Digital detoxing

20 June 2017

You might have noticed that over the course of #blogjune, I haven’t been posting anything over the weekends. This is deliberate. A few years ago, my head was full of ideas & I would spend time in the evenings and at weekends working up ideas. I spent all day at work in front of a computer and a fair amount of my free time in front of a computer. This isn’t really healthy. I wasn’t switching off from work mode at all. My mindset was always revolving around problems and trying to find clever solutions to solving them. This lead to a burden of more and more problems and an impossibility to find solutions and implement.

Now I deliberately switch off. In the evenings, sometimes I might do some tinkering, but mostly if I am on a device, I’m doing something different. At the weekends I might read the news over breakfast, do a sudoku with coffee and really that’s about my limit.

To help switch off here’s some tips I use.

Keep seperate email accounts. On my phone/tablet/computer I have my personal email/calendar configured to use the default mail client. This keeps things consistent across various devices. Any work related email/calendars are configured using the Outlook iOS app. If I go on holidays, I actually delete Outlook from my phone, that way I’m never tempted to just check in and see if everything is OK. I quite like the right to disconnect law that France has introduced.

Notifications. I’m selective on what notifications I receive. On my phone I turn off all email notifications for both work and personal accounts. My personal email is configured to not automatically check for email. I have to make a conscious decision to open mail and connect. I only keep a VIP contact list of family that are allowed to trigger email & messages notifications. I have Twitter notifications, but as I’m not that prolific on twitter, this is manageable. I also disable sounds on many notifications. I would love it if there were time sensitive notifications and I could configure work email with notifications restricted to 9am-5pm on weekdays.

Do not disturb. I configure do not disturb on my devices so from 9pm till 7am nothing gets through. My phone gets put into airplane mode each night when I go to sleep, no wi-fi, no 4G.

FOMO. Once you go 48 hours without checking everything religiously you realise that if there’s anything really important you’ll end up hearing about it. The rest, you don’t miss it. Whatever you do, don’t check your phone as the first thing you do when you wake up. Wait a little while. Enjoy other more substantive things. Which leads to…

Carefully select your online communities. There are online networks that I very rarely log into anymore – particularly Facebook. I’ve never had a big network there & for me it’s never proven to be beneficial. Every time I have to go there I’m reminded by just how vacant so much of the content there is. For others I know, Facebook is just what they need to be part of their network. Don’t be afraid to be selective in where you decide to be active. What works for me and what my family/friends/community use is going to be different to yours. You don’t have to be part of everything.

The downsides

I haven’t had too many downsides to this. It has probably contributed to the current state of my site. My photo cataloguing is a bit behind where it should be. Neither of these are really major issues. Since I implemented this approach, there’s probably a handful of situations that have occurred where it would have been nice to have a notification, but in reality it’s never proven to be a critical issue.

The positives

I feel so much healthier. I’m not as tired and agitated. I’m focusing on a range of different things throughout the day. I’m focusing on others around me rather than being focused on a machine. Physically I’m much better off. I haven’t got that permanent laptop/tablet hunch that is so easy to succumb to. My eyes are focusing on things further than 50cm away. Shoulder, back and leg aches and pains have reduced.

I’m probably still finding that balance between maintaining my online life vs offline life. I still feel part of my online community and still feel as through I contribute, just maybe not as much as I once did.

Find your balance. It’s working for me.

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2 Responses to “Digital detoxing”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Ooh I love this post – thanks Paul- several tips I can try.
    I have been really good over the last 3 years at switching off my work focus on weekends and evenings – so I have the separate email accounts and separate mobiles.
    I’m less good about switching off my screen time. I just had a long weekend without wifi and it was really good for me (took print books and pre downloaded nice range of podcasts). I might just try this out some more.

  2. Ruth Says:

    I should add that I knew I was on my screens too much when my beautiful dog Monty started resolutely pushing my iPad off our shared couch. I now know to spend time off screen patting him regularly.