If you’ve been away somewhere nice and warm, chances are you used your digital devices much less than usual. New impressions and pricey roaming help limit counting your likes. Holidays is the main reason why August is the month when most people take digital detox. However, now that the summer is almost over and we are back to our lives and pouring rain, how can we make sure that our digital detox results stick?
Here are three lessons I learnt on how to manage my digital routine while integrating back into work after holidays.
Lesson one: Plan your day and have a clear goal of what you want to accomplish daily and hourly.
My first few days of holidays have been somewhat a disaster. I started vacations doing the opposite of what most people do: I decided to give myself rest from all those digital detox rules that I follow daily in London and do whatever I want/feel like. Having a whole day of freedom turned out to be a big illusion. The less structured my holiday day was, the more hours I was spending online browsing mindlessly through websites, and not doing anything else. The worst thing is that at the end of each day I was feeling as tired as during a normal working week. So after a few days I stopped this experiment and signed up to participate in a highly structured dance festival not far from where I was. Its packed schedule kept me so busy and emotionally fulfilled that by the end of each day I didn’t feel any urge to check my emails, even if I had time.
The moral is, if you’re back from holidays and find that you are connected most of the time, it means you have too much free unstructured time. Occupy it with something, especially if it’s your day off. We tend to have better rest when we have things to do, not when we have nothing to do at all. When I have a few practical tasks during a free day, I tend to be more productive online. It also helps to take a break every hour and ask myself: Is this how I want to spend the next hour, or do I want to change something about it?
Lesson two: A very long to-do list will lead you to digital procrastination
Structuring your day doesn’t mean that you need to control many things at once. It’s more about having a sense of direction and allocating time slots to specific tasks. Your to-do list needs to be really short and manageable, otherwise your natural body defence will be to procrastinate – and what’s better procrastination than the internet?
After I came back from my holidays, I moved out from the old flat and made repairs in the new one, hosted my family, and then friends, tried to follow up on all emails that were left unanswered for the last two weeks and commitments I’ve made before going on holidays, and made very long to-do lists for the week, month and year ahead etc. Very soon, I found myself saying I need to work and instead, mindlessly staring at the computer screen. This was a natural way of mind to say – stop, you’re trying to handle too much at once. So I had to drastically cut my to-do list to only a few things I could manage daily, go back to my very rigid routine and say – no matter what, 9am to 12pm I am working, and then I can spend a few hours with my family. My life suddenly became much more manageable, and I felt less of an urge to spend hours reading blogs.
When we get tired, our self-discipline muscle stops working and we tend to switch to autopilot. In most cases, our autopilot is to go digital, because we have done it so many times that the neurons in our brain have formed strong neural chains that make us repeat this habit even if we don’t want to. Having a daily routine that’s not negotiable and putting a few simple things on the to-do list daily helps a lot. And take it easy for the first few days.
Lesson three: Feed your brain with new impressions
The internet is addictive because it gives your brain a very easy dose of dopamine, the hormone of pleasure that is produced when we explore and find new exciting things. When we are on holiday, we tend to do things in a different way (i.e. lead a new lifestyle, explore a new location, meet new people), and so our brain gets a lot of dopamine. However, when we are back to our daily routine, our brain can experience a lack of stimulation. So it inevitably it will try to get its dopamine dose in the easiest way possible, i.e. going online!
The moral of the story is, try to schedule a few interesting things you’ll be looking forward to during your first few weeks of being back from your holiday. Go on a date, take up a new hobby, or at least explore a new route to work! If you don’t have much time to do new stuff, do an old thing in a new way. I found it very refreshing working from different places in my flat. Doing new things or old things in a new way keeps your brain more activated, and as a result, it feels less tempted to search for extra stimulation online.
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Dr Anastasia Dedyukhina is a keynote speaker, author of Homo Distractus, professional coach and a pioneer of the Consciously Digital™ concept.