With all our digital devices and constant connectivity, we’re inundated with information every day: email, messages, meetings on Zoom or Teams, social media notifications and scary news about the end of the world.
We haven’t evolved to deal with this amount of information. And that’s why taking a break from it all is increasingly popular.
Here’s my three tips for overcoming the overwhelm in the form of a digital detox, and a challenge at the end!
Read on, or watch the 🎥 on YouTube!
1. Actively Deactivate 👩💻
Have you ever picked up your phone and not known why? Or when you didn’t even want to?
Have you ever felt a surge of panic when the phone’s not where you expected it to be? 😧
Smartphones are the greatest source of all the information that’s flooding into our lives every day.
And we’re addicted to them without realising.
With all this external input, our own thoughts barely get a chance to surface.
In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport describes this as solitude deprivation:
A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.
The solution’s easy – stop looking at the phone! 📵
But because of our addiction to smartphones, this is easier said than done.
But how often do you pick up your phone and do nothing of any value, just losing time to social media, online shopping for things you can’t afford, or constant doom-scrolling.
We need to make a conscious effort to take a break.
For example, I’ve started leaving my phone at home when walking the dog 🐶. Now, instead of glancing at my phone just because it’s in my pocket, my mind has chance to wander.
I can look at the sky or the birds, think about what’s happening in life, and what I’ll be doing for the rest of the day.
I also leave my phone in the kitchen when I go to bed. The next morning, I check my reminders list for the day, but I don’t look at any messages, social media or news. If something really important has happened, I’m going to learn about it somehow.
Avoiding other people’s thoughts for the first hour of the day can have a significant positive impact, helping us to feel calm, reflect on our own thoughts and feelings, and boost creativity.
This brings me to point two.
2. Jottings 📓
These days, if we have an idea or need to remember something, we automatically reach for the phone.
This is quick and convenient and feels somehow safer, because the note’s probably in the cloud somewhere.
We can even tell the phone what it is we want to be reminded about, and when, and it’ll sort it all out for us. Talk about convenient!
But we’ve become so reliant on this technology that we tend to forget such notes exist.
An effective, non-digital alternative is an ordinary paper notebook. Phones and tablets are extremely useful, but are they really more convenient than a simple piece of paper?
A paper notebook will not distract you with notifications or messages. You won’t get frustrated when it autocorrects incorrectly. And there’s a distinct sense of calm when writing in a paper notebook that an electronic device is simply unable to offer.
If you’re not convinced, get yourself a cheap notebook, one that fits in your pocket, and a pen or pencil. Then, the next time you want to remember something or have an idea, use the notebook instead of the phone.
Actually forming the letters of the words with your hand rather than rubbing your finger across a piece of glass will embed the idea into your mind. I bet you won’t even forget what you’ve written.
3. Pulp faction 📚
In recent years most of my reading was on my Kindle or iPad. E-books are really convenient!
If I wanted to make a note of something while reading, I’d either email myself or copy the text to another app.
But this would drop me out of the flow of reading, and during the process I’d often see a notification of some kind or an email and become distracted.
This made it difficult to maintain my train of thought and slowed down the reading – it took me ages to finish a book! 📆
So now I’ve returned to paper books: the perfect example of something that does one thing well.
Paper books have been educating and entertaining people for hundreds of years, so they must do something right.
Now, I read with a highlighter pen to hand. If I want to make a note, I’ll quickly highlight the text and continue reading. Then, when I’ve finished the book I’ll revisit the bits I’ve highlighted.
If you don’t want to permanently mark your books, just underline the text lightly in pencil, and you can rub this out later.
So now for the challenge!
The Challenge 💪🏾
Try disconnecting for half an hour tomorrow.
Put your phone in a drawer somewhere and go and do something else: prepare and eat a meal, talk to someone, even just watch TV – anything that doesn’t involve the internet.
The point is, to separate yourself from that phone.
Notice how often you think about reaching for the phone during this time – and the difference it makes that you can’t; I’ll bet the positives outweigh the negatives. And I’ll also bet you’ll be surprised by how often you want to reach for the phone.
Gradually increase the amount of time you spend away from your phone each day, and you’ll regain that time for doing more worthwhile, satisfying things! 💃🕺
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