Smartphone detoxing: An antidote to the age of brain drain

In the age of constant connectivity, distraction is at its peak in life and at work.

Our minds need urgent purification to improve focus, replenish attention, and encourage creativity.

The average adult checks their phone 50 to 300 times each day.

And we tap, swipe and click on our devices 2,617 times per day, according to a recent study.

We spend more time online than we do asleep.

Every time you pull out your phone to scan your feeds, your brain is building a habit loop that reinforces itself to encourage the habit.

Notifications prompt task-irrelevant thoughts and disrupt attention performance even if you don’t interact with the device.

The buzzes, beeps, emails, alerts, and notifications never end until you do something about it.

An increasing number of psychologists and doctors are concerned about our relationship with smartphones.

“It’s a spectrum disorder,” says Dr. Anna Lembke, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, who studies addiction. “There are mild, moderate and extreme forms.” And for many people, there’s no problem at all.

According to David Greenfield, a clinical psychiatrist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, smartphones can easily take over your life, because they’re always screaming for attention.

Being constantly plugged in affects our sleep patterns, posture and more in our bodies and minds.

Our lives are becoming more wired all the time, hence the need to take over and control your relationship with mobile devices before they become the only thing you deeply care about at the expense of your relationships.

If you feel your phone is taking over your life, schedule digital detox on your calendar. Start balancing your digital life with real life.

“People are always amazed by how different they feel after not being on their phones and that motivates them to want to keep going,” says Tanya Goodin, author of OFF. Your Digital Detox for a Better Life.

Technology is a function of our choices.

How and what we consume digitally is largely up to us. Plan your relationship with technology, and make the most of it at the right time.

Pause on purpose

Consider a digital detox every now and then.

Digital detox is a nice break from the daily grind of updates, and messages.

“You’re making your time sacred again — reclaiming it,” says Shlain says Tiffany Shlain, a San Francisco Bay Area filmmaker says. “You stop all the noise,” she adds.

Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation.

You need a break from technology to achieve your highest levels of performance at work.

Switching off gives you more clarity for creative work.

With clarity, comes more time to think and generate new and better ideas.

You can start your digital detox by shutting off notifications. Choose to check updates, feeds at a specific time of your choice.

Set a designated time to check in and catch up.

“If you establish a maximum daily time allowance for your devices then you will be more likely to stick to your detox,” suggests Dr. Richard Graham, a Technology Addiction Specialist at Nightingale Hospital.

This works for me, especially when I am working. I cut off all distractions to focus and work better.

“Out of sight, out of mind”.

A digital detox is like breaking bad food habits, except instead of shunning bad food, you shun screens.

A detox allows you to impose a restriction on your technology use.

Unplugging periodically, improve your mental clarity, solidified your attention, and encourages creativity.
While it’s constantly available, you purposefully isolate your interaction by setting a new schedule to control how you use your devices.

“Unplugging offers a chance to create “real” connections instead, often figured sentimentally as face-to-face conversations, moments with children or experiences in nature,” writes Megan Ward of The Wall Street Journal.

Make time to contemplate on important issues in your life.

Remember your priorities

Technology is meant to improve how we work and make life easier.

But smartphones, in particular, are making us less focused.

Instead of working on our priorities, we urgently respond to other people’s priorities — our inboxes are full of them.

Email addiction is a time-wasting epidemic in the digital age.

You probably receive dozens or hundreds of emails every day. But you don’t have to respond to each one of them as and when they hit your inbox.

Jocelyn K. Glei, the author of Unsubscribe, says that while checking emails throughout the day may make you feel productive, the opposite is true.

Schedule time to check and respond to your emails.

Use the 2-minutes rule when you make time for emails; if it takes less than two minutes, respond instead of marking it as “unread”.

It’s easy to forget your own priorities when you spend your day responding to others’ needs.

Don’t allow other people’s agenda rule your work week.

In 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, Peter Bregman writes, “To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.”

Be proactive, not reactive!

“Reactive” means, you don’t have the initiative.

You let the events set the agenda. You are practically checking things off others’ lists.

“Proactive” on the other hand is associated with control.

You are in charge.

You plan and take the initiative in your direction. It’s a way of dealing with things, that you can develop and strengthen.

When you are proactive, you react ahead of time, hence saving you time.

Final thoughts

It is time for a digital detox.

Starting today, make a deliberate choice to unplug.

Remember, detoxing is a habit. It takes time to build new habits. Don’t aim for a radical change.

Plan to unplug, and increase the times you disconnect every week.

Digital detoxing is like exercising an unfamiliar muscle.

You need to start small and build up to bigger and bolder moves as your strength and confidence grows.

These are quick steps to getting your digital detox started immediately.

  1. Turn off your notifications when you start deep work
  2. Resist the urge to check your email when you are in proactive mode.
  3. Check email “on purpose” at your time.
  4. Use your breaks think, meditate, go for a walk or read a physical book.
  5. Keep your phone out of sight for meetings, get-togethers, conversations, and meals involving other people.
  6. Instead of grasping your gadget at every opportunity, replace your screen time with other habits, like starting a conversation, or reading a newspaper.
  7. Tidy up your smartphone (once a month go through your phone and delete any unused app). It’s an essential step to using it more efficiently.

Have you done a digital detox? Share your experiences with readers.

This article first appeared on Medium.