Have you broke your New Year’s resolutions yet? If you’re like most Americans you probably are already have. Resolutions are easy to create, but hard to keep. For me the hardest resolutions to keep are those based around my digital devices (iPhone, iPad, etc…)
If there is anything I would encourage you to do, it is to spend less time with your digital devices. Wait a minute you, aren’t you the one who tells us that we should be moving our churches to engage people online? How can I do that and spend less time with my iPhone?
That’s a good question. However, I don’t think in order for your church to engage people online you have to be tied to your phone 24/7. In fact, I think the exact opposite. I think the less time you spend on your phone, the better job your church will do engaging people online.
You see, I think for most of us we’ve become so attached to our devices that we’re not taking the time to reflect about what all of this digital stuff means. We’re not spending time in deep thought about what it means to engage people online. Instead, we’re too busy answering email, tweeting, liking on Facebook and taking photos on Instagram.
So today, I want to offer you an alternative. I propose that you take some time to digitally detox. Think of it like cleaning out your refrigerator. Sure it will be painful at first (is that two week old Chinese food on that back shelf?), but there’s a great feeling knowing that all the junk is out of your fridge. So if you can allow yourself to step away from your devices, you can begin to gain back some control and really think about what all this digital stuff means.
Now a digital detox doesn’t mean you need to run away to a log cabin and read Walt Whitman poetry. Instead, it means you need to figure out how to reduce the influence these devices have on you on a daily basis. You may not think your phone has much influence over you, but after a digital detox, you might think differently.
So are you ready to take a break from the noisy digital world? If so, I have four key steps that I believe will begin to help you detox from your devices. I’ll admit some of these steps may be painful, but I think you’ll find them helpful.
1. Determine What You Need to Detox From
Okay, so exactly is a digital detox? Well, it’s different for every person. However, the essential elements are determining what you need to detox from and for how long. For me, it’s my iPhone. Sometimes, I need to spend a weekend away from it to realize what kind of power it can have over me. Other times, it’s my iPad. For you it might be your laptop. The key thing to do is to first identify what you need detox from and determine an appropriate amount of time to be away from it.
2. Slim Down Email Inbox
You want to know causes to me panic more than anything else? Unread emails. The thought that someone is waiting for me respond and I’m holding them up drives me nuts. So obviously, I like to keep my unread email count to either zero or in the single digits.
However, it’s getting harder to determine what emails are important and what emails are just ads. Sure Gmail has a promotions tab that helps filter that stuff out, but you can still get a ton of email that really get in the way of what important (Facebook notifications, anyone?).
Trimming down your email inbox is essential to beginning a digital detox. It helps you clarify what’s important and what junk has seeped into your email inbox. There are two easy steps to trimming down your email inbox. First, start unsubscribing from all those newsletters and offers from online stores. Usually every single one of those emails has a small unsubscribe link in the bottom of the email. Click that, uncheck a few boxes, and soon you’ll be getting less email. (You can also a service like Unroll.me that lets you unsubscribe from unwanted emails from a single list.)
Second, create a private email that you only give out to friends and family. Why create another email? Well, even during a digital detox you’ll still want your family or close friends to get a hold of you. This way the most important people you care about can get in touch with you and you won’t have to login to your work email to get their messages.
3. Quiet Your Digital Devices
There’s nothing quite like having dinner with the family only to hear the buzz of a cell phone. Then of course there’s the awkward moment when you’re not sure if you should check it or not. You feel guilty for checking it and a little anxiety if you don’t check it. (I mean, come on someone from LinkedIn might have just endorsed you!).
If you want dial down the noise from your devices, learn how notifications work. Every phone is slightly different. (Here’s how to change them on the iPhone and Android). Once you’ve figured out how notifications work, turn them off. You’ll find that 99% of the notifications you’ve been receiving aren’t urgent all. They are mostly just adding noise to our life.
If you have an iPhone, you can also put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode. This shuts off all your notifications, phone calls, and text messages. Try it for about an hour; you’ll start to love the silence.
4. Plan for Withdrawals
If you’re serious about going on digital detox, then you need to think ahead about how you’re going to deal with withdrawal. You need to prepare yourself in case you get the urge to check a social network or answer email that’s not urgent.
One way to do this is to prepare alternative activities to take your mind off your digital devices. For me, its reading books (physical books, not eBooks). Reading works for me, because I can immerse myself in a book for hours, before I realize that I haven’t checked my email or tweeted. By the time I realize that, the hours have flown by, and my urge to check my devices is gone.
Another alternative is to create something. One of the side effects of being addicted to our digital devices is that by default we become consumers and not creators. In order to get ourselves out of this mode of consumption we need to begin to create something.
What you should you create? Well that’s up to you. I suggest you start a blog. Go to wordpress.com or an equivalent site to get a free account and start blogging. Don’t worry about who will read it, just start writing. Begin the act of creation. Don’t edit yourself, just create something. After a while, the act of creating will become ingrained in you and consumption will seem less tempting.
As I said earlier, doing a digital detox is not easy. Our devices have become a part of our culture and daily lives. They may not seem like they’re inseparable from us, but try not checking your phone for a few hours and you might agree.
What do you need to detox from? How do you it? Click here to share below.