The word digital detox is everywhere. Although the world seems to be focused on self-care and work-life balance right now, those of us in digital industries know it’s easier said than done. While some occupations may allow you to shut their phones off or stop checking their inbox once they get home, it’s not the case for many others whose lives and careers revolve around laptops, smartphones, emails and social platforms. If you’re one of those stuck under the wrath of electronics, it might make you wonder how to disconnect — for real.
Removing yourself entirely from the digital world is a surefire way to become overwhelmed, stressed, and, yes, even gain a major case of FOMO. While the obsession with screens isn’t healthy, your problem will worsen without cutting back strategically. That’s why it’s important to know how to disconnect successfully, which is why we’re here to help.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it can be incredibly useful when it comes to limiting your time on your phone. Sometimes, all it takes to avoid unlocking your phone every couple of minutes is a reminder of how many times you’ve actually done it. Or, it might be a case of needing something that alerts you when you’ve hit a certain amount of hours that you’ve spent on social media. Either way, there are apps that can do it for you.
For example, Moment is an app that can do both. It will track your activity and unlocking frequency, helping you understand how much time you’re really spending on your phone. Once you hit so many hours on social apps, it will flood your screen with annoying reminders that will definitely help turn off your desire to continue scrolling. You can also have the app force you off certain platforms after a period of time.
The sheer shock of seeing how often you press the home button might be a powerful tool within itself. Try downloading Moment, Off Timer or Space to support your learning of how to disconnect properly.
Let’s be honest, completely shutting off our phones just doesn’t work with today’s standards. Even if you’re off the clock at five, there are often things that arise where you have to check an email, submit an assignment or check social handles.
Rather than go completely off the grid — mad respect if you do that, though — keep your phone off or away from you for increments of time. A great way to start incorporating this is to start with your commute. If you’re driving, perfect, you shouldn’t be on your phone. But, if public transportation is your way to the office, it’s hard to avoid instantly opening your phone once you get a seat.
Challenge yourself to bring a book and read, or listen to one of the best business podcasts instead. Keep your phone tucked away at least until you arrive at your desk. If you have to listen to music, go for it, but limit your time to an absolute minimum. Try doing the same for your commute home. Or set your phone in your room after commuting, then go hit the gym or cook dinner before checking your feeds again.
Getting as much work done as you can throughout the week will help you avoid your phone and laptop a little more during the weekend. Create a checklist to go over on Friday and stay longer at work if needed. The more problems you can solve and projects you can finish by the time Friday evening rolls around, the less likely you’ll have to hop online during your free time over the weekend.
What if an email does come through Saturday afternoon? It’s important to remind yourself that you deserve time away from work, too. Burnout and work stress is real, and so is getting hard feelings toward your job. Avoid it by taking as much of a break as you can. Monday will give you plenty of time to catch up.
While I firmly believe in waiting an hour after you wake up to check your email, it’s pretty unrealistic — most of the people who suggest this don’t have an urgent need to check anyways. The key in preventing those notifications from running your life is to set aside time for it, and be strict with yourself.
If you check email at eight in the morning, don’t check it again until you’re at work. On weekends, strive to check only twice per day. Sticking to this type of routine will help keep your mind at peace and is a good way of knowing how to disconnect. If you have to start checking it five times a day and lowering that to two, so be it. Set goals and stick to them. It’s only going to benefit you by allowing more time for people and activities you actually enjoy.
Figuring out a routine of how to disconnect for you personally isn’t easy. You might get frustrated or annoyed with how often you’re on your phone. Or, you may be annoyed at the stress that bubbles up when you’re off electronics and social media. Remember to take it slow. Regardless of what an article, career coach, counselor, manager or friend says, it’s nearly impossible to cut it all out immediately.
Start slow by beginning to cap your time, and don’t feel defeated if you go over that time limit or if you slip and check your emails. We’ve been stuck in a digital world with this tech for so long that the least we can do is be patient with ourselves while we learn how to disconnect in a way that works with our lifestyle.
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