Clear your head with the Digital Detox

I’ve just returned from my bi-monthly Digital Detox. I started this a few years ago, and it’s an excellent strategy to manage stress and gain perspective on whatever is keeping you busy. 
Here’s the Digital Detox Diet.

The Digital Detox Diet

I do an annual, bi-monthly and weekend detox. I get it right around 80% of the time, but the result is always the same. Suddenly the flurry of emails, calls, tweets, social media and everything else that seems mission critical in the moment fades into background noise. I zoom out again and can distinguish urgent from important, should from could, career from job, impact and purpose from running fast and hard.

The Annual Detox

This one is tough. My wife and I go away two weeks around November. It’s usually to a quiet place where there’s trees, cows, countryside and ocean. The exact opposite of my technology fuelled city life. The rules are simple: The computers, iPads, etc. stay at home. Phones are too useful not to bring for Google Maps and Photos, but that’s it. The phone stays in the car for the first two days, and I use it for getting places and taking photos. The first day feels like what it is — addiction withdrawal! Every few seconds I check my pocket for the reassuring connection to the world. I can’t focus on anything. I WANT NEWS. VIDEOS. TWEETS. NOW!!! But I resist. I keep busy with offline stuff. It’s weird. Day two is easier. By Day three it’s over. I don’t care about my phone, I start sleeping better, have plenty of drinks, food, naps, swims, etc. I read a lot (Kindle with wifi off). Life is getting clearer. And this continues for two weeks.

At the end of two weeks, I have clarity, focus, perspective. I’m thinking things through instead of reacting to inbound triggers.

The bi-monthly Detox

Every 6 to 8 weeks I go away for a long weekend where possible and do a mini-version of this. The phone goes off for 2 or 3 days.

The Weekend Detox

I do the Digital Detox on Saturday. No phone for the day. Your mind will thank you.

The internet won’t grind to a halt without you

This is surprising. What do you mean Twitter hasn’t missed me, Facebook still works without me and business continues without my magnificent self, directing everything??? Quite shocking. And liberating.

Always On is OK

My life is always on, and I’m ok with that. It’s what I do and love, but planned perspective taking is essential. The work has to be done and the world works this way, so resistance is futile. But surrendering yourself to the barrage of interruptions and attention seekers is not. Zoom out now and then and take a fresh view. You’ll be more efficient and productive.

Making it easier

  • Start with the Saturday Digital Detox. You can make it through one day.
  • For the Bi-monthly and two-week Detox, delete your work email app, home email app, all calendars, all social media apps and switch off non-critical notifications. This removes the temptation, and it’s more painful to install the apps on holiday than not to. When you get back home, it’s 20 minutes to add the apps back, and you’re good to go. A small sacrifice for a few days of clarity and peace.
  • Think carefully about the excuses you’ll find to keep the phone on. Start with the worst possible scenario you can imagine. It’s very likely not to happen. Here are some excuses my crack-brain tried on me:

Q: What if someone dies? 
A: They’ll find a way to contact you if it’s that urgent. Worst case, check your phone every couple of days.
Q: What if work needs me? 
A: Really? Can the company continue without your amazing self? Either poor leadership or bad delegation on your part. Fix that before you leave.
Q: What if… mmm. 
A: Not many more scenarios after these that are life-or-death. Of course, you may have a valid reason, but challenge the reality of any of these happening. Highly unlikely at best.
Plan something fun for the first two days to distract yourself. You won’t care about your phone by Day 3.

The Challenge

Try the Digital Detox this coming Saturday. Clarity of thought and perspective is just around the corner. Have fun!