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.