What Is A Digital Detox (And How Will It Help You)?
A digital detox involves stepping away from all of your gadgets. This includes your phone, tablet, and laptop.
There are a number of challenges to traveling this path. For example, how do you unplug completely if your job requires you to use a computer? Additionally, how can you keep in touch with people without texts, emails, and phone calls?
And what about withdrawal symptoms? A digital detox is like a drug detox. Your brain craves the dopamine rush that results from your compulsive behavior. Once you cut off your access to technology, you’ll feel the pangs of withdrawal.
Think of it this way: if you were addicted to cocaine, you wouldn’t try to break your addiction by gradually reducing the number of lines you do each night. That strategy is guaranteed to fail. Instead, you’d check yourself into a clinic and undergo a complete detox, one with no access to cocaine.
That’s how you need to approach your addiction to technology. If you want to break the habit, stop feeling overwhelmed, and regain control of your focus and productivity, you need to do a complete digital detox.
15 Ways Your Life Will Improve After A Digital Detox
I won’t lie to you. Going through a digital detox can be unpleasant – at least, in the beginning. You’ll crave your phone so you can check for new texts. You’ll covet your laptop so you retrieve your email. You’ll lust after your tablet so you can read the latest news headlines and log onto Facebook. And you’ll grow increasingly restless and agitated the longer you’re prevented from doing these things.
These are symptoms of withdrawal. You need to have a good reason to cut yourself off from your phone and other gadgets. That reason will help you to resist the temptation to reach for them when the cravings start. You need to know that the effort will improve your life in some measurable way. Otherwise, there’s no reason to move forward.
#1 – You’ll Break The Cycle Of Addiction
#2 – You’ll Form Deeper Connections
#3 – You’ll Reclaim Valuable Time
#4 – You’ll Be Able To Think More Clearly
#5 – You’ll Enjoy Improved Focus
#6 – You’ll Be More Productive
#7 – You’ll Sleep Better
#8 – You’ll Avoid Information Overload
#9 – You’ll Experience Less Stress
#10 – You’ll Adjust Others’ Expectations Of You
#11 – You’ll Develop Better Social Skills
#12 – You’ll Enjoy Reading Books More
#13 – You’ll Have More Time To Exercise
#14 – You’ll Give Your Brain A Much-Needed Rest
#15 – You’ll Develop Better Impulse Control
Prep Step 1: Create A Digital Detox Plan
Ask yourself two questions. First, how long will your digital detox last? Second, when will your schedule best accommodate it?
Many people who struggle with technology addiction are overly aggressive when it comes to deciding the duration of their detoxes. For example, they plan to unplug for an entire week, or even longer.
Their enthusiasm is understandable. They’re tired of allowing their gadgets to run their lives and want to finally break the habit. But their expectations are unrealistic.
Unless you’re going on vacation, a 7-day technology fast is impractical. After all, if you’re like most people, you need access to your computer to do your job. You also need your phone so your boss and coworkers can reach you in the event of a work-related emergency.
Here’s an alternative: rather than planning a 7-day digital detox, plan one that will last for just 24 hours. Most people can fit that into their weekends.
That brings us to the second question concerning when your schedule will best accommodate your detox. Assuming you work Monday through Friday, the weekends will be your best option.
Choose one day and mark it on your calendar. That will ensure you remember it. Putting it on your calendar in plain sight will also prompt your brain to prepare for it.
A digital detox is not a one-time affair. Our lives are so immersed in technology that it’s useful to do a detox two or three times a year. Stick with a 24-hour detox for your first time. Once you’ve experienced its benefits, feel free to extend future detoxes to 48 hours, and even 72 hours over a 3-day weekend.
Prep Step 2: Remove Social Media Apps From Your Phone
It’s best to delete the apps from your phone to avoid the temptation altogether.
There are many apps designed to either block notifications or block access to social media sites for a specific length of time. The problem is that you can override them. And given your obsession with technology, there’s a good chance you’ll do so.
Imagine being addicted to ice cream and putting a padlock on your freezer. If you have the key, there’s a high likelihood you’ll remove the padlock when you experience strong cravings. Willpower isn’t enough. Thus, it’s best to remove the ice cream altogether.
The same principle applies to beating your technology addiction.
Bottom line: remove your social media apps. You can always reinstall them after completing your digital detox. Or if you’re like me, you’ll find that life is more enjoyable without them.
Prep Step 3: Create An Out-Of-Office Email Message
What should you include in your out-of-office message? Keep the message simple, brief, and clear. Here are a few examples (feel free to use them):
Example #1 (Straightforward)
“Thanks for your email. I’m away from my office and have limited access to my phone and computer. I’ll reply when I return on September 17th.”
Example #2 (An Alternate Contact)
“Thank you for your email. I’ll be out of the office from July 7th through July 9th. I’ll reply when I’m back at my desk. If this is an emergency, please email Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Example #3 (Fun And Honest)
“Thanks for your email. I’m currently on a digital detox to reclaim my life from my phone, email, and various gadgets. I’ll get back to you on August 24th.”
Prep Step 4: Create A List Of Activities You’ll Do During Your Digital Detox
Plan activities to do while you’re unplugged. For example, maybe you’ve wanted to improve your cooking skills. Now’s the time to do it. Perhaps you’ve been aiming to plant a garden. That’s a great way to spend your free time during your detox.
A lot of people use the time to reconnect with friends and family members. They plan lunch dates and enjoy the face-to-face interaction.
Whether you choose to improve your cooking, plant a garden, or get together with loved ones, the important thing is that you have something to do.
Don’t wait until you’re without your phone and internet access to brainstorm activities. Do it beforehand. Write down a list of 10 projects that interest you. You don’t have to do all of them. You just need to have the list available so you can pick and choose activities according to your mood.
Prep Step 5: Tell Your Friends And Family About Your Digital Detox
Do you remember how the simple act of telling others motivated you to accomplish your goal? You didn’t want to have to admit failure. And so you pushed yourself to do whatever you claimed you were going to do.
Leverage that same behavioral psychology to ensure you stick to your digital detox. Tell your friends and family about your plan. Post it on Facebook. Take advantage of the social pressure to stay unplugged. You’ll find doing so makes it easier to resist the cravings for your favorite devices.
Prep Step 6: Make A List Of Potential Challenges You’ll Face During Your Digital Detox
For example, if you’re addicted to your phone, you’ll probably experience an effect known as phantom phone syndrome during your detox. That’s where you think your phone is ringing or vibrating when, in reality, it isn’t. If you anticipate experiencing this type of false alarm, you can take steps to manage – or at least ignore – it. Otherwise, it’ll be a constant frustration.
By keeping a list of potential challenges in front of you, you’ll avoid being blindsided by them. Instead, you’ll be aware of them before they occur. That gives you an opportunity to come up with compensatory strategies to deal with them.
Prep Step 7: Make Sure You Have Access To Important Resources
First, brainstorm the types of information you’ll need during your detox. For example, are you planning to cook a meal according to a specific recipe? Do you intend to travel to a destination for which you’ll need driving directions?
Once you’ve identified the information you’ll need, look for it online. Print it out or write it down. That way, you’ll have it at your fingertips and won’t need your phone or laptop to look it up later.
Also, think about tasks you’ll need to do before your detox begins in order to enjoy certain activities during your detox. For example, do you hope to visit a popular restaurant? If so, find the venue’s phone number and make a reservation in advance. Do you intend to read a specific book on your Kindle while you’re away from your other gadgets? If so, buy the book ahead of time so it will be waiting for you on your Kindle.
Prep Step 8: Commit To Sticking To Your Digital Detox
Before you start your digital detox, truly commit to it. Review the reasons you’re doing it (i.e. to break your addiction and dependency on your devices). Consider the challenges and obstacles you’ll face (e.g. cravings, moodiness, inability to concentrate, etc.). Think about the ways in which your life will improve after you successfully complete your detox. You’ll enjoy stronger relationships, more free time, and increased productivity.
Step 1: Bury Your Phone
Don’t underestimate your brain’s ability to persuade you to do what it desires. It’s crafty that way. It knows you’re obsessed with your phone and will use every tactic at its disposal to convince you to use it.
The solution is to bury your phone (not literally). Throw it into a dresser drawer. Place it at the back of your bedroom closet. Give it to your spouse. The most important thing is that prevented from seeing it.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Step 2: Hide Your Tablet
Sure, it’s possible to use it productively. You can send emails on it. You can create spreadsheets. You can even write a book (though you’ll want to use an external keyboard for that task). But the majority of your time will be spent watching videos, playing games, visiting Facebook, and reading articles, blogs, and other written content.
In other words, you’ll use it to consume various types of media. That’s what tablets are made for.
And that’s the reason you need to hide your tablet along with your phone.
Step 3: Store Your Laptop
If this is your first detox, this step is crucial. Why? Because your first experience will set your expectations for every subsequent detox you perform. Get the first one right, and you’ll be more inclined to stick to the ones you do in the future. Fail your first time, and your brain will learn that failure is an option – and an appealing one to boot!
Step 4: Unplug Your Computer
if you use a desktop computer, unplug it before starting your digital detox. Shut it down. Completely. Don’t just put it in sleep mode. Turn it off. Otherwise, it will pose too great a temptation when you’re trying to stay unplugged.
Step 5: Disconnect Your Office Computer From The Internet
As long as your office computer remains connected to the internet, you’ll face the temptation to feed your technology addiction. You’ll be tempted to check your email; you’ll long to check out Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest; you’ll want to visit CNN, YouTube, and your favorite blogs.
Remember, you’re fighting an addiction. Your brain will be looking for ways to compel you to relapse. Willpower alone won’t be enough to help you resist the temptations and remain true to your detox.
Step 6: Wear A Watch
If you’re concerned the watch will clash with your outfit – after all, ditching technology doesn’t mean ditching your fashion sense – remove the wristband and stick the part with the digital display into your pocket or purse.
The important point is that you have a way to tell the time that doesn’t require your phone or other devices. If you live life with one eye on the clock, this will be a major step in successfully completing your digital detox.
Step 7: Schedule “Offline” Activities With Friends And Family
Remember, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
This step is so important that it’s worth revisiting in the context of doing your detox. It’s one thing to come up with a list of activities you’ll focus on while you’re unplugged. It’s another thing entirely to put those activities on your calendar so you’re left with minimal downtime.
Step 8: Make Connections With Strangers
When you’re on a digital detox, you won’t have your phone to fall back on in social situations. That’s a positive thing. It will spur you to come out of your shell and connect with people face to face. Take advantage of it!
Step 9: Read A Book
Reading books while unplugged not only keeps your mind occupied. It also improves your imagination, refines your ability to focus, and lowers your stress. Scientists have also found that habitual reading leads to a better memory, more empathy, and even improved sleep.
Step 10: Learn A New Skill
Need a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing? Learn how to:
- Play the guitar
- Speak Italian
- Change the oil in your car
- Repair a faucet in your home
- Defend yourself against an assailant
- Cook Japanese cuisine
- Code a website
- Take engaging photographs
- Create spreadsheet graphs and charts
- Analyze stocks
- Practice yoga
- Give a public speech
- Apply first aid
- Perform karate
- Swing dance
- Create a flower arrangement
The above is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. The goal is to find a new skill that interests you and learn to do it competently during your digital retreat. Immerse yourself in the activity with the intention of mastering it.