Australians are more digitally connected then ever, with the average person spending the equivalent of almost an entire day online every week. So is it time to do a digital detox?
“We live in a notification culture, where we have attention deficiencies and are addicted to the little red notification circles on our media,” says performance coach Vanessa Bennett.
“So much time is wasted letting people know we are constantly plugged in. We want to be the first to respond to an e-mail or a status update,” she says.
Bennett, who founded Inside 80 Performance, believes the answer isn’t necessarily to remove all digital connections, but rather to do a stock take and rethink the way we use technology to live and work more efficiently.
“Denying ourselves the opportunity to be productive just because we’re trying to separate work and life is a bad idea, but ‘disciplining’ our use of digital technologies is great,” she explains. “Discipline is important because it keeps us present.”
Dr John Demartini, a leading expert in human behaviour, believes constant use of our phones and social media accounts can actually lead to feeling disconnected. “Distractions such as smartphones and televisions can prevent us from following – or finding – our calling and making it a priority in our lives.”
He explains that 200 hours spent on digital devices per month- the equivalent of almost six hours a day- could be better spent to meaningfully impact our life. “You could have written half a novel or completed a private pilot’s license- four times!” he says.
Follow these five steps to do a digital cleanse at home:
Step one: Do a shout-out
Going cold turkey and simply switching off every device will likely result in feelings of anxiety as you withdraw from conversations, and confusion from friends and family. Instead, post a simple note on the social media accounts you use most, such as Facebook and Twitter, letting friends know you won’t be online, and when you’ll be back.
This will avoid frustration from friends who are used to receiving instant replies from you and should alleviate some of your anxiety when you decide to switch off.
Step two: Do a social media stock take
“We need to stop being reactive and be conscious of outputting quality, not a speedy string of characters,” says Bennett. She recommends doing a stock take of the social media outlets you use most, and analysing how you use them.
“Grab a notepad and write down each social media site you use in order of frequency,” she says. “Then write down how, and why you use each outlet. Try to assess whether you achieve your goal for each. Ask yourself: ‘can this goal be reached sooner through a more disciplined approach?’”
Dr Demartini says the same applies to watching movies aimlessly or browsing the web without cause. “Whenever you find yourself watching TV, surfing the internet or about to answer the phone, ask yourself: ‘is this the highest priority use of my time I could be doing?’ If so, then continue. If not then get on with what inspires you and what produces the most fulfilment in your life,” he says.
Step three: Switch off notifications
“Technology can help us become incredibly productive but when we are focusing too much on the digital sphere we can get sucked in to click-bait- clicking ‘next’ on YouTube or tiring our thumbs out by endless scrolling,” says Bennett.
Switching off app notifications is an easy way to halt distraction and return the power to the user. Visit ‘Settings’ then ‘Notifications’ and deactivate any apps that trigger a desire to respond.
Bennett believes everyone works to a different natural pace, which should determine how we use notifications. “Slower-paced people can’t regain their focus as quickly and perform really well when they concentrate on one task for longer time frames. They should switch off notifications and access them only between tasks,” she says.
Step four: Make an emergency back-up plan
Make sure you let family and friends know how to reach you in case of an emergency. A good way to do this is to turn your phone on to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode via the Notification centre. This allows calls to be screened without interruption, and lets you set important phone numbers in your phone who can call through.
Step five: Relax
Now that you’ve done a stock take of your social media accounts and switched off all distractions, use this opportunity for valuable ‘me’ time.
“It is wise to stop periodically and become centred, and inwardly ask yourself if you are truly focusing and acting upon on your most meaningful objectives and highest priorities in your personal or professional life,” says Dr Demartini.
Stop, relax and breath in the serenity!
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Sophie is a journalist and communication strategist with over six years experience in print and digital publishing. As the Lifestyle Editor at MyDomaine.com, she creates content across a number of women's interest verticals including home decor, health, career and travel. Follow Sophie on Twitter.