10 ways to make unplugging part of your daily routine
For most of us, our eyes stay glued to screens from the second we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. Whether it’s email, messaging, entertainment, work, or reading, the majority of our day is lived through the digital universe. For those in the tech industry, disconnecting from the pixellated world might initially elicit anxiety and severe “Fear of Missing Out” (fun fact: FOMO is actually being considered a real psychological condition). But peeling away from the fast-moving realm of technology is necessary for stress recovery, more effective focus, better sleep, and breaking the addiction.
Yet even if you want to take a digital detox, how do you work it into your daily schedule? For busy tech entrepreneurs and startupers, mere minutes away from a cell phone can translate to missing an important sales call or responding to an email. But even the busiest, most successful folks feel that the reliance on technology every minute of the day is unhealthy, and breaking the cycle can start with just tweaks in your daily routine.
Here are ideas on how to unplug, tune out and disconnect every day:
- Buy an alarm clock. Yes, an actual alarm clock – you can find a cheap one for just a few bucks. Why? When your phone alarm wakes you up in the morning and you notice that you have 30 emails, 5 text messages, and a missed call, it’s hard not to spend the first 10 minutes of your day using your phone. An alarm clock will wake you up without the immediate stress of phone notifications.
- Get your phone away from the bed. Moving your phone more than an arm’s length from your bed will reduce all those late-night, can’t-sleep moments of desperation. Not only will you use your phone less when waking up in the middle of the night – you’ll also have less reason to check it first thing in the morning. Five points for moving it away from your bed, twenty for moving it out of the room. If someone really needs you in the middle of the night, you can set your ringer on high.
- Download an app that tracks your phone use. Apps like Moment will notice every time you turn on your phone and are actively using it. It’s pretty jarring when you realize that you’ve been using your phone for more than 3 hours every day, and that can motivate you to pick it up less when checking for phantom vibrations. You can also set up screen-free times for yourself, friends or family.
- Make mealtime mean no screen time. It’s easy to grab your laptop during lunch to read that article you’ve had pocketed for a week, or grab your phone during dinner to catch up on social media. Instead, make your meals special, whether you’re dining alone or with company. Strictly enforce a “no-screen” rule, and keep your devices turned off while you enjoy your food. Ultimately, meals will become more special, and you’ll actually be able to unwind, instead of finding yourself drifting to work emails or pitch decks.
- Cut out screens and technology the hour before bedtime. It’s hard, especially because Netflix in bed is incredibly appealing. But not only does the blue light from your laptop, phone or tablet suppress your melatonin production – it will help your mental wellness, too. Spend an hour reading, writing in a journal, cooking, baking, doing yoga – anything away from a screen. You’ll be surprised how much more relaxed you’ll feel.
- Spend a weekend off the grid. Travel somewhere remote, and leave your technology behind. Whether it’s a trip to the woods or a weekend getaway to a spa with some friends, create an away message for incoming emails, put a note on social media, and commit to two full days without devices.
- Delete your social media apps. Do you really need to check Instagram six times a day? Or go on Twitter while waiting for your friend? Most people have a nervous tic to check their phones in awkward situations or when there’s nothing else going on. By using your phone purely for messaging, email, phone calls, and other basic functionalities, you’ll cut down on the amount of times you pick up your phone for no reason at all.
- Go on a digital diet. Log out of all programs and count the number of times you log into email, social media, or open up a web browser window. Create limitations on how many times you allow yourself to open up your laptop, turn on your phone, or scroll through pages.
- Challenge your friends. Using an app like Momentum, log your time in front of screens and create incentive between your friends or coworkers to avoid technology. Perhaps the challenge is to spend less than two hours on a screen after work, including TV, laptops for Netflix and movies, iPads for reading articles, etc. Test your limits and see if your friends are willing to do the same. Ditching technology after work will be a lot easier if your friends are involved.
- Make the big switch. Get rid of your smartphone and switch to a primitive cell phone. It’s a big commitment and may not even be possible depending on your profession, but if you can make it work, your screen time will drastically decrease, and so will your urgency and sense of reliance on technology.