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Digital detoxes are often designed around being reclusive, but the real challenge comes when you’re done unplugging. You need new habits to prevent another inevitable digital overload. While senior executives are challenged by managing their email inboxes, junior executives rely on technology for social outlets, making the switch from personal and professional difficult to manage.
The following tips for incremental detox — as you work and live your life — help with both scenarios.
Use a real alarm clock
When you don’t have a phone next to your bed, your morning changes. You’re getting up without sifting through emails or social media and letting 100 notifications enter your mind. Would you let 100 people walk into your bedroom first thing in the morning? Just as it takes time for our bodies to wake up and feel ready to interact with people, it takes time for our minds, too.
Try a consumption schedule
In the morning, look at news — scroll Twitter, catch up on headlines. At lunch, respond to short emails. In the evening, take more time with longer emails. Do the same thing at the same time every day. For urgent matters, make a phone call. Or try this: Set aside 5 to 10 minutes of every hour on the hour for responding to emails. Your team will get in the habit of expecting email during those times. Most of us are leading reactive lives. We need to take a proactive approach to our technology.
Keep a phone diary of your usage
Even if it takes 50 entries a day: Clock in and out for three days and monitor what you’re doing (on paper, preferably) to see what your focus is on various platforms. Awareness leads to changes. Then, for three days after that, limit usage so that you’re using your phone only in certain rooms of your house or at certain hours of the day. Or use it only when walking (but not in the street!), so there’s movement. People say, “I can’t get away from my phone because that’s where my job is,” but what they’re actually doing is wasting 30 minutes on Instagram.
Declutter your feed
What’s on your news feed feeds your mind. I went from following 3,000 people on Instagram to 700 and it changed my life. If you’re scrolling through your feeds and don’t see a purpose in an account you’re following, click unfollow. The most expensive real estate isn’t in London or Dubai, it’s in your mind. Don’t let people rent it for free.
Take a breather
We get out of sync: Your mind may be thinking of the 100 emails you need to respond to while your body is saying, “I just want to relax.” I suggest to executives that when they open or send an email, they simply breathe in for three seconds and breathe out for three seconds to bring the mind and body back in sync. For executives who receive hundreds or thousands of emails daily, I recommend taking three minutes every hour wherever you are to just pay attention to your breathing.
Make no-tech zones
Keep phones out of the kitchen and bedroom. It’s more fun to eat and sleep with other people than to sleep and eat with your phone. Take the phone to another room, lock it up or leave it in your car if you’re having difficulty. It creates self-discipline. Weekends are a great time to plan such digital breaks as outdoor activities.
When the phone’s off
If you’re not looking at social media, find an alternative place for your eyes to rest. It might be books, art or the outdoors, or even the kitchen. Start exploring what you’re attracted to. The opposite of distraction is focus, and once you put the phone down, other things become clearer.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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