How often do you check your Phone?
Technology, even for writers, is an integral part of our lives, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, as with all good things, to truly reap the benefits you should moderate how and when you use it.
Tech addiction isn’t just a problem for the “selfie generation”; the average smartphone user checks their device 150 times a day.
Wow! That means, if we’re awake for 15 hours, then, on average, we might check our phone ten times an hour.
And it’s the norm to think that multi-tasking means we can get more done in both our work life and private life.
But does it?
Tech Addiction Reduces Productivity
Studies show that doing more than one thing at the same time is actually making us slower and stupider, rather than making us more efficient.
Burying your face in a screen for a large part of your day wreaks havoc on mental and physical health, with studies showing that young adults who overuse technology show similar brain patterns to those addicted to alcohol and cocaine.
Go on a Digital Detox
While going “off the grid” and living totally without technology isn’t a viable option for most of us, we can learn to cut down on our tech habits and still be functioning members of society.
It’s perfectly OK to switch off sometimes without damaging your social life, or reducing your impact at work. Unplugging does not mean disconnecting.
Unplug from technology
We’ve put together 16 easy ways you can detach from your device on a daily basis, leaving you to get the most out of your work and your life.
1. Start your day right
We know that starting our day with a healthy breakfast or a nutrient-packed smoothie is good for us, so why not also nourish your mind first thing in the morning?
Instead of reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up, concentrate on you. Spend some time meditating, or boost your brain with meditation alternatives, before answering a single email. You’ll have a more productive and relaxed day.
2. Go old school
Leave your smartphone behind and go back to the stock standard android of the early 2000’s (Nokia 33500 anyone?) Not only does the battery power far exceed that of any modern smartphone on the market, it also severely limits what you can do while you’re out.
No more emails or checking Facebook on the go. Just essential phone calls and texts. Try it and you might be surprised how much you like it.
3. Do more
If you’re one of those people who spends (dare I say ‘wastes’?!) time surfing the net, then fill your day so that there is no spare time in there.
Run an accountability system or arrange meetings during the day.
And pack your after-work schedule with activities that nourish you so that there is very little time for online activities between work, dinner and sleep.
Even if you just do this a few days a week, it helps detox you from the need to be online constantly.
4. Bring a book. Or write a book?
Checking emails and social media on the train or while waiting in line may seem like the ultimate time management, but all those different images, clips and emails are actually making you unfocused.
Carry a book with you instead, or at least use the Kindle app on your phone and switch of the mobile signal.
Or maybe you can put that time to even better use, switch the phone off altogether and use it to write? An extra hour or two a day could help you get to first draft in just a few months. Will you even remember the time you spent on Facebook then?
5. Download an App
Can you use technology to detach from technology?
It seems counter-intuitive to say the least but, if there’s a market for it, tech companies will deliver.
Detach Apps are popping up all over the place and they work by blocking you out of certain apps (Facebook or email perhaps?), or by turning your smartphone into a ‘dumb’ phone for the time period you specify. (Might help you focus on that writing we were just talking about!)
6. Go on a digital diet
Just like you’d count your calories or activity steps to help you drop a few pounds, why not start counting your technology time?
Take note of how many times a day you check your emails, surf the web, or browse social media, and then try reducing it by 10%, or cutting out one or more of those sessions a day.
7. Take a mini-break
If you’re struggling with a serious technology overdose, then take the tech version of a mini-break and leave your phone at home. I know it might be painful, but the world will not end if you do not post details of your day on Facebook.
And if this is too hard, then take a real mini-break to a location without connection — a health spa, perhaps, or a writer’s retreat?
8. Streamline your work
Before you start to think that we’re all about switching off, then let’s talk about streamlining so that you can make technology work for you.
Have you noticed the explosion of ways that people can get in touch with you? From phone, to text, to Facebook message, Skype, Whatsapp, and more…
It’s a misconception that being uber-connected is the only way to stay ahead of the game in business. In fact, the opposite is true — it’s better to limit your connectivity.
Streamline the places you need to check in when you’re online by requesting certain people only contact you through a particular medium.
For example, clients may have access to your phone number, but general enquiries come by email and then have an assistant who filters them before you even see them.
Turn off messaging on your Facebook page, have ‘do not disturb’ as the default on Skype with a message re-directing them to that general email address. And so on.
And then switch everything else off so you’re not constantly refreshing your apps on the lookout for messages that aren’t coming. Or maybe even uninstall some of those many communication apps…?
9. Get active
If you find that you get into the ‘tech haze’ when you’re on the move because you’ve had your face buried in your device on the way to a meeting, the office (if you have one), the shops, or a friend’s house, then change your mode of transport.
Try something that means you can’t be on the device, or can only be hands-free. Ride a bicycle, or put on some runners and jog to work. Or travel with a friend or colleague. Whatever works to stop you reaching into your pocket and clicking that typepad.
10. Leave work behind
When you leave work, really leave it. Activate the “out of office” on your email, have a separate number and don’t divert calls to your personal phone, and don’t be tempted to check emails (or use an assistant filter them and ask them to only forward ones that are essential for you to see).
Unless you’re the Prime Minister, there unlikely to be anything work-related that can’t wait until tomorrow!
11. Involve your friends
Make yourself accountable to your decision to unplug by telling your friends and family about it. Ask them to call you out if you duck off to write an email or keep your phone on the table during dinner.
Even just knowing they’re watching out for you will help you stay unplug from technology and, if that fails, public shaming should keep your relapses to a minimum.
12. Lock up
Don’t trust yourself to keep your anti-tech word? Then give your phone to your partner to hold onto for an hour or two while you do something else, or give your passwords to your assistant and him or her to lock you out until a designated time.
Or, my favourite, go and work in an environment that doesn’t have wifi (like my favourite cafe) or where you are forced to be quiet (like the local library). Or head off to that spa retreat for some serious relaxation time.
13. Set a strict ‘technology’ bedtime
We’ve known for some time now that the blue light from our screens can really mess up our sleeping patterns, but I bet I’m not the only one who has a last peek at the phone before bed?
Set a bed time for your technology. And experts recommend that this should be around two hours before your actual bedtime to give you enough time to wind down.
You could even do this for the whole family and turn the wifi off at a set time giving yourselves time to talk, play games, read or catch up with Game of Thrones.
And then, easier said than done I know, you have to stick to it!
14. Schedule some ‘free time’
Life isn’t all about restrictions so set some ‘free time’ every day where you can go on any and all your devices to do what you want — play games, chat to friends or upload your pics to Instagram.
And, when that time slot is over, just switch off again.
This gets you into a pattern of using your tech-time more wisely. If you know you only have a limited slot then you’ll prioritise naturally, and you’ll know when enough is enough.
15. Be more ‘in the moment’
One of the biggest costs we pay for our societies’ addiction to constant connection is that we are no longer living in the moment.
But you can buck that trend and still practice functioning in the here, now, and physical.
Enjoy just living in the moment: go for a walk in a suburb, or a location you don’t know — and don’t take your google maps! If you live in a city, go on a random train or tube ride without scheduling the trip on your travel app. Leave a note on the kitchen table instead of texting your partner with your dinner plans.
And for writers (or anyone!), this spontaneous exploration will help spark ideas and boost your creativity.
16. Just Switch Off…
There are a hundred different tricks to get you offline, but when it comes down to it, all you have to do is switch off.
Get into the habit of turning off instead of turning on the screen saver. Don’t race to answer messages or calls — get into the habit of letting them go to voicemail and then check in from time to time.
Build a routine so that you are online for part of the day, and then strictly offline for the rest of the day, enjoying life, or focused on your work, or just relaxing.
Are you ready to unplug?
You probably know, at some level, whether your use of technology is getting out of control and impacting on your quality of life.
Perhaps it’s a moan from a partner, a comment from one of your children, or a look at what someone else is doing when you go out for a meal and realising that’s how you look some of the time. Take note of those signs and act on them before technology takes time and attention away from your work and loved ones.
With 16 ways to take a digital detox, you have no excuse for not trying at least one of these methods.
And, who knows, you might even enjoy being offline!
Do you unplug from technology regularly? Maybe when writing? Or with the children? How do you make it a routine? Let us know on social media.