Do you ever feel like you are on a treadmill going slightly too fast to nowhere in particular? Sometimes all of that running seems productive in the moment – you are moving, after all. But then, when you take a moment to reflect on the bigger picture and how far you have progressed (or not), the reality can be pretty disheartening.
One of the most effective ways to get off of the hamster track to nowhere and reclaim a bit of perspective is to disconnect from technology completely for a period of time. That’s right. Go on a basic screen fast: no TV, no email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no texting. If you need a computer to do your work, you may use it, but turn off the interenet and email. Instead, plug-in to your inner voice. Observe what’s happening around you. Connect and be truly present with your work colleagues, your friends and your family. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes, particularly as it relates to true productivity.
We recommend giving yourself at least one week to detox from the noise and constant distraction caused by the ever present digital domain. Why? Because you need to put enough distance between yourself and your old digital habits in order to really comprehend, on a visceral level, the degree to which you have been distracted.
But how does one go on a screen detox, especially if your work requires you to be connected? It is possible. Follow these steps and enjoy newly found inspiration, innovation and invigoration.
Step 1: Get organized and make a plan
Prepare your environment so that it works for you, not against you as you go through your detox. Put digital devices and remotes away where you cannot see them and won’t be tempted by them. De-clutter your desk and rooms. When clearing clutter follow these organizational tips: Remove everything that does not logically belong in the space. Put that stuff where it belongs. If it doesn’t have a home, create one. If you don’t love it or need it, let it go. Once you have a pristine environment, organize your thoughts. Decide what you want out of your detox. Clarification on the daily activities that truly matter to your work and your life? A fresh appreciation for something/someone? Once you know why you need to disconnect, then make a plan for how, which includes figuring out when. Holidays and vacations present a great opportunity to disconnect. If you need a computer and the Internet to do your work, get a week ahead of any internet-based work so that you can stay offline for the duration of your fast.
Step 2: Set expectations
Don’t just ignore your inbox and avoid the Internet without telling anyone what’s going on. People will worry. Do tell your friends and acquaintances that you won’t be available for the next seven days. Then use your email and phone tools to set up auto-responders. Tell everyone what you’re doing and let them know that if they MUST reach you for an absolutely urgent matter, they will have to call you and talk to you. If you use Outlook, you can filter all your email into various folders and flag those of more importance so that when you do come back online, it will be easier to focus on high-priority items. Most of the other messages will be out-of-date by then and easy to delete.
Step 3: Stop checking! Really
Just don’t do it. Every time you feel the urge to grab your phone, or log-on to your computer, or turn on the television, have an action plan. Instead, engage someone in a conversation or game, walk the dog, share an intimate moment (or more) with your spouse, go on a walk. You might also find that you have time to do things for yourself, like take a bubble bath or curl up with a good book, which you otherwise “wouldn’t have time” for.
Step 4: Make dates to socialize
Fill each day with activities, with an emphasis on “active,” with the people who are most important to you. Do something special with your children. Go on a date with your spouse/partner. Host a fun event with your friends (book club, clothing swap, happy hour). Find a friend who shares an interest and do that thing together (see live music, go to a play, try a new restaurant).
You’ll be surprised at how much extra time there is in the day when you aren’t constantly answering to the beeping of your phone/email or serving as a slave to your favorite TV shows. If you find that you really can NOT unplug, then you might have an addiction. And that’s okay, as long as you realize it and take steps to beat it, because studies show that there is such a thing as too much screen time. It can lead to depression and other behavioral issues.