I could begin this article with terrifying statistics revealing that almost all the people in the world need a digital detox because they are addicted to technology. Or I could act like your elementary school teacher who liked shaking her finger at you while making statements like “The Internet is bad!” or “Technology makes you dumb”.
But I won’t.
Because I think that the natural desire for self-improvement is the most powerful tool we have as human beings. Probably you already have noticed how exhausted and overwhelmed you feel due to your device overuse.
You opened this article so I believe that you want a change. That you are ready to have a well-deserved mindful experience that will help you start using technology (and your time!) wisely and purposefully instead of scrolling until you faint.
How to get the most from this guide? See the 13 tips available in this article not as one-time challenges but as new habits. The more new habits you adopt, the closer you get to the successful digital detox.
Goes without saying but: if you manage to implement all of the mentioned tips, you are a hero and you should be proud of yourself.
Are you ready to take your life under control? To finally get some free time and effective rest? To give to this brain of yours a well-deserved break?
Start your digital detox today!
1. Acknowledge the facts
Make a list of your devices and how much time you spend on each one of them. If you use your phone for one hour while watching TV, note down one hour of usage for both of the devices. This will give you the opportunity to actually track your progress and see the change those new habits will bring in your life.
2. Stop the push notifications
Technology is a black hole for your attention. Exactly like a domino effect, a tiny action can provoke a chain reaction. One pop-up alert for a new message can lead to hours in a zombie state of mind.
If you are not checking an app or a website consciously, with a certain purpose, then it is not that important and you can certainly live without it. Your devices are needy and clingy but you shouldn’t allow them to control your lifestyle.
Delete all the apps that you haven’t been using even once in the past three months. Clean up your desktop and leave only the programs you use regularly.
Another idea to declutter your tech world is to unsubscribe from all the newsletters you keep on receiving and you don’t care about. They steal precious minutes from your day that can be used for something more meaningful.
3. Turn your bedroom into a non-device area
A device-free bedroom has quite a lot of advantages but it’s difficult to achieve. Most of the people are so used to being stuck to one gadget or another that they feel like they are missing a limb if they are not holding a device in their hand.
But you are not like them, right? You are determined to change your habits and you’re strong enough to do it.
In case your naughty mind tries immediately to find excuses why you shouldn’t leave the devices outside of the bedroom, keep on reading:
If you need to get up at a certain time in the morning, use the good old alarm clock.
If you have troubles falling asleep, read a book instead of watching TV shows or videos. Have you already heard this advice hundreds of times? It’s just because it actually works.
Within no time you’ll notice that the quality of your sleep has improved and the level of your evening anxiety, if any, is significantly reduced.
4. Use flight mode
The flight mode of your phone allows you to keep using it for listening to music or taking pictures, without being distracted by its network- or internet-related features.
Start switching your phone to flight mode during a workout, a walk in nature or any other activity that brings way more joy and profit if you are fully focused on it. No alerts, beeps or buzzes – only you, being present in the here and now.
5. Find substitutions
Most probably after a stressful or busy day, you simply want to turn the TV on and shut your brain down. Binge watching of Netflix shows or YouTube videos is the easiest thing in the world – the never-ending stream doesn’t require any effort on
If you are working all day long in front of a computer, the last thing you should do in order to feel better afterwards is to stare at another screen for a couple of hours more.
Instead of sticking to your device addiction, try finding substitutions of the digital activities. It’s important to make a
Boost your creativity
- read a book
- listen actively to music instead of using it as a background noise for another activity
- draw or just doodle
- go to a concert
- visit a museum
- create something with your hands
Become more organized
- take care of household tasks that usually get postponed
- plan the meals for the next week
- rearrange an area in your home, such as your wardrobe or a kitchen drawer
- prepare your clothes for the next day
- throw away stuff that you haven’t used a single time in the past year
- make a wish, bucket or to-do list
Take care of yourself
- write a journal for effective self-reflection
- work out
- cook something new and special, using a cookbook
- write a real letter to someone
- have a walk
- take a long shower or bath (check out the article The Perfect Bath: How to Create a Spa-Like Experience at Home!)
6. Use your devices with purpose
This one is easy and I bet that it will drastically change your relationship with technology. The rule is simple: use a device only when you need it or you really want to use it.
For example: don’t turn the TV on in order to use it as background noise. Instead, use it only if you want to watch one episode of your favourite show or if you don’t want to miss the evening news. Once the TV event is over, switch the device off.
Same goes with your phone: If you are currently not using it, don’t hold it in your hand. Put it away, best in your bag. Get back to it only if you want to take action, such as call someone or send an email. But not “just to check it”.
If your habit still makes you reach out for your phone, ask yourself whether you really need it or it’s the digital instinct controlling your mind. Once you reach this level of self-control, you’ll overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed with what’s going on in the world or obligated to be online 24/7.
You might also want to reconsider the way you communicate with your friends and family. Using messaging apps creates the illusion that you “keep in touch” with your loved ones. The reality is that you are flooding your relationship with small talk.
Instead of sending each other messages every day, all day long, regarding meaningless things, try talking in the real world.
Use the messenger in order to make an appointment for a cup of coffee or a dinner. Take the time to meet them in person. This will strengthen your connection but will also contribute to your successful digital detox.
7. Be available for your closest people
By “available” I definitely don’t mean “online”! Your family and friends deserve your full attention.
Don’t watch TV during dinner and don’t check your phone when you go out for a cup of coffee with someone. This stops you from being present in the here and now.
The digital world will ruthlessly steal your attention… if you let this happen. Take care of your relationships and separate your personal (real) life from your digital one.
If the people you are with struggle to refrain from using their devices suggest playing “Phone Stack”. This game usually takes place at a family or social gathering. The aim is to get the people to communicate with each other instead of staring at their phones.
The rules are as simple as they could be: everyone should put their phone in the middle of the table. There are unpleasant consequences for whoever touches their phone first – from washing the dishes and doing the laundry for a month (family) to paying the whole bill (friends).
8. Share the waiting
If you are out with somebody and you have to wait, avoid staring at your phone to “kill the time”. Instead have some fun together! Talk, make jokes or tell a story.
Maybe you are going together to a concert, but there is a queue. Or you are at the cinema, waiting for the movie to begin. Share the waiting! This can also be time spent with your friend, partner or kid.
9. Leave your phone at home
At least once you have forgotten your phone at home, right? So, tell me, what happened? You still survived that day, right?
We are so used to the comfort and the false sense of security that our phones give to us! Make an experiment with yourself and go out without any devices. Being completely offline will feel weird at first. But step by step, throughout the day, you’ll appreciate the feeling of freedom it gives you.
I know what you’re thinking. “And what if something happens?!”. Most of the threats are imaginary. Don’t fantasise about various incidents that might happen to you. Instead, dive deep in the calming feeling that the digital detox will give you. Enjoy the moment of being present and focus on the beautiful things surrounding you.
10. Drive safe
A necessary step you should take not only because of your digital detox but also for the sake of the much-needed road safety. Don’t check your phone while driving (or riding a bike!).
First, your brain gets overwhelmed by the constant change of focus within seconds. This leads to a state of mind that makes you crave for a digital detox.
Furthermore, even using a hands-free phone system makes your reactions slower and your mind – wandering. Concentrate on the road and do all the talking later.
The only reasonable exception would be to use a GPS system. In this case, make sure the voice navigation is on so that you don’t need to switch your vision from the road to the phone and vice versa.
11. Commute offline
For many people, commuting is a waste of time. And how do they “use” this time? They double waste it online. Scrolling for half an hour in Instagram gives you… umm… nothing. But reading or listening to an audiobook for half an hour will boost your creativity and can even inspire you!
I used to commute for more than two hours every single day. Sitting in the train became my favorite time of the day – early in the morning or after the terrible hours at the office (back then I wasn’t working as a freelancer – read the whole story here) I used a completely different part of my brain. The time passed by so quickly… And I felt so satisfied!
So, what did I do? I studied words in Dutch. Well, back then I had just moved to The Netherlands, so learning the language was my top priority. But even if you’re not living in a foreign country, learning a new language is always so rewarding!
When you feel too tired to engage in any mental activity, try daydreaming or meditating. Close your eyes and scan your body, from head to toe. Relax each part of it.
Feel your own presence. Deepen your breath. Let your mind drift off.
You will discover that sitting still and doing nothing for a while is so reviving! Calm your exhausted mind and reward it for being there for you.
12. Do something in the real world
Technology is making our life so much easier. We can get literally everything via the Internet. And yet, it feels amazing if we sometimes don’t.
Instead of ordering stuff online, go to the local shops to buy food or visit the bookstore. Have a walk, take your time and leave your devices behind.
This short break spent in the real world will make you feel energised and excited. Use the opportunity to have a small talk with the people you meet or enjoy being outside and alone with your thoughts.
13. Spend a day without technology
After trying to implement all the above in your everyday life, you might want to get to the “next level” of the digital detox. Then it’s time for the real old-school experience: A day (or maybe even a year, as Paul Miller did? Just kidding!) without any technology.
Tell your grandma that you are going to do something that extreme. I am sure she will have difficulties to understand what’s the big deal!
The modern society is so used to being online all the time that this step requires some preparation in advance. Otherwise, you may end up declared missing.
Before diving into the beautiful “
Don’t be afraid that you’ll miss something from the online world. The most important things happen to you, right now, and without any digital distractions, you’ll be able to live them fully.
Do you have any other ideas on how to do an effective digital detox? Don’t hesitate to share them with me!
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