Get Offline and Free Your Mind
Last weekend I decided it was high time for a digital detox, not just a "pretend not to go on Instagram for an hour and then binge scroll all evening" kinda detox, but more of a "put your phone away, and don't touch it under (almost) any circumstances" kinda detox.
Now let's set this straight, I spend a lot of time on my phone. Like a LOT. I downloaded this app called "Moment" which tracks the amount of time you are on your phone during the day.. and I peaked at 6:30 HOURS. I am not proud...I just didn't realise how much time I actually spent on it.
That's not taking into account time on my computer working, or time watching a movie or series on TV in the evening. So basically pretty much my whole day, is spent on a screen. All day, every day. It's scary!
No wonder I feel anxious, distracted, always feeling like what I do is not good, or just simply not "enough", and no wonder I feel like my brain has hundreds of tabs open at all times.
We all know to some extent how detrimental to your mental health being on your phone/screens all day is, but do we realise how truly addicted we are to it?
I didn't until hour 2 into my so-called digital detox - I found myself reaching for my phone and opening the Instagram app without even thinking. On multiple occasions on that first day, I found my brain was constantly looking for a distraction and my phone was "the solution". I had to actively stop myself from reaching for it.. how bad is that?!
But after 24 hours I felt calmer, after 2 days I just simply forgot to take my phone to places when we left the house and by the end, after 4 days I felt like my anxiety had dropped dramatically, I felt more focused, more productive, I felt present, I felt like I could see and think more clearly, my imagination was going wild, I felt less distracted and forgetful.
Since then I've had to go back to work, obviously! and my work involves screens, a lot of them. I am on the computer doing emails, editing, doing research, writing, I am on social media, posting for clients, creating, running my own channels.. This is what I do and I can't avoid it. But what I can do is optimise my time on screens and maximise my time away from any digital device.
If I can't avoid it, then I need to think outside the box and be realistic. Generally speaking, I have been slowly figuring out ways to be more productive on an everyday basis. Being freelance and working from home I find myself procrastinating a LOT. It's easily done... the sofa looks inviting, there's always something to clean up/wash/tidy, etc...
I will often sit at my computer from 9 AM to 6 PM with no breaks, over that time I am probably fully productive for 3 to 4 hours, maximum! So I am re-organising my working time to be more realistic. I went freelance for a reason.. one of them being that I want to be in charge of my own time and work harder but less.
Here are a few things I'd like to implement in my everyday life :
- Use a real alarm instead of your phone, (I normally use my Fitbit to wake me up) and leave your phone from 9PM until 9AM in a corner out of sight, and out of the bedroom.
- No checking emails or social media for at least the first hour of your day. Take that time to read a book, meditate, write.. but no screens!
- Carve out specific times to check / browse on social media, same with checking emails. You do NOT need to check your emails every hour of the day. Check your emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon, or maybe just once a day is enough.
- No phones allowed when you're eating, practice mindfulness.
- Limit the amount of tabs you have open at the same time. I haven't tried this, but I feel like it would allow me to be more focused on one task and be more efficient. The more efficient and faster you are at doing your work, the more time you can have to be 'off screens'
- As simple as this sounds, simply sit and observe when you're commuting or travelling. Let your mind drift, or read a book, a real book, not one on a screen!
- Turn off push notifications completely. I had them off for Instagram but all other social media was turned on. Now nothing is pushed other than texts. The temptation when things are popping up every other minute is too much.
- Have all your apps in one or two folders maximum on one screen only, so it forces you to have to search for an app, as opposed to mindlessly accessing apps without thinking. Use the 'spotlight' search bar to search for the app you need. This is something I haven't done yet, but I'm intrigued and will report back!
- Have a digital detox day once a week! I want to start doing this, perhaps on a Sunday! We've also started doing phone free evenings, so after dinner, we both put our phones aside for the night, it's a game changer!
- Plan out regular digital detox holidays/weekends. Do it! Enjoy yourself, have fun, leave your phone at home. Those emails can wait!
I am tired of being plugged in at all times! It's exhausting! and the idea that we're all giving our smartphones more attention than we give our partners, children, colleagues, neighbours, pets.. is a terrifying prospect! I want to break this bad habit before I have kids, because the idea of not being present and being distracted all the time is scary to me.
We use it as a way to numb our feelings too. We constantly distract ourselves. We use it to avoid conversations, to avoid thinking about certain things (which is not always a bad thing! sometimes you need to escape, but perhaps do that with a good book, or a walk outside) We don't use our brains enough, we're dependant on these devices, we feel lost without them, I know I do!
Grab life with both hands and live life to the fullest, stop wasting time scrolling away, watching other people live their life! Go out, talk to a friend, have a bath, go for a run, try a new exercise class, talk to your neighbour, watch the world go by, read a good book, write your thoughts down, travel the world, go meet new people... GO LIVE!
I'd love to know what you do to keep your screen time in check? Do you feel like you're overdoing it? Are you craving a break? Try it for a few days, I can't recommend it enough!