(spoiler: all it takes is a bit of focus and planning)
If you want to avoid packed airports and inflated prices over Christmas, but still have a good rest, you can design your own retreat staying at home. The only investment you’ll need to make is time, because the better you prepare, the more amazing your retreat will be. On the contrary, if you don’t plan your time, most likely your Christmas days will end up being filled by mindless browsing in the internet and social media chats, and you will not feel rested.
So let’s design together your low-budget staycation for this Christmas! Just follow these steps.
1. List what you enjoy and expect from a regular great retreat (time required: 10 minutes)
It can be physical attributes of a place, activities or how the whole experience makes you feel.
For example, here are my thoughts:
2. Decide, what you need to organize (time required: 25 minutes)
Once you have the list above, go one item after the other, and think of what it would take to recreate this atmosphere at home. Draw a table. On the left, write down the item, and on the right, what it means for you on a practical level. For example:
So for each of the things you’ve mention in item 1, write multiple things of what you can do, and what you need to plan to make this happen. If you know that you keep your phone next to your bed as an alarm clock and want to avoid browsing through Instagram first thing in the morning, maybe buy an alarm clock. You get the idea.
Think of what you could do to make this staycation not just a good, but a really great experience for yourself. Now re-read the whole thing. Does it look appealing enough? If the answer is no, review it, and add more fun and pleasurable things. Your retreat should not be yet another to-do thing on your list, but rather a supportive and memorable experience. Make sure that you have structured time, but also some time just to allow yourself to relax and do nothing.
Make sure you dedicate special attention to how you will use technology over this break. What will be a supportive use? What make you tired and needs to be eliminated or reduced? How would you do it without relying on your willpower?
Remember that our brains always default to the least difficult solution, so if you haven’t planned your tech use and activities that you enjoy, you’ll probably end up glued to your phone. No judgement if that’s what you want to rest, but most of us would rather do something else.
3. Convert this table into a to-do list (time required: 15 minutes)
Column on the right from the above is essentially your to-do list for the remaining days before Christmas to get yourself organized. Open your agenda and write down when you’ll do each of the steps. For example, I know that I need to set aside time to plan my activities around Christmas, so I will set up 15 minutes today to think through. If I know that I need to buy some elements for beautiful environment, I will set up 2 hours on Thursday to go to the shop.
4. Print out your schedule for the staycation (time required: 5 minutes)
Once you have your perfect schedule (not to-do list), print it out and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day (next to your bed, by the entrance, in the bathroom, or next to your devices are all good places). You may want to print out several copies. Here is what my holiday schedule looks like.
You may have noted that rather than planning specific activities, I try to use time blocking technique, which gives me enough flexibility to change my plans and not get frustrated if I am a bit late. I also allowed specific time during the day when I will go and check my devices to give me piece of mind during other times.
5. Make a non-negotiable commitment (time required: 5 minutes)
This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of the whole planning experience. The more thoroughly you do it, the better your experience will be.
Look at your plan, and imagine yourself following it every day for whatever period you have designed it. How does it make you feel? (if uncertain, go back to it and redesign it, it must feel really appealing). Allow yourself to feel this excitement. What would it be like to have lived this experience? Now visualise yourself NOT doing this experience. What would this feel like?
Then make a commitment to yourself to stick to it, and agree with yourself for a support system (for example, if you don’t follow what you’ve planned and fall into behaviour you dislike, you’ll have to pay 50 euros/pounds to charity). This way, you are anchoring both positive experience and a possible unpleasant cost of breaking your commitment.
Enjoy your retreat and happy holidays!
PS If you want to treat yourself with a proper retreat, we're organizing a digital detox this year in beautiful Barcelona - check out, when the next one is!
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).
Thanks a lot to everyone who has sent me their questions about my upcoming book. There are actually 100 questions precisely (I take it as a very good sign!), and I am going through each of them and making sure they are addressed in the book.
While I am doing that, I decided to record this video to give you an update about the book, and start answering some of them. Totally inspired, and getting back into writing!
PS You can read the first and second chapters here for free, and if you want to get updates about the book and know when it's published, please leave me your email below the video (if you have already left me your email, no need to duplicate here).
Anastasia Dedyukhina’s new book “Homo distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age” is crowdfunding! To get your copy, support our campaign.
Your ability to concentrate on doing something deeply without any disruption is the key to success. This is not me saying it, but rather the author of the new book Deep Work about Bill Gates, that explains how the world’s richest man managed to start a billion-dollar industry in less than a semester
Choosing to do something without being constantly interrupted – whether it’s by notifications, social media, and other not important online stuff, is not a philosophical concept, but a very pragmatic decision. It allows you to “get valuable things done”.
This Easter, I invite you to remember what’s truly valuable for you (Work project? Family? Volunteering? Nature?), and keep your online distractions for the minimum in order to reconnect with it. For the following four days, I suggest you limit your usage of your devices for 1 hour per day in the evening (if you aren’t ready to let it go altogether), and see how your focus on things that are truly important for you improves.
I personally find it highly valuable to share my thoughts with others, and so this Easter I will be unplugging to work on my new book. What will you unplug for this Easter?
Ready to #UnplugforEaster?
PS When we are all back from holidays, join my free webinar on how to keep productive and healthy in an age of digital distraction on Wednesday the 30th March. Register and spread the word!
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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.