Whenever somebody asks me how I am these days, my default answer always seems to be “busy”. “We’re all good, just busy”. “Busy but happy”. But truth be told, being so busy all of the time doesn’t fill me with joy. And I don’t wear it as a badge of honor.
Don’t get me wrong – I DO enjoy being productive. I always have goals (big and small) that I’m working towards. And I’m by no means a lazy person – quite the opposite in fact. But I also feel that I spend lot of time rushing about without actually achieving very much.
Some of it certainly goes with the territory. Having two young children and trying to balance the demands of work and home life means that it’s almost impossible not to be busy. I mean, that mountain of laundry isn’t going to wash itself, right?!
But lately, I’ve also be wondering if there are ways in which I’m contributing to my own busy-ness. Am I putting more on my plate than I need to? Are there things I could do differently that would free up more time or help me use my time more efficiently?
That’s why I’ve decided to make it my mission this year to start living more simply. To cut down on the superfluous and focus on what’s really important.
I plan on applying this thinking to a few different areas of my life, but for now I’m beginning here: can I simplify how I spend my time online?
Like many of us, I’m guilty of wasting too much time with aimless scrolling. And there are times when I get annoyed at myself for burying my head in my phone when I could be doing something better. Particularly when I’m around my children. So it’s time for a change.
My approach to a digital detox is not only about limiting the amount of time I spend on my devices. It’s also about making the time that I do use them more productive and less stressful. After all the whole point of all this technology is to make our lives easier, right?
I think a good place to start is simply by being more mindful how we really use our devices and then make a plan for the things we’d like to do differently. Read on for my top tips.
How to do a Digital Detox
#1 Turn down the noise
Do you ever feel as though you’re being bombarded by emails and notifications? That’s exactly how I’ve felt lately and it’s been driving me mad!
The holiday season was particularly bad – being pelted by incessant sale alerts and offers too good to pass up. My solution? Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe.
As much as it pained me to do it – because I hate to miss a good sale – it has significantly reduced the clutter in my inbox. And not only that, but it’s going a long way to reducing the temptation to buy a load of stuff that I really don’t need.
Another good idea is to remove all non-essential distractions from your phone. That means turning off all alerts, beeps and buzzers with the exception of calls and texts (no social media notifications!).
Since doing this, I’ve found that I pick up my phone A LOT less often. Success!
#2 Clean up those apps
According to the latest stats on mobile app usage from buildfire, there are between 60 and 90 apps installed on the average smartphone. But most of us are only using around 30. That means that we have a lot of annoying clutter on our phones, needlessly taking up memory.
I recently deleted about 20 apps from my phone that were sitting there unused and freed up a few gigs of storage space.
As for the remaining apps, I’ve arranged most of them into folders and my phone looks A LOT less busy. It’s also easier for me to find what I’m looking for.
I couldn’t help but show off my beautifully organized phone to my husband – who thinks I’m a bit (a lot?!) crazy – but to me there’s something immensely satisfying about it. Ahhhh.
You can categorize your apps however you like, but to give you an idea, I have folders for finance, photo editing, social media, shopping, travel, school and blog related apps.
#3 Organize your photos
For many of us, too much visual clutter in our homes can create stress and make it difficult to relax or focus on a task.
I find that this unsettling feeling can extend to the digital space too. And what takes up more space on my devices than anything else? Photos.
I wrote an entire blog post with all my best tips for organizing your digital photos, which you can read here. But the gist is make a plan and approach it step by step, otherwise the whole thing can just feel too overwhelming.
One of the main upsides to getting your digital photos in order is simply that it makes it much easier to find a particular picture. And once you can do that you’re much more likely to actually use them!
#4 Take a device break
It’s a well known fact at this point that, while it may feel good in the moment, spending too much time on our devices (particularly on social media) can ultimately have a negative impact on our emotional wellbeing.
Check out this article from UC Berkley’s Greater Good Magazine which outlines the various reasons that taking a break from our screens can be beneficial.
The good news is that there are many ways to make an easier habit of going device free.
For a long time it’s been a rule in our house that phones go away at mealtimes. Likewise, we don’t have them on the table when we’re eating out at restaurants. I’m a stickler for good manners and I like to give any company I’m with my full attention – no phubbing allowed!
Other tactics include designated tech-free hours or tech-free zones in the house. Or simply setting your phone down in a designated spot rather than carrying it with you.
#5 Clean up your social media
Even though I honestly don’t spend a huge amount amount of time on social media, there are still occasions that the FOMO gets to me and I feel the need to unplug and step away.
I decided to take a short break from Instagram while we were visiting family in England last month. Well that week turned into a month and then two. I don’t plan on making it a permanent break, but I have to say that it felt good to reconnect with reality for a while!
Once I got out of the habit of checking my feed, it became fairly easy. But if willpower is proving to be an issue, you can temporarily delete or move your social media apps so that the temptation is no longer right in front of you.
I’ve also heard of people designating set times during the day for checking social media in order to reduce the amount of time they spend scrolling.
One last thing: if being on those apps is stressing you out then you may also want to be more proactive about the type of content you’re consuming. While I don’t advocate existing in a bubble where everyone shares your exact opinions, I do believe that we should ultimately feel good about who we connect with on social media.
That means that if there are certain people or organizations you follow who only serve to grind your gears then don’t be afraid to mute or unfollow them.
Have you ever considered a digital detox? I’d love to hear your thoughts!