We have a problem and it’s literally in our hands right now. On average, we spend three hours and 15 minutes on our phones every day; We have an unhealthy relationship with our screens and it is affecting our personal and professional lives. When was the last time you struggled to get your partner or colleague’s attention because there was an “urgent text or email”? As we spend more time working from home in this “new normal”, our screen time will only be increasing; not only is that bad for our eyes and our sleep, it also negatively impacts our mental health and productivity. Even Tim Cook, the CEO of smartphone giant, Apple, admits to using his phone too much.
As the pandemic rages on, we witness a 40% increase in usage of WhatsApp and a growth of 70% in Facebook Messenger group video calls. It is clear that the more we withdraw from the real world with social distancing rules, the more we deep-dive into the digital world as we seek social connection from our screens. We cannot stop scrolling through our feeds and we are unable to resist checking the next notification; Our “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) has been taken to an all new level. As a result, our productivity takes a major hit; there is never enough time in a day and we are now more anxious than before we started. Clearly, our digital habits have gotten toxic and the ongoing crisis has only made it worse. It’s time we explore an emerging trend that can be ironic in our digitized world – “Digital Detox”.
What is Digital Detox
“Digital Detox”, a term that has made it to the dictionary, refers to the conscious act of not using any digital devices for a period of time to reduce distractions and achieve greater focus. In an interview with Thrive Global, Selena Gomez shared about her 90-day digital detox from her phone: “I recently took 90 days off. During that time I did not have my cell phone. It was the most refreshing, calming, rejuvenating feeling.”, said the superstar singer and actress.
We can practise digital detox in several ways; Common examples include setting a time period every day where we refrain from using our digital devices as well as the conscious act of engaging more with people and our physical environment. Regular digital detox has numerous health and wellness benefits including the following:
Improved Productivity – The “information fast” will reduce distraction and naturally boost mental clarity and focus for enhanced productivity.
Reduced Stress – Stress levels will also be noticeably improved, without the constant emotional swings from mindlessly consuming social media news feeds.
Better Sleep – It’s scientifically proven that screen time before bed inhibits the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps with relaxation and getting that beauty rest.
Healthier Relationships – Less time with your phone means more time socializing with people physically so put down that phone when having lunch with your colleagues!
4 Ways To Digital Detox During Work
Whether we are working from home or the office, many of us have to stare at screens for most of our work days. It is important to cultivate healthy digital detox habits to allow ourselves to take a much needed mental break from all that screen time. And by mental break, I don’t mean a transition from your laptop screen to scrolling social media feeds on your phone screen! Here are 4 simple ways to digital detox while at work.
Take conscious screen breaks – Set a timer or create certain cues to consciously take a break from staring at the computer screen; have a water bottle on your table that you fill-up regularly to give yourself a chance to walk away from the screen. It’s a good habit to take 15 minutes to digital detox before stepping into a meeting with a renewed focus.
Schedule time for deep work – We are easily distracted as the human brain has limited attention span; the pomodoro technique is a useful time management practice to create time windows for focused work with short breaks in between. By defining tasks and setting fixed times to complete them before taking a break between every task, we are able to maximize the use of our limited attention span, achieve greater focus and thus improve productivity. Mobile apps like MindFi come with a focus timer to help with this purpose.
Individual or team wellbeing activities – By scheduling and taking part in wellbeing activities such as yoga sessions with colleagues, meditation breaks, or even a simple team lunch where everyone focuses on socializing with one another instead of on their phones, we would be able to effectively digital detox from our screens and take a mental breather before going back to work mentally refreshed and focused.
Promote device-free meetings – In today’s workplaces, meetings have become excuses to reply to a backlog of messages on our phones or finish up work on our computers while pretending to participate. Such seemingly innocuous practices make meetings unproductive and are a waste of time; a conscious effort to conduct or partake in meetings device-free would increase focus and productivity during the meeting as well as give us a break from our screens.
4 Ways To Digital Detox Outside of Work
Time outside of work is our time to kick back and relax but our first world definition of relaxation is to stare at even more screens, from our televisions to computer games and social media; ironically we are not giving our minds the much needed break and digital detox. Here are 4 ways to build healthy habits around limiting screen time outside of work.
Turn on “Do Not Disturb” – Many of us are addicted to checking our notifications every other minute and this is keeping us glued to our phones and forgetting the real world and people around us. Disabling notifications is helpful but the simple “Do Not Disturb” function is a useful way to digital detox and temporarily take our attention away from the incessant notifications.
Re-look at your apps – A few apps that we use usually take up way more time than all other apps put together. It’s important that we consistently take a step back and mindfully review the apps we are using, what purpose they are fulfilling and whether we are unhealthily addicted to any app or games. Hiding or deleting certain of these apps could drastically reduce our screen time and possibly improve our overall wellness.
Use screen time managers – You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Most people are shocked when they find out their mobile phone screen times over the course of a day; download a screen time manager and get a reality check for yourself!
Set work and personal time boundaries – The pandemic and work from home arrangements have blurred the time boundaries between work and personal time. It is important for both managers and employees to be mindful of the balance and allow everyone to digitally and mentally detox from work during personal time.
With all the first world problems associated with unhealthy relationships with our screens and an unfortunate pandemic to top things up, it’s imperative that we practise digital distancing in addition to social distancing. Digital detox is a conscious choice and a concerted effort but the benefits can be far-reaching and life-changing. Stop having the “FOMO” and start embracing the “JOMO”, the joy of missing out on all that unnecessary screen time and notifications; your mind will thank you for that!