Digital Detox — How It Helped In Living An Enriched and Healthy Life, One Single Day At A Time.
When I started to use these simple strategies, I finally took back to the little things that mattered-And these little things led to big improvements, both personally and professionally.
It’s there: in your pocket. On the desk. In the cup holder of the car.
You want to use it. Just grab it and alleviate the boredom or discomfort. Might as well check the headlines instead of struggling to type words on a blank screen. And why stay in this tense argument with your spouse when you can see what’s new on Instagram? “Hey, sorry son, I can’t play dinosaurs right now — I have to answer this email.”
That’s what our phones have become. An instant escape, and a constant burden. I remember when I got my first Samsung handset. It was an exciting and surprisingly moving moment. My first mobile phone. Not because of the technology, but because of what it meant: My parents thought I was important enough to need one of these, solely for communication. A few years later I upgraded to a Nokia basic touch and finally to an iPhone 6S Plus; the excitement that came with was uncontainable, as it enabled me to explore an entire plethora of new cool features, that never for once existed in an Symbian/Android mobile.
Over the years, though, that pride has worn off. My phone, once a source of liberation — I could check my email without having to go home, which meant I could spend more time out doing things — eventually became a weight that tied me down. Instead of making me better, it started preventing me from being focused, dedicated and having creative time. Instead of helping me have fun, it was making me miserable.
So recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use it less. About how to get the benefits from the technology without all the downsides.
It was difficult at first, even the thought of putting the phone away. Then I decided, it was high time I take a step, for my well being. I started to follow simple routines for small durations of time & gradually began increasing the time I spent away from my phone.
Some of them are easy. Others are tougher, and you’ll probably think some of them are nuts. Maybe they are. But they work.
So here goes —
Turn off all alerts
My lock screen is almost always blank. It’s not because nothing is happening or nobody needs me. It’s because I went into the general settings on my phone and turned off all alerts by default, with the exception of texts and alarms for literal emergencies. Even once I unlock my phone, I don’t see any red circles showing me how many messages or notifications I have. I don’t need Facebook to tell me I need to check Facebook. I definitely don’t allow anything to make noise or buzz me. (I turned off vibrate for texts as well.) No alerts means fewer things to check and a lot less FOMO.
Decide how you’re going to be reachable
One of the best decisions I made a few years ago was to limit how people can get in touch with me. Some people have email, text, phone calls, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, Twitter and Instagram DMs, LinkedIn messages, and God knows what else. No wonder they’re overwhelmed.
I basically limit myself to three: You can text/Whatsapp, email, or call me. Email is day-to-day work stuff, texts/Whatsapp are for friends and family, and when my phone rings, it’s usually something important from either one of those groups. I no longer feel the need to check 20 different apps and inboxes 50 times a day, because I know everything that actually matters will come in through one of those three channels.
Sleep with your phone in the other room
Go back to using old-school alarm clocks — not because you want to make sure you’re on time for work, but so you don’t have an excuse to sleep with your phone on the nightstand. If you have an alarm that’s not your clock app, your phone can go in the other room, and if your phone is in the other room, you can’t check it at night.
This means you won’t know if you get a text message or an email. It means you won’t be tempted to scroll through social. It means you’ll have to lie there with your own thoughts, read a book, or maybe even go to sleep at a reasonable time. Even if there be a situation, that you definitely have to keep you phone around anticipating any emergency -professional or otherwise, keep it a distance in the same room as you — where you can hear your phone ring, but not reach out to randomly browse social media and news.
Start phone-free mornings
I’d been sleeping with it in the room for years, I usually grabbed it first thing in the morning.
The challenge came with a powerful incentive — I could wake up peacefully, have a look at my surroundings, take in the first rays of Sun, clear my head much better and get down to basic excercise. But the real draw was that it meant I could focus on being present with myself in my first waking moments. Soon, I started challenging myself to stretch 10 minutes into 30, then 45, then an hour. Now some mornings, if I am reading/writing/running errands, I might not touch my phone until lunch. On those days, I’m happier and more productive.
Get a smartwatch
I’m not a big fan of the “solve a device problem with another device” logic, but in this case, it’s really worked. Having a watch that connects to my phone — but that I don’t use as a phone — has substantially reduced the amount of time I spend on my phone, and helped me curb the desire to always have it near me. The only alerts I allow on my watch are calendar reminders and phone calls, which keeps me at least somewhat tethered to my work life. I can reject calls from my wrist, too, without having to go into my pocket.
Get rid of social apps
I am old enough to remember the days when you checked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on your computer instead of carrying the apps around on your body 24 hours a day. That world was slightly less awful than the one we’re in today. Twitter used to be fun. Facebook used to have photos of people’s lunches. Instagram is crowded plus there’s false news everywhere. Now they’re both filled with constant arguing, publicity of useless issues and other petty things.
The decision to remove social media from my phone radically reduced the role these apps played in my life.
Don’t use your phone for entertainment at all
Why do cellphone companies strike deals with Netflix? Why did Airtel/Jio launch Airtel/JioTV? Because they want to turn your phone into your television. They want you to mainline data and entertainment. This is good for them, but not good for you. When I’m on a plane, I don’t pull up my phone and watch movies; I read books. When I want to watch TV, I have to sit down on the couch and use a remote.
While we’re on the subject, delete your games, too. Really smart psychologists, designers, and marketers have figured out how to make them as addictive and immersive as possible, and cutting them out is one easy way to use your phone less. My phone is for communication, not entertainment, and maintaining this distinction helps subordinate its role in my life.
Don’t sync your computer and phone
If your phone is a distraction machine, your computer should be a tool for focus — and the more you keep them separate, the better. The last thing I want is my computer to start ringing. What the hell do I need texts on my desktop for? The more you can minimize interruptions, the better.
Use child protection settings
You know you can block certain sites on your phone, right? So if you deleted Facebook but still check it in your browser, you can use parental controls to protect yourself from yourself. There are a number of sites I wanted to stop checking, so I made it harder for me to do so.
Go on a purge
Delete contacts you don’t use. Delete apps you don’t need. Clear your cookies. Do you need the Myntra app? Do you actually need both Ola and Uber? Simplify. Your phone wants to remember everything to make your experience using it more seamless. Don’t let it.
“Do Not Disturb” is your friend
Use this feature all the time. Whenever you sit down to a meeting. Whenever you got into a movie. Whenever you’re doing something nice with your family. Put up a wall that prevents people, emails, and texts from getting through. Protect your space. Be in the moment.
Whenever possible, replace your phone with another solution
If you read news on your phone, try subscribing to a newspaper or a magazine. If you want a restaurant recommendation, ask a friend. If you use a countdown app with your kids, get a kitchen timer. Yes, the phone can be easier for all these things, but what we don’t factor in is the mindless scrolling that we slip into once the task at hand is done. The less you use your phone to deal with trivial matters or minor conveniences, the less dependent you’ll be on it.
Okay, but what do you use your phone for, then? Well, lots of helpful things. It’s a calculator. It lets me look up information I need on the go. I can take pictures. I can listen to music and podcasts. I get directions. I can call an Uber to pick me up anywhere in the world. I manage my schedule. I write notes to myself. I record my runs and steps per day. I FaceTime my parents/sibling when I’m away.
My life is better because of the ability to do these things. It’s the stuff that prevents me from doing them that I want to get rid of.
Because it’s my life and it’s ticking away every second. I want to be there for it, not staring at a screen.