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How I Disconnected from the Digital World to Regain Control of My Life

How I Disconnected from the Digital World to Regain Control of My Life

Our smartphones are never far away from our fingertips and in this digital world most of us couldn’t function without them. So how often do you use your phone? How many times during the day do you swipe, use apps, check social media, send messages or even just generally handle your phone?

Well, to really drive home how much we mindlessly touch and use our phones, a recent study[1] has revealed that we do this a whopping 2,617 times a day and that’s just the average – more heavy users can handle their phones up to 5,427 times a day.

How have we become so obsessed with the digital world and is it time to unplug ourselves from the mindlessness it provides us?

Why Is It So Hard To Unplug?

We’re all so dependent on technology that we rarely disconnect. Whether we’re spending hours in front of a computer for work, checking our phones, surfing the internet or watching TV, it’s hard to get away from digital distraction.

You may have attempted to go phone-free or deactivated your Facebook account in hope of a digital detox and we all know it feels good but only for the short-term. Before long we’re itching to see what we’re missing. In other words, we’re addicted. This can manifest in the feelings of withdrawal we get that causes us to dive straight back into the digital world where we feel safe and soothed again.

Many of us feel like our phones are a form of comfort – a lot of our social lives revolve around social media and instant messaging, so without this, we can feel secluded and alone.

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The Benefits of Disconnecting from the Digital World

Are we using technology or is technology using us?

Every happiness guru talks about mindfulness as a core importance in being connected with ourselves and the world around us, but our need for constant connection to technology means we’re depriving ourselves of this fundamental and necessary habit.

Our ability to focus has decreased dramatically and this is apparent in our productivity levels. The benefits of disconnecting can create a positive stance in all areas of our lives – from work and social connections to our own personal goals and dreams. If our productivity levels increase, we feel much more fulfilled, content and happy with our abilities. Life becomes more meaningful and less shallow.

How to Disconnect from Technology and Regain Your Life

If you feel your connection to the digital world has taken over your life, there are steps you can take to help you try to disconnect and allow you to take back some power.

1. Create a Technology-Free Space

Move your laptop into a dedicated room, put your phone charger in there so it can’t be charged next to you. When you allocate a certain place for your gadgets, you will have to physically go there to use them and so the inconvenience will lessen your want to go and check them.

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2. Don’t Sleep with Your Phone Next to You

Our sleep is being severely disrupted due to blue light being transmitted when using our phones or tablets in the dark. Our brains can’t switch off so easily and so it’s hard to relax and drift off. Put your device at the other side of the room so you can’t check it before bed, during the night or first thing when you wake up.

3. Go off the Grid for One Night a Week

Okay, so we rely heavily on being available to be contacted but for one night a week try switching off your phone, computer and tablet. Tell people they won’t be able to contact you via technology unless it’s an emergency. Don’t check social media or your messages, instead try reading an interesting book, experiment in the kitchen or go for walks.

4. Plan More Non-Digital Activities

Make a conscious effort to plan more activities that don’t include technology to keep yourself distracted. Plan a hike, bike ride, have a hot bubble bath, join a club, go to an exercise class, start a new hobby or take a trip to your local library and set yourself a challenge to read a certain number of books a week.

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5. Get Friends to Join You

Persuade a good group of friends to join you in your digital detox. Think of it as a support group – get together and do something that doesn’t involve technology or discuss the benefits you’re all feeling from disconnecting. This will reinforce the positive feelings and progress from going digital-free.

6. Start a Mediation Practice

Mindfulness is probably something you’ve heard a million times but it’s truly important in order to be present in the here and now. Try meditating for just 10 minutes a day and build it up. If you do this first thing in the morning you’ll set your mind up for a good day and you’ll start to see the benefits over time.

7. Be More Aware of Your Surroundings

Continuing the mindfulness theme, try making an effort to be aware of what’s going on around you. That includes sounds, smells, as well as sight. How often do we walk and look at our phones? Put your phone in your pocket and try a bit of mindful walking. Notice how you walk, the feeling, the action, what there is to look at, the sounds you hear – it’s quite shocking how much we don’t pay attention to the wonderful world around us when our nose is planted in our phones.

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8. Log out of Social Media

If deactivating your account is too much then consider logging out of social media every time you use it. It’s all too easy to hit the app and you’re instantly looking at your feed but if you have to type in your username and password every time, it’ll not only make you more aware you’re doing it but you’ll also start to see it as a hassle.

9. Disable Phone Notifications

It’s tempting to check our phones every time we get a notification so try turning them off and dedicate a time later to check up on anything important. This will seriously reduce the amount you needlessly check things that probably aren’t even important.

10. Install Social Media Blocking Apps

If you feel you’re one of the addicts who handles their phone 5,427 times a day then consider installing apps that block you from accessing social media apps. Offtime helps you unplug by blocking all the distracting apps and also creates data on how much you actually use your smartphone. Or if it’s your computer that’s stopping you from being productive, then SelfControl for Mac or ColdTurkey for Windows will really help.

We could all do with a bit of digital downtime, if not for our productivity levels then our sense of mental well-being. Be more mindful of how much you use and rely on technology and find little ways of filtering it out, make it a habit and start creating a happier life.

Reference

More by this author

Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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