Wake up — check your phone. Eat breakfast — scroll the ‘gram. Commute to work — check news feeds. Sit at a desk all day – alternate between work screens and distracting Facebook memes. Go to the gym — workout via tv screens. Commute home — scroll the ‘gram. Eat dinner — watch Netflix. Chill out — check emails. Get into bed — one last scroll of your socials. Lights out. Sound familiar? Then you need a digital detox.
Research is showing we spend on average between 9 – 12 hours a day looking at screens, with that accumulating to up to five years of our life just checking social media.
The level of screen addiction has had such a profound effect on society that certain countries have even implemented safety procedures to reduce traffic-related accidents due to “smartphone zombies”. From text-walking lanes in Belgium and China to ground level, neon strips at pedestrian traffic lights indicating when to cross the roads in Singapore, the world around us is now trying to adapt to our screen usage.
Our digital reliance goes beyond mindless scrolling and procrastinating at work. The motions have now become habitual, automatic behaviour that we don’t even realise we are doing and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
So how do you break the bad habits and kick the addiction to the curb? Well, it’s hard — sorry! Especially as we do need our phones to be connected. But here are eight simple tips you can implement straight away to reduce your screen time and embark on a mini digital detox, without going full cold-turkey.
There is nothing more annoying than finally getting into your flow, only to hear the buzz of your phone. The temptation is real, we know! The simple option to aid your digital detox: Airplane Mode. If you need to stay connected, just switch over to Do Not Disturb and adjust your settings so that you can still accept calls from allowed contacts. That way, in case of emergency, you are in reach.
If you run a business through social media then you may feel the pressure to constantly be checking feeds, liking/commenting, updating posts and staying present in the social sphere. It’s true, engagement is crucial, however instead of wasting hours all day long, set aside specific 10-15 minute blocks, whereby you focus purely on engagement and responding to messages. If you do this once or twice a day, you can achieve solid engagement without getting sucked into the endless social void.
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Feel chained to your inbox? This is a lifesaver. Simply switch your email notifications off. No more annoying pings or lock screen alerts coming your way, instead the only time you will access your emails, is when you choose to. This is a great hack to help with your digital detox and implementing boundaries for your work/life balance.
The same method applies to any of your social media addictions. Without seeing constant streams of push notifications lighting up your screen, your phone feels instantly calmer. We all like getting likes, but honestly, they will still be there whether you get the notification immediately or go back to see it later!
If you work on a desktop or laptop and constantly find yourself toggling between your work and Facebook tabs, it might be time to try out a website browser blocker. These extensions and plug-ins can blacklist your favourite (aka most distracting) sites for a set period so that you can get your sh*t done. The most basic? Simple Blocker. Want to feel productive yet calm? Try Forest: Stay Focused, where you will see a tree grow in the time you avoid the twitch to check for updates. Or, if you need a serious kick up the behind, head to Go F***king Work, where no excuses are valid.
Mindless scrolling or mindful moments? As we now fully embrace the mindful movement many are setting aside time for meditation and mindfulness practices. This digital detox hack is one of the best swaps that allow you to get your headspace fix, without pinching extra time from your schedule. When you find yourself reaching for your phone for yet another mindless scroll, close your eyes and take 10 deep, slow, steady breaths or better yet try going through a short meditation session (this one takes five minutes and it’s great with this zen playlist).
The tech is here to stay, so why not take advantage of it? Download apps that are designed to give you moments of relaxation and increase feelings of wellness, happiness or productivity. With market leader, Headspace having sessions as short as five minutes (the time it takes to check out all your fave instastory’s tbh) and Apple including a breathing function on the iWatch, you can positively use and abuse technology to its full advantage.
When your thumb knows its way to Instagram with your eyes closed, it’s probably time to rearrange your apps so they aren’t so accessible. By moving your top clicked social media apps into folders and away from the home bar, you will reduce the automatic tendency to click on and begin that mindless scroll.
If all else fails, ditch the smartphone and pick up a Nokia 3310!