Digital Detox Guide
If anxiety starts to set in if you’re away from your smartphone for more than a few minutes, you may be suffering from what’s now being called Nomophobia, which stands for No Mobile Phone phobia, a term coined to describe an addiction to smartphone and internet usage. And it can have serious side effects.
A study presented late last year at the Radiological Society of America shows that excessive use of a smartphone and the internet “altered brain chemistry (that) shows lowered levels of attention, focus, and control. Their (the subjects of the study) brains were shown to be much more susceptible to distraction and inattentiveness.”
There is really only one treatment, and that is to disconnect for periods of time, called Digital Detox. The term Digital Detox is defined as “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.”
So how does one successfully disconnect without impacting their career? Here are a number of strategies that you can incorporate into your work and social life to reduce your dependence upon your smartphone and start getting your life back.
The New Digital Work Week
Since the advent of cell phones, many employers and employees have gone to a 24/7 work week, expecting responses to text and email messages even during what should be personal, private times like going out to dinner with friends or a loved one, while out on a relaxing evening walk, or even at a child’s birthday party.
This is a trend that started with highly-driven individuals who really only work and sleep (for better or worse) and became a way to subtly communicate a person’s importance in television programs and motion pictures by showing successful people responding to calls and messages at all times of the day. And everyone followed.
Instead, adapt to the new Digital Work Week, where calls and messages are returned between the start of work and close of business, Monday through Friday, except for true emergencies. You’ll be less distracted around friends and family in your free time and actually, begin to use that time to relax and recharge. Which, in turn, makes you a more effective employee come Monday morning.
Middle of the Night Brainstorms
So what do you do if you wake from a dream in the middle of the night with an idea that will save (or make) your company millions of incremental dollars? Do you send it to your boss immediately, before you forget the details? No, because that will indicate you’re willing to reset your boundaries. Instead, type it up and save it as a draft. You can then send in the morning during your pre-established business hours.
No Cell Phone Restaurants
The trend has already begun so why not get ahead of it? Many restaurants now ban cell phone use at their tables, and for good reason. First, it’s disruptive to those around you and second, you’re not enjoying the dinner the chef went to great lengths to prepare for you. A typical night out can run into a hundred dollars or more so why not enjoy it fully by turning off your phone completely, including messages, beeps, and buzzes, or better yet, just leave it in the car.
Leave Your Smartphone at Your Desk
When you’ve been called into a meeting, there’s a reason: there’s information that someone has determined that it’s important that you know. You may be even be asked at the end of the meeting to provide your input or vote on a decision. But in too many meetings, attendees have their heads down, reading messages, playing games, or even texting each other. There’s no possible way to fully concentrate on both. Again, some companies are already banning smartphones from meetings, so why not get ahead of the curve? And think how impressed your supervisor will be that you’re the only person in the room following the presentation without distraction, asking intelligent questions, and providing contextual feedback while others respond with a blank stare.
Unplug At Your Desk
Set aside some time each day when you switch off your smartphone. If a colleague or customer needs to reach you, they can do so through email or your company’s messaging system, so you won’t be completely out of touch. Instead, it will keep you from peeking at your phone and getting drawn into personal messages, Facebook or Twitter posts, news reports, and other distractions that take away from your concentration on the task in front of you.
Put Your Smartphone on MUTE
MUTE is a free smartphone app that assists you in tracking your screen time, in order to help support you in your efforts to Digitally Detox. Think of it as a Fitbit for your smartphone usage, as you can track your progress until you reach the goal you’ve set for yourself.
Use your Phone’s Do Not Disturb
Most smartphones have a Do Not Disturb feature that’s very handy. You can set it for you “off hours” so that no outside calls can reach you. So what if you have teens or someone else who might need to reach you right away? There’s an option to allow calls through from selected numbers, even when your smartphone is in Do Not Disturb mode.
These are but a few strategies for reducing the time you spend on your smartphone; a simple search on Digital Detox will uncover many more. It’s not important which strategy you select, but rather that you recognize that your smartphone has become your “significant other” and like all couples, recognize that it’s healthy to spend some time apart.