screen time, shall we?

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