In our ever-connected world, finding time to simply exist, away from the constant demands of our screens can feel like an almost impossible hurdle. According to renowned Morgan Stanley Internet analyst Mary Meeker, the average Philippine screen user (including TV, computer, mobile and tablets) is in front of a device for 531 minutes per day – that’s in excess of eight full hours per day, making them one of the world’s heaviest users of digital devices, second only to Indonesia at 540 minutes, or a full nine hours.
And it’s not an exclusively Asian phenomenon; Australian users are plugged in for 396 minutes, or 6.6 hours, while the Polish clock up an average of 381 minutes, or 6.35 hours. These statistics are sobering, and demonstrate just how dramatically things have changed within one generation. This trend is also starting from a younger age, with the average British child now spending 6.5 hours per day in front of a screen, compared with just three hours in 1995.
So what can be done to counteract our evident screen obsession? Well, as with any other addiction, the only way to break compulsive behavioural patterns is to go cold turkey and commit to a full digital detox.
But what is a digital detox? Simply put, it’s switching off – both for you and for your devices. Taking a planned, conscious break from all your screen devices can help you to refocus, reprioritise, lower stress levels and help with concentration. Sounds good? But also impossible? Here’s how to make your detox work for you.
Pick your moment
There are always going to be times when 24/7 connectivity is required of us; however if you’re finding that this is always the case for you, then it’s wise to look at the reasons why you feel unable to unplug. Are you as productive as you can be while at work? If not, perhaps a full break from your devices would free up some time to complete your tasks in a more focused way. Plan ahead – weekends or holidays are usually a great place to start – and diarise your detox… that way you’re far more likely to stick to it!
What's your motivation?
Everyone will have different reasons to detox. For some, it’s about breaking a habit; for example when you’re bored, do you instinctively reach for your tablet rather than a good book? If so, then it’s time to kick the habit and refocus. The same goes for those with a short attention span – if you always have twelve browser tabs on the go, flicking between them every night while simultaneously half-watching a series on Netflix and checking your email, it’s time to disengage entirely until you are able to fully re-engage with renewed concentration.
Just do it
You may find it easier to stick to your plans if you’ve already announced your intentions, so let anyone who might expect an instant reply know you’ll be offline for a while, then when the big day arrives, make sure you’re spending time doing something fun! Treat yourself to coffee with a friend, appreciating the cute latte
art and café décor without Instagramming it. Head to a spa for a massage in order to completely unwind. Dedicate a full day to a book that you’ve always meant to read but have never found the time. Whatever you do, make it more pleasurable than incessantly checking your social media and you’ll soon discover that you don’t miss it at much as you fear.
When your allotted time is up, you can – slowly – head back online. You’ll most likely find that your inbox is overflowing, but a little distance will probably demonstrate that most of the contents are actually unimportant. Set aside some time to unsubscribe to newsletters and email lists that are no longer relevant and you’ll notice an immediate reduction in the digital “noise” distracting you from the messages that are actually relevant and require action.
Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to conquering screen addiction and living more productively in the present.
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