Well it’s New-Years-Resolution-Time-of-Year again and many of us are gritting our teeth and jotting down the words “Spend less time on social media” and “spend less time on my phone” on our journals or notebooks or, ironically, on our phones.
If you’re like me as soon as you wrote down your digital detox new year’s resolution a notification popped up on your phone… you peeked at it quickly, wrote a quick text, tapped the instagram icon even more quickly and just swiped through a few of your friends’ stories, very, very quickly.
Yeah, reorienting technology to be a servant and not a master is a noble cause but that doesn’t mean it won’t be sabotaged by the ever-present muscle memory that we cultivate around our devices. Here are some simple tricks to help with the divorce process:
No. 1 - Adjust your notifications
This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning over and over. Go through your apps and adjust how and when you receive notifications. Turn off all notifications except for texts, phone calls and maybe reminders.
No. 2 - Flip the cover over
This is my personal far-too-obvious trick. I bought a case with a cover 10 months ago in an effort to embrace a digital detox. But half the time I leave the cover flipped over so that I can see if I get any texts or notifications. The light and colors on our screens attract our eyes and actually boost our dopamine in a tired but persistent sort of way, causing us to feel addicted to the sight of our screens. It may be pretty basic, but for me flipping over the cover makes all the difference.
No. 3 - Turn on the sound
Turn on the sound. Once I’ve tried tip #2 I am constantly worried that I am going to miss an important text or phone call. Turning up the volume for text notifications and calls allows me to walk away from my phone and yet not miss a notification. You would think that a phone constantly making noise would be counter-intuitive to a detox but in my case (pun intended) it works. (Keep in mind tip #1 ensures that you’re only notified about the important stuff anyway.)
No. 4 - Change your lock screen
A fun way to remind yourself about your detox goals is to set a lock screen that reminds you of those goals. Here are a few lock screen designs that I’ve crafted. Feel free to download any that strike your fancy or have fun designing your own.
No. 5 - Delete apps
This might be a more painful tip for some of us but just deleting social media apps, internet browsers or any apps that have “feeds” of sorts (my weakness is real estate apps) can be a huge push in the right direction.
No. 6 - Change the configuration
If you aren’t comfortable deleting apps (which might indicate a problem on a deeper level) consider hiding the apps from yourself so they are not as easy to access.
No. 7 - Give out alternate contact info
Before launching into a serious detox it’s a great idea to make your contacts aware. Maybe announce to your colleagues or business contacts that you’ll be reachable via email instead of text. Share your goals with your friends and family and see if, rather than laughing at you, they support your decision. Offer them a window in which you’re allowing yourself to communicate digitally. Plan a phone call ahead of time and look forward to a meaningful conversation during which you won’t be scrolling through social media.
No. 8 - Jot down notes by hand
A lot of us worry that without our phones or other digital security blankets we will become disorganized and forgetful. How will we find our way home from an unfamiliar location? How will we remember what mom asked us to grab at the grocery store? Studies show that writing something down on paper uses much more brain activity than typing it into a digital device. The very act of writing it down will help you remember the task. Arm yourself with a pen and paper (in your purse, in the glove compartment of your car, at your desk, beside your bed) and jot down by hand all these stray bits of information; believe me, they will stay in your brain much longer than if you type them into your phone.
No. 9 - Pull the plug on input
I could write a whole article on this topic. In today’s world we are getting almost constant input. If we aren’t listening to music we are listening to podcasts and if we’re not listening to podcasts we’re watching YouTube and if we’re not watching YouTube we’re watching TV and those of us that say “I don’t watch TV” have our noses buried in social media. The trouble is, no matter how passively we think we are observing this “input” we are working to take it in. We are listening. We are seeing. We are comprehending. Sometimes we are even actively trying to ignore it. Pulling the plug on input allows us time for genuine rest. Try observing a period of quiet for 30 minutes a day. Listen to the silence. Close your eyes. Don’t be alarmed if it feels unnerving at first. Input is accompanied by a dopamine spike so you may actually feel a withdrawal. I for one love to sit in absolute quiet for about 1.5 minutes and then I catch myself reaching for a magazine or a catalog or anything that reminds me of my beloved input. But the effort that it takes to establish a routine of quiet and rest is extremely worthwhile.
No. 10 - Do something else
If you’re doing something you’re not doing something else. It’s a basic principle. My favorite educational speaker Andrew Pudewa loves to make this point: If you’re inside reading a book you’re not outside riding a bike. If you’re sitting on the couch scrolling instagram you’re not playing the piano. It’s almost too obvious. It’s important that we use this principle to our advantage while detoxing. If we cut out the time that we spend on our phones without replacing it with something else we’re left with a void. Make a plan to do something, anything, else. Start a puzzle on the coffee table. Pull out one of those old piano books that you worked through as a kid. Start a good book or plan out some workouts or hikes for the ensuing days and don’t forget to try tip #9 to reset, calm and quiet your mind.
I hope that some of these tips and tricks are helpful. If you have come up with your tips for digital detoxing please share in the comments below!