For many of us, it’s impossible to escape using technology heavily as a part of our daily work. Even as I’m writing and publishing this article, I’m using multiple pieces of technology. The digital world gives us the unprecedented opportunity to share information, keep in touch with friends & family, and contribute our skills to society no matter where on earth we work and live. This same digital world also contributes to anxiety (FOMO), depression, and other disorders. A digital detox is an important practice to create space and time within our lives to de-stress, re-evaluate priorities, and rebuild mental reserves.
Before we get into how to take a digital detox, it’s important to understand why it’s so important. For all the positive impacts that technology has had on society (access to information, better medicine, social innovation, etc.) there are a bucket of negative side-effects that have been well studied. These effects include desensitizing the brain reward system, inducing stress, fracturing attention, and depleting mental reserves. There is however, evidence to suggest that it’s possible to engage in digital detoxes to undo ill-effects created by too much screen time.
If you use computers heavily as a part of your job responsibilities and are feeling stressed, short with friends and family, mentally tired, or less excited about life, continuous use of technology without mental and physical breaks from the screen could be a cause.
While it’s ideal to get away from the screen for an extended period of time, the demands of work and family can limit the amount of time we have to disconnect. That’s why it’s important to remember to work a spectrum of digital detoxes (small, medium, and large) into your life.
Take nights and weekends off. It’s incredibly common (especially in tech) to be expected to respond to emails 24/7. This ‘always on’ way of doing business doesn’t provide any mental space to relax and unwind in the evenings, something that’s incredibly important for recharging creativity and energy for the following work day. Consider asking your colleagues to call with any critical items after hours.
Lunchtime and weekends are times when most information workers have time to themselves away from work. Often, lunchtime can easily become an hour to browse Facebook, and the weekend can quickly turn into a Netflix marathon. Endeavor to split your lunch hour into 30 minutes of walking or socializing, and 30 minutes of personal screen time. Using the same rule for the weekend can be helpful too. Try to take half of each day to enjoy something outdoors or social, and the other half to indulge in technology-related guilty pleasures.
To truly reset, it can take days or even weeks of disconnecting from the digital world. It’s important to take an extended digital detox every quarter that lasts more than a few days. Creating more space in your life away from work and your digital self can inspire new perspectives, increased creativity, better focus, and reconnection with priorities and relationships. Whether it’s a family trip to a national park, or a group trip with other geeks, an extended digital detox is an essential part of reclaiming psychological space to come back to work and relationships at 100%.
How do you detox from your digital life? Let us know in the comments!