The first intake has finished their first month, and we are opening for the second one! First participants came from 5 continents. Do you want to work with a group of diverse people on helping others become more consciously digital? Then check out our train the trainers program - early bird price is valid until Feb 15th.
Are you overwhelmed with searching for original presents? We’ve prepared a list of 10 presents that you can give you colleagues, loved ones or even to yourself to be a bit more digitally conscious in 2019!
Ramesh Mourthy worked for more than 15 years in software industry in the US and the UK, until he realized he was not happy with what he was doing and his life was feeling "too mechanical". He left his job of an identity architect in a big gaming company to start his own sustainable farming business in India. In the new episode of Consciously Digital podcast, Anastasia talks to Ramesh about slowing down in the increasingly fast world, his search for balance and why technology makes us rush.
Think of making a first step in finding a more balanced life? Check our events all around Europe.
The idea of digital minimalism is not to reduce how much time you spend online, but rather to focus on what really matters, and ignore all the rest (inevitably, this will reduce less useful time spent online). Holiday season might be just the best time to do that, as you have far less social pressure to catch up with all.
So here are my five ways to be a digital minimalist:
1. Don’t carry devices with you at all times. Stop making yourself constantly available. But do make sure people know in advance when you are available (relationship management).
Why: as one famous entrepreneur says, mobile phones are a way for other people to impose their agenda on you. And now in addition to other people, it’s bots and internet companies that do the same, and this will only increase. Either you are in charge of your time, or your device is. If you have it around with you at all times, it’s likely the second option.
2. Accept the idea that someone will be unhappy and you may lose some opportunities… but what you gain instead, is an increased focused and more energy in your brain for a few things that matter.
A client, a busy business woman, finally allowed to convince her to unplug for 48 hours, and was relieved to discover that the business kept running as it should, the team was able to cope with problems on its own. Now she is determined to make it a regular practice.
Why: our attention is a limited resource. If we are paying attention to multiple things, we are taking away attention from what is truly important. We have to start making choices.
3. Before you look at your devices in the morning, write down on a piece of paper 2-3 things that will make a true difference if you do them. Stick the note to your monitor. Now switch your computer and start by focusing on what will make the most difference, not by checking everything else.
Why: decision-making requires lots of attention, and self-control consumes lots of brain energy. When we are distracted and/or presented with exciting opportunities internet offers us all the time, we cannot take good decisions, less so control ourselves all the time.
4. Review, how many social media platforms you use
Only keep those you truly enjoy using, or that you need for work. To determine it, try not logging into one for one week. Did work or relationships suffer? If nothing changed, you can probably easily live without it. Or log into it a couple of times per month.
Why: Just managing all of them requires lots of attention to you. Every notification you receive schedules a little time in your brain to act upon it (check, reply, like etc). It might be small, but they accumulate quickly.
5. Don’t open multiple tabs at once
One task, 1-2 tabs max. When done, take a break and switch to a different task.
Why: I wrote multiple times that humans are not good at multitasking (proven by experiments in Stanford and other places). When we do that, we lose up to 40% of our productive time.
Bonus point: Revise all your paid online subscriptions
It’s tiring, but find a couple of hours to make a list of all online services you use (Amazon, eBay, Netflix, Coursera etc) and revise if you have any ongoing subscriptions that you don’t use. One client discovered he could save up to 300 pounds per month when he finally got down to cancel all subscriptions he was not using.
PS If you want more tips, check out Homo Distractus book, or How to be a digital minimalist webinar
Antonio will spend this St Valentine’s as millions of other UK singles: swiping profiles on a dating app. He has been looking for a serious relationship for over a year now, when he moved to London. Antonio is good looking, hard-working, with pleasant manners and interesting to talk to, and yet got no luck.
Most matches he gets don’t reply to his messages at all, or their conversations die after a few phrase exchanges. Others just keep talking, and ignore his suggestions to meet up in person. To meet just with one girl, Antonio has to send over 100 messages, and do even more swipes. With his busy lifestyle, he finds online dating incredibly time and energy consuming.
Antonio is certainly not the only one feeling disappointed about the amount of time online dating takes from his life. Whether you are looking for love or sex, the return on time invested is quite modest, to say the list. Tinder users swipe through more than 1 billion profiles, but only make 12 million matches per day. I.e. only 1.2% of all swipes end up in matches. You’d have a much bigger chance of success to find a match of you said hi to 100 random people in a pub.
An average Tinder user spends up to 90 minutes a day reviewing their matches. However, only one in 500 swipes leads to a phone number being exchanged, according to Justin McLeod, CEO of dating app Hinge. We have more choice of partners than ever, and yet we end up lonelier than ever before. Instead of humans, it’s our phones we share our most intimate experiences with.
The three whys
One reason is too much choice. In an experiment by Sheen Iyengar, people who were offered too many varieties jams to choose from, preferred not to make any choice and walked away with no purchase. Those who had fewer jams to choose from, were more likely to make a purchase. Similarly, too much online choice leads to the analysis paralysis. Instead of talking to one person, we keeping swiping for more.
Another reason of why we end up spending so much time on dating with limited results is the very design of the dating app. Tinder and co are in the business of keeping you online, and so use various tricks to maximize your time spend on the app. For example, most apps are designed to keep you swiping, not messaging to people (you need to make fewer actions). You have very little reason to talk to one particular person, and not keep swiping. What if the next one is even more amazing than this one?
Most dating apps use the effect of “variable reward”. By endlessly showing you new matches, they make your brain release dopamine, the neurohormone of pleasure and anticipation of the reward.
Apps make it really easy to remove a contact, too. Just click a button, and there’s no person. So we end up objectifying people, and don’t care much about establishing the contact with current matches – they are all equal in our eyes. Researchers found that only 7% of male matches on Tinder would send a message, and only 21% of female ones (the study did not specify sexual orientation).
A vicious circle
Rejection hurts. A few men I interviewed for my book wondered, if there was something wrong with what’s written in the profiles, or with what they look like, that they didn’t get messages. (There was nothing wrong with any of them). Quite a few complained their self-esteem was going down, as a result of using an app, and thinking about removing it.
Another way to cope with this frustration for men is to start swiping even more women right to increase their chances for a response (there is even a program that does it automatically for you). On the contrary, women get even pickier as to whom to swipe or respond. So the vicious circle continues and the real winner in this race for love is the dating app.
What to do
Does this mean you need to give up online dating if you actually want to meet someone? Not necessarily. I’m sure you know as I do quite a few success stories. However, you may want to ask yourself about the return on the time invested in the app, and how many people you could have met in that time if you chose a different way.
If you still have hopes in online dating, being aware of how technology affects your behaviour and setting up yourself rules will help. You may choose to try talking to everyone you match with, get to meet them possibly soon, not spend more than 10 minutes a day or leave the app if you have no result in 1 month.
As to Antonio, he is still online, but now plans to ask his friends to introduce him to a nice girl, in an old-fashioned way. I’ve got his contacts in case you want an intro.
I’ve written a book. It took me a year and a half, countless tea cups, and a couple of pair of trousers that worn off because of long sitting, but is was finally there. Now the question was: how do I let people know about it?
The tricky part was that Homo Distractus (this is what the book was called) was about unplugging. It explained how we have all unnecessarily became obsessed with checking our gadgets and advocated for keeping our devices under control. I also had a zero marketing budget.
I am a former digital marketer and I know a lot about selling products online. But wouldn’t it be weird to launch my book crowdfunding campaign on unplugging by posting about it on Facebook? In Homo Distractus, I oppose the pressure that creative people have to be ‘always on’ and maintain a constant presence on social media. But I could I do differently with my own book?
I wanted to prove that ‘online’ is not the only way to attract attention. So I had to look for alternative ways.
Do what you can do best
The first, most obvious one, was doing more live talks on the topic. I love public speaking and am reasonably good at it (I did a TEDx talk). So I scheduled as many talks as I could fit in 5 weeks of the campaign. It was the first time I decided to charge for them, explaining all funds will go to support my book. Surprisingly, all my talks sold out, and quite a few people attending the talks ordered the book.
What I learned: 1. Focus on what you do best, and rely on your partners to do the rest (in this case, online promotion). 2. There’s already lots of free stuff out there. Start charging, it creates value in the eyes of attendees.
A website that forces you to unplug
The second way to promote the book offline came out of a pure chance. I came across an article about a guy who created a website that would only show its content if you disable internet. I wrote him on Twitter, asking whether he’d be interested in collaborating. I didn’t expect any answer, but really liked the concept.
To my surprise, Chris Bolin (this was his name) was fast to reply, and he liked the idea… and so in a few days we’ve put up homodistractus.com, the first website that forces you to unplug. We wanted to re-create the experience of being focused and attentive even when you are connected. So the website is designed the way that it only shows you content if you disable your wifi. It explains, how ‘always on’ makes us distracted and stupid. When you reconnect again, it redirects you to the crowdfunding page. We’ve had quite a few backers coming from this website.
What I’ve learned: 1. Always take a chance, even if you think it’s minimal. 2. Rather than avoiding something, think how you can build on top of it (in my case, how to improve online experience, not get rid of it).
Making a fool out of myself
Towards the end of the campaign, donations started slowing down (which usually happens), so I needed to find a way to boost them. I ordered stickers that said ‘Your time is limited’ and ‘This device is just a tool’ that you could put on your devices to remind yourself to browse mindfully. They also included links to homodistractus.com.
Then I and my friend borrowed colour pens and paper from her 5-year old daughter (thank you, Anna and Cecilia!) and spent the whole morning drawing a poster. One side of it said ‘1/3 of us would rather give up sex than a smartphone’ (quote from a BCG study), and the other ‘Do you manage your device, or does it manage you?’
Using girl’s umbrella as a holder, I went with this amateur into the ‘digital heart’ of London and spend my lunch wandering around Old Street and giving out ‘mindful’ stickers. While I’ve attracted a few sceptical looks, overall people have been really friendly and we got a few backers. However, the biggest effect was on my existing social media following: probably people were so impressed by how I made a fool out of myself that it became our biggest donation day throughout the campaign.
What I’ve learned: It’s about a balance. Online blends nicely with offline. People like to have offline experiences, but getting them to talk about this online amplifies your reach.
As of writing this blog post, we’re 94% financed, and still have 3 days to go. To get your copy of Homo Distractus or digital detox cards, please, check our Indiegogo campaign.
A parent tried our mini digital detox: “It has improved my time at home and some of my workflow habits”
Mum-blogger Paola tried our digital detox cards for one week, and wrote about her experience with it. We’re publishing a short version, and the full one can be found on her blog.
“I am a mother to two children aged 2 and 4. I live in Finland, and here many children have a smartphone by school age. I’ve now been Facebook-free for over three years and spent around six months smartphone-free last year before joining a new workplace where I could not live without. I wondered, how a mini detox will affect my work as an IT professional? How about my family time? Will it be liberating as when I gave up my smartphone?”
Usually I spend the evening working or blogging at my laptop and interrupt my flow several times by checking social media on my phone. When I’m too tired, I turn on the TV and watch some Netflix show or Youtube videos.
Beside giving up that, I also decided to do something really special for my challenge first day. After my kids’ bedtime I went out to a pub with my brother, something I hadn’t done in ages. On my way back, I completely turned off the phone and kept it that way until morning. When I got home, my first instinct was to check my social media, but I’m glad I resisted the temptation. The world definitely went on without me checking on Instagram.
This task was easy for me, as I disabled most notifications on my phone long ago. However, it was refreshing to disable even text notifications for a whole day! I went one step further and kept my work internal chat closed most of the times. I was the one deciding when it was time to open it and see if anyone needed my help. That helped a lot with my concentration and I could check a few things off my backlog. At home, I always keep my phone silent as I find notifications are distracting for my kids as well. A text message ping can disrupt nice playing and they are immediately dragged towards my phone.
This was a nightmare for me. I am the queen of browser tabs. You know how bad it is? Generally I have three browsers working, some with multiple windows and each windows fills the maximum number of tabs and counting. Oh, then there are the terminal tabs, where I code. For my job, I need some multiple tabs open, even for working on a single task. However, 90% of my tabs are just to blame on my obsessive multitasking. Some are blog posts or articles I keep open for weeks, before accepting the harsh reality I’ll never actually read them. There’s the ever-notifying internal work chat. When I got the task from Anastasia I did the unthinkable. I dragged my cursor to the small circle on the upper left corner of the screen. It shined red before I clicked… and there, all gone. Starting from zero, here. Since then I’ve made a resolution of closing the internal chat and just opening it regularly to check if I have important messages, without allowing notifications to break my focus. Moreover, I now plan to keep a minimum number of tabs open, to allow me to focus more on one task at a time. I’m really curious to see how this will affect my work in the long run!
For the full week of detox, check out Paola's blog.
To get a set up of 30 digital detox cards for yourself or as a gift for your loved ones, check out our crowdfunding campaign.
“Phone is an enemy of creativity”. Interview with Grammy-winner singer and song writer Corinne Bailey Rae
Creative people appreciate the value of being off the grid. A US rapper Kanye West famously tweeted that he got rid of his smartphone to have “air to create”. British musician Ed Sheeran, according to some critics, has written his “best album ever yet” after taking a full digital detox.
So when representatives of Grammy-award winning British singer and songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae contacted me and said Corinne would like to record a podcast with me for her new album and talk about being in the moment, I instantly knew we’ll have lots to talk about. We talked about the importance of listening to our inner selves, and how gadgets can prevent us from doing this. First Corinne interviewed me for her podcast and later I interviewed her for my book Homo Distractus.
Below is the extract from our conversation for my chapter about creativity and the value of unplugging for Homo Distractus.
Recovering from a loss of my first husband took me away from people and noise of everyday life. As I had lots of time on my own, I realized how many internal resource we have to repair ourselves, how much internal wisdom we have. And so when I started going out of that period, I wanted to keep listening to my inner voice, my intuition, to keep paying attention to people and whatever made me happy.
For me being in the moment is a key. In the creative world the highs are really high, but they can easily be disintegrated if we are not “drinking them” at the time. For example, if after a gig instead of talking to people I need to do something related to business, or post something on social media, I can just feel how this subtle feeling, creative spirit, is disappearing.
It’s so difficult to be in the moment. I remember an episode, when I was really lucky to work with my hero Stevie Wonder, and when being in the same room with him, I had this thought at the back of my mind: “This would make an amazing photo!” This thought was taking me right out of the moment, and I don’t want this to happen.
I once went to see Prince’s concert, and he got lots of people on stage from the public to dance with him. And there was one who spent the whole 10 minutes she was on the stage begging someone from the public to throw her phone to her. She was not in the moment for any single second! Another example, at the inauguration of Obama, when he and Michelle were dancing, all invited guests were filming this dance with cameras. This is ridiculous, this was a national event, of course CNN was covering it, they surely wouldn’t have got better quality on their mobiles than CNN. So what was the point?
This is the event that will never happen again! Every moment is unrepeatable. In pursue of trying to capture something in technology we miss on life itself. I’m keen not to miss on my own life.
I do make rules for myself in terms of how to use technology, but I am also quite disorganized so I like to go with the flow. I do some social media to a small degree, but I am very conscious that for one good Instagram photo you need to take 15 shoots, and it takes you out of the moment. In private life, I always keep my phone on silent, just looking at it once in a while, and sometimes discover that it’s ringing, so then I pick it up and it’s a good coincidence. Of course, if I am shopping with my husband and we go to different parts of the supermarket, I’ll keep it on.
I have a set up for friends that they just can come around to my house without calling me.
For creative work I definitely like to get lost in the moment. There’s no way I could work with my phone near me, checking whether I have a new Instagram like, so lots of time my phone is just not in the same room. I just go to it as if it were an answering machine.
I don’t want to constantly present my life as idealized and don’t feel I have to be an ultraversion of myself. My brand is about a more natural presentation of myself anyways, so I feel a lot less pressure to keep up with the buzz, I guess I am lucky.
For me the main danger is not so much always being on, but constantly getting comments. 50 people may say “you look nice”, but if there is just one odd or negative comment, it will stay with you. It’s no good to hear too many positive things, either, but negative things told directly into your phone are difficult, phone just feels too private to me.
If you are a creative person, you should have time to develop whatever you are working on. I know many committed writers who are not on Twitter for this reason. You think of a funny thing you’d write now, but if you leak it out into the public space too early, it will take away the potency of the idea.
Contemporary artist Tracey Emin says that the phone is an enemy of creativity, and I tend to agree. It creates the interruption you don’t need.
I would rather get out of the studio and see that I have missed 3 calls, rather than ask myself – what was I doing, was I recording something, when I got interrupted? Give up the idea you’re missing out.
Sometimes you will miss out on something, but sometimes you’ll have a massive 3 hour chat with your friend, and if you were to move somewhere just because other friends were there, you would lose this opportunity. Not every choice has to be made. Sometimes you have just to be where you are, giving your attention to this particular person. Otherwise you are never really fully there.
Tech can be massive help to creativity, but you have to choose it. I consciously go online to do some research, but sometimes I notice: I have looked already on this website twice today, there isn’t really anything new here. On my screen I have a reminder “Go outside” popping out, which helps. I also sometimes write down “next time I’ll look at this or that”. I can definitely be really sucked into browsing pages, like staying for hours on Pinterest.
So you have to keep being very aware, and conscious, whether you are you even enjoying your browsing? Am I really wanting to see what I am seeing, or am I doing it out of habit? So when I am thinking that I am not enjoying all these images, I just close it, and go outside.
This interview has been recorded for Anastasia’s new book Homo Distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age. Grab your copy here.
Being “always on” can be overwhelming for your brain and nervous system. These 7 tips will help you “digitally detox” without getting rid of technology altogether.
1.Disable notifications and all sounds on your devices
Why? Notifications remind you to check your device, and the more you receive them, the stronger this habit becomes. Device and app producers know this (there is even a “habit forming” design school!), and so send you as many notifications as they can, no matter how relevant they are, so your behaviour eventually becomes automatic and unconscious.
How it works? By disabling notifications, you start acting consciously, as opposed to allowing your device to decide for you, when to check it.
2.Keep your devices outside of your bedroom and dining table
Why? It will improve your quality of sleep and sexual life, and help you manage your weight.
How it works? Keeping your phone next to your bed puts your brain in the state of alert, as if you left the house door open. Additionally, couples who keep iPads in the bedroom tend to have little to no sex – our brain simply finds the device more pleasurable! So leave your devices to recharge outside of your bedroom.
Similarly, don’t get them out at the dining table: when distracted, you are less likely to pay attention at what you are eating, and remember it. So you end up overeating both at the current and the next meal and gain weight you could’ve easily avoided by not staring at your screen during mealtime.
3.Use blocking apps
Why? If you ever tried to focus on something for 20 minutes while online, you know how hard it is. Simply relying on your willpower to stay focused is not an option, as your brain has already been wired through long-time use of devices to be distracted.
How it works? An app (Moment, Quality Time, Freedom, Antisocial, FocusON) or a browser extension (RescueTime, Stayfocusd, LeechBlock) allows you to block access to all or some websites for a certain time. I personally enjoy Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook that selectively blocks your newsfeed but leaves access to messenger, so you can still talk to friends.
4.Stop multitasking and put your device out of sight
Why? We can’t multitask well, and by switching between different windows or devices you are teaching your brain to be more distracted. The mere presence of your smartphone, even when it’s off or in your bag, can make you distracted.
How this works? Focus on doing something in one window, and only then switch to the other. Don’t work on several devices unless you must. To concentrate on one thing, best to keep your phone in a separate room or at least not within your reach. Similarly, when done with work, hide your laptop, so you don’t feel tempted to check it.
5.Declutter your smartphone
Why? Every little decision eats our brain energy and will power. This is why Barack Obama or Mark Zuckerberg prefer to wear the same model of clothes every day, eliminating unnecessary decisions. Too many apps mean too much choice, and additional temptation to check something.
How it works? Get rid of all apps you don’t use or that eat your time (Facebook Messenger is on top of my list). Put others in folders, and move them away from the first page, so you need at least 3 clicks or more to reach them. This way, you have more time to think, if you really need to click before you do, and eliminate unnecessary decisions.
Why? We bought into the idea that we need to react fast when online, although often we don’t. 70% of employees respond to emails straight away, whereas only 30% say their boss or colleagues expect them to.
How it works? By delaying your reaction to a stimuli (i.e. incoming email) you are unlearning to be a Pavlov dog. Next time you feel an urge to react, ask yourself, if this is really urgent, and delay checking or replying for 1, 2, 5 minutes etc.
7. Read a book
Why? Deep reading is the best training for staying focused for a long time, which helps to solve problems and take better decisions. It is also the best way to relax that reduces stress levels by 68%.
How it works? If you haven’t read a print book for a while, start with 2-3 pages a day without any interruptions, and gradually increase the number of pages. Get my new book, Homo Distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age, as a reading manual (it has other useful tips on claiming back your time and attention without giving up your tech).
You may know that I've been working on this book for the last year and a half... and it's nearly ready! We've got a title (thanks to our subscribers for voting!), an amazing book cover, and last week shoot a video for the promo campaign. Homo Distractus will soon be launched, soo excited and can't wait - and if you want to pre-order the book with 10% off, leave your email following the link above! And so far a few sneak pics from working on it :)
Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina is a keynote speaker, author of Homo Distractus, professional coach and a pioneer of the Consciously Digital™ concept.