Thoughts & tips on going “gadget-free”

Digital Detox

Last Sunday was National Unplugging Day and I attempted to go gadget-free for a day. Little did I know how challenging it would be!

Why is unplugging a good thing?

First of all, maybe I should explain what unplugging is any why we’ve got a National Day for it. We live in a media-saturated world with an increasing list of technologies and gadgets in our homes, workplaces and even on our bodies (Apple Watch anyone?). All these innovations have led to everything being available much faster. That’s not always a good thing.

In work, we tend to be less productive due to the amount of ways that people can get hold of us there and then. Have you ever had to respond to email, schedule a tweet, and participate in a skype conference with your good-old fashioned telephone ringing all the while? This might sounds far-fetched but it is a stress-laden scenario that is playing itself out in all of our offices, even if you may not be aware that it is happening to you.

The same is true for our private lives. Not only do we spend most of our working day at a screen, we also come home to them in order to relax whether that is in the form of a television, a tablet, a mobile phone, computer console or an e-reader. This raises a number of concerns, with the impact on children in particular highlighted in the media.

Spending more time in front of screens may deteriorate our eyesight, impact on our thought patterns and brain function. It also means that we spend less time outside and being active, since we are usually sitting or lying down to use a screen. Time on a screen means less time spent in direct contact with our loved ones and other human beings, which has an impact on family life and also our daily interactions and moods.

Generally, a digital detox is therefore considered a good thing for us all to do once in a while just to be aware of our digital habits, which is why I attempted it last Sunday.

All in all, I would say that I had medium success giving up my gadgetry but that I could have done a lot better if I had thought about it a little bit more before jumping in head first. But even this is a positive outcome for a day of trying to give up technology!

I’ve channelled my thoughts and Sunday’s experience into some tips. So if you’re thinking about having a digital detox or some gadget-free time, I guarantee you’ll have more success if you follow some of these 5 simple steps! I’ll certainly be following them on my next foray into technological freedom.

  1. Define “Unplugging”

Our reliance on technology pervades our vocabulary – digital detox, unplugging days, and going gadget free could all mean giving up different types of technologies to varying stages.

When you’re planning to do any one of these things, define for yourself what exactly “unplugging” or going “gadget-free” means to you and look at what you want to give up. It could range from giving up devices that use electricity to deciding to not watch television for a day. Think about how long you want to give something up for and how feasible that would be for your lifestyle. You might decide to give something up for a day, a week, a month. You could make a comprehensive detox simpler by giving up a different gadget for a week.

As soon as you’ve decided on your personal remit or challenge, you can plan ahead…which takes us to the next step.

  1. Plan ahead

I can’t overestimate the importance of this. We rely so heavily on technology and electrical devices that we sometimes don’t even know we’re doing it! This is the point of having a digital detox in the first place – having a break and taking a step back to reconfigure our relationship with technology and finding a level that we are happy with.

This is where some organisational skills come in. When you know what you’re giving up (whether it’s your mobile phone, watching TV, using kitchen gadgets, or foregoing social media), it’s best to make a list of instances when and where you would use these technologies to avoid a situation where you might need to break your resolve. Don’t give something up if an important situation arises where you will need that equipment or technology. Don’t give up your kitchen gadgets if you’ve arranged a dinner party or give up emails when you’re due to receive important work. That would cause stress and no one needs that! So plan your detox around a time that suits you and when you won’t be tempted.

It’s also important to think of things to occupy your time instead of playing a video game or watching the TV. Go outside, try to make plans with friends, have a family outing, or just do something for yourself like going to an exercise class or learning a new craft.

The Wild Network

  1. Communicate!

You’ve defined what you’re giving up and how long for. You’ve done the planning and found a suitable time. Now you need to spread the word.

In order to succeed with your challenge, you’ll need to minimise situations where you might be driven to using whatever you’re giving up by outside influences. I’d say the best way to do this is by communicating what you’re doing.

Tell your family and friends, tweet about it, pin it to the top of your Facebook page and write a status update. Do everything to let people know about your challenge and that it means something to you. Also I would turn off your email notifications if you’re foregoing social media for a time!

Not only will this stop potentially worried phone calls when you don’t respond to a Facebook message, but it’s a good way of raising awareness and getting people to think about the way they use technology.

  1. Remove yourself from temptation

If all else fails, remove yourself from temptation! I’d say that most people won’t need to do this, but depending on your addiction to technology and your commitment to your personal challenge you might want to get some space. Whether that means going camping in an area with no network coverage, unplugging your TV, getting a friend to hide your iPad, or simply leaving your mobile at home for the day, there are plenty of creative ways to escape temptation!

  1. Don’t give up!

Rome wasn’t built in a day. So your relationship with your nemesis device isn’t going to change overnight. Our use of technology is a habit which we can train ourselves out of, with practice. So keep on going. Every time you practice you’ll learn something about yourself. Make sure you emphasise the positives. Everyone has setbacks and life can throw up surprises at every turn, but don’t feel guilty about it. You’re doing something good for yourself, for your family and for the environment, you’re amazing!

I hope these tips help you and inspire you to try a digital detox. There are no hard and fast rules, just give it a go and you might surprise yourself with the results! Have you ever done a digital detox before? What were your experiences? If you haven’t, could you be tempted?

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