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

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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.

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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