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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

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity

It’s 6:00 am. You have just woken up and are ready to take a shower. After the showering, it’s time to eat breakfast, catch the news by reading the morning paper, and then start your work.

You are feeling wonderful, relaxed, and happy. You have very high expectations for the day and you want to be as productive as possible.

Fast forward to 2 pm the same day. You are working in a rush and you barely had a chance to take a lunch break.

You start to feel a bit stressed and tired because of the busy schedule. Besides, it seems that you have to go back to certain tasks and fix them, because you didn’t have time to focus on them properly.

The day which started so fine has turned into a stressful one. You just jump from one task to another – as quickly as possible – without doing anything properly.

You wish you’d find a reset button, so that you could start your day from all over – with a different strategy.

What you probably experienced was this: you planned your day the night before and you felt you were on top of your tasks.

However, things started to go wrong when you kept adding tasks after each other to your list and finally your task list was many miles long. Your to do list also contained tasks which were pretty much impossible to get done in one day.

The other point which contributed to your hectic and stressful day was not understanding how much time completing a particular task would take and when to execute the task. If you had this information, it would have been easier to figure out the right timing for executing the task.

Finally, there really wasn’t any flexibility in your plans. You forgot to add a buffer between tasks and understand that certain tasks are much larger than what they seem outside.

But you know what – these reasons alone weren’t the main reason for your stress and busyness …

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What People Are Wrong About a To-Do List

Do you really know what you are supposed to do?

How much time did you actually spent on planning your day – was it just 5 minutes while the television set was distracting you?

If so, then this was probably the biggest reason why your day became so stressful.

When you plan your days, you should truly understand the tasks you are about to do – and what it takes to accomplish them. This is necessary especially with important tasks, because you are able to make progress with the tasks that matter the most.

The lack of time spent on planning will also be shown as too many big tasks stuffed to your daily list. If you haven’t broken down the task into smaller pieces, it’s probable that you are not going to get them done during the day. This in turn makes you to beat yourself for not completing your task list.

Finally, don’t treat creating a task list just like some secondary thing that you try to do as quickly as possible. In fact, when you pay more attention to your next day’s task list, the more likely is the list going to be realistic and less stressful for you.

Components of a Good To-Do List

When I talk about a good task list, I consider these characteristics to be part of it:

Balanced

The task list contains both important and less important tasks. Let’s face it: although we all would like to work on just important tasks ( e.g. goal related ones), we have to take care of the less important tasks as well (like running errands, taking care of your household or other everyday stuff).

Enough Flexibility

What happens when you have planned a task, but you are unable to take care of it? Do you have a plan B in place? If not, try to figure out the alternative action you can take in these scenarios.

Time for Transitions

Understand that transition times also eat your time. Make sure that when you plan your task list, this time is also included in your plans. Adding some extra buffer between tasks will make your list more flexible and realistic.

Not Too Many Tasks for One Day

Giving you an exact figure on how many tasks you should have on your daily list is difficult. It depends on your situation. But I’m willing to say that anything between 5-10 tasks should be enough for a day.

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Understand that certain tasks are very quick to take care of, so it’s easier to include more tasks on certain days. Just make sure that there are also important tasks on the list so that you are able to move on with your bigger projects.

Shield of Protection

Build a shield of protection around your task list, so that as few tasks as possible can land to your list and that the number of items on your list won’t increase during the day.

In the first case, try to eliminate the sources for your tasks. This is done by reducing your commitments and limiting the projects you have. The fact is that the more commitments (or projects) you have, the more likely they are going to end up as tasks for your daily list.

In the second case, make your list a closed one. I learned this concept by reading Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management by Mark Forster. In order to create a closed task list, all you have to do is to draw a line under the last task on the list. When you have done this, you are not allowed to add any new tasks to your list during the day. This ensures that the number of tasks is actually decreasing as the day goes on.

How to Create a To-Do List That Boosts Your Productivity

To make a list that you can actually accomplish the next day, do the following:

1. Eliminate the Tasks

Go through your commitments and decide if you really need each one.

For instance, I was an active member of our local computer club in my hometown, but then I realized that I don’t have enough time for that activity anymore. Although I’m still a member of the club, I don’t participate in its activities anymore. This has eliminated the tasks related to that commitment.

2. Take Your Time to Plan the List

Don’t rush creating your task list – spend some time on the planning phase. If required, “isolate yourself” for the planning part by going to a separate room in your home (or even going outside your home). This way, you can actually think the tasks thorough before you enter them onto your list.

Try to spend at least 15 minutes with your list when you plan it.

3. Move Important Tasks to the Beginning

When planning your day, make sure that the important tasks are at the beginning of your list. This ensures that you get those tasks done as quickly as possible.

For instance, as a blogger, I make sure I have the content creation tasks at the beginning of my list. As soon as I wake up, I attack those tasks immediately and they get done before I go to work.

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4. Track the Recurring Tasks

You might have recurring tasks on your list, but do you know how much time they take to accomplish?

If you don’t, make sure you do some time tracking to figure it out. This helps you to plan your day better, as you know how much time a task takes and if there is a certain time slot in your daily schedule, when the task could be executed.

5. Batch Similar Tasks

Look at your list and find out if there are similar tasks that you can batch-process. This way, you can get certain tasks off your list faster and easier.

6. Define the Tasks in More Detail

Don’t just include a task like “build a website” on your list; make sure you have broken the task to smaller pieces. The smaller the tasks are, the easier it is to take accomplish them.

7. Do Some Prep Work in Advance

Make sure that you prepare for certain tasks in advance.

For instance, I write the outlines for my guests post on Sundays, so that it’s easier (and faster) for me to start writing the actual posts when I wake up. With a little bit of prep work, I speed things up and make sure tasks get done when the right day comes.

8. Automate the Maintenance

Naturally, you could use a pen and paper approach to your task list, but try to take advantage of technology too. In fact, try to find a tool that takes care of the maintenance of your task list for you. My preferred tool is Nozbe, but there are other task management applications that you can try too.

9. Know Your Task Types and Your Schedule

Finally, when you plan your day, ask yourself these questions:

What else do I have on the schedule?

This question refers to your personal schedule. For instance, if you are traveling, make sure that your list reflects to this fact. Don’t try to “overstuff” your list with too many tasks, since it’s more likely you get only a fraction of them done.

Is the task a gatekeeper?

This question asks if the task is blocking other tasks to be executed.

Every once in a while, we might have a task, which has to be taken care of first. After you have done that, only then you can take care of the sequential tasks.

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When you focus on creating your task list in a focused manner, you’ll be able to spot the gatekeepers easily.

Do I have icebergs on my list?

This question asks if your task is actually much bigger than what it seems. Sometimes when you start working on a task, you’ll soon realize that it’s much bigger than what you initially thought (compare them to icebergs, where only the tip of the iceberg is above the sea level, but the majority of the ice is below the water).

Once again, when you focus enough on your task list during the creation phase, it’s easier to spot these “icebergs” and split the tasks into smaller, much more manageable chunks.

Is the task distraction-proof?

This final question asks if the task is distraction-proof. Not all the tasks are created equal: some tolerate more distraction, while others require your full attention.

For instance, I can check my Twitter stream or do simple blog maintenance even when I’m around my family. These tasks are distraction-proof and I can take care of them – even if I don’t have my full attention on them.

The Bottom Line

If you still have a hard time of achieving your daily tasks, make sure that you analyze the reasons why this happened. If anything, do not beat yourself up for not finishing your task list.

No one is perfect and we can learn from our mistakes.

It takes a bit practice to create a “smiling” task list. However, once you learn to put all the pieces together, things are going to look much better!

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Featured photo credit: Jacqueline Kelly via unsplash.com

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