Digital Detoxification

One Step at a Time Toward Living Unplugged

Credit: Courtesy

Does the thought of a digital detox — minimizing or even eliminating the digital inputs in your life — seem impossible? If so, then read on, because this article is written for you.

Levi Felix was VP and creative director for an L.A. start-up tech firm. After working 60-plus-hour weeks and being constantly plugged in, he found himself seriously overloaded and burned out. The stress on his mind and body landed him in the hospital with internal bleeding and serious health issues.

He now leads tech-free retreats around the country for groups and companies. Some might consider this extreme, but I beg to differ. Our society is insanely plugged in around the clock, and it’s taking a toll on our bodies, lives, and relationships. 

When was the last time you went to dinner and didn’t check your phone? How about when your partner went to the restroom? I bet you pulled it out to check, am I right? Consider the scary reality that our kids won’t ever know life without this as a societal issue.

My husband and I had a crucial conversation the other night about who’s plugged in more — him or me? As we discussed the why’s behind the need to stay connected, we also realized that there was room for better balance. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about — everything in moderation?

As we head into a new year, maybe it’s time to consider a change. If you’ve ever thought that you might need to unplug a bit more, Felix offers these five things you can do to take your own digital detox:

1. Pre-broadcast Your Detox

The fear of missing something important leads many people to impulsively check their phones and email accounts several times a day. Instead, let other people know through social media, email, phone or an in-person conversation that you will be offline and unavailable even if it’s for a few hours. You can give an alternative form of communication in case of an emergency. 

“This will keep your nerves at ease and ease your temptation to find an excuse to jump online,” says Felix.

2. Buy an Alarm Clock

Many people use an alarm app to wake up. Having your phone by your bed, however, can create an urge to check your messages first thing in the morning. Instead, Felix suggests starting the day on your terms before getting wrapped up in email, Facebook, memes, the news, or other forms of digital communication.

3. Go Device-Free at Meals

More than a third of employees eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis, according to a survey by talent management company Right Management. Felix says meals should be a trigger for unplugging. Jeff Gordinier wrote a wonderful article in the New York Times called “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought” and said, “TRY this: place a forkful of food in your mouth…. Now comes the hard part. Put the fork down.”

Felix advises, “Set mealtimes as an opportunity to connect with your food, the people around you, and yourself.”

4. Disable All Push Notifications

Alerts from Facebook, Twitter, and email interrupt your day and your thought process. Instead, Felix suggests that you choose the time to check your messages and be intentional about it.

“Don’t let the beeps and buzzes of the online world pull you from the moment that you are currently enjoying,” says Felix. “Unless you are responsible for saving lives, you really don’t need to be on-call.”

5. Welcome Quiet Time

With the world at your fingertips, boredom can be a thing of the past. But Felix says unoccupied moments can be magical, and when a lull leads to an urge to check your email or Facebook, resist it.

Think you can do it? Start with just one thing. Stop sleeping with your phone next to your bed or leave it at home when you go out to dinner or only check Facebook on your desktop computer. You decide which makes the most sense for your life. Start with something small and reap the benefits. Here’s to a new year ahead of being more attentive, focused, and plugged into the world around you!

Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at sara@saracaputoconsulting.com.

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