(Note: I get the irony of writing about a digital diet on a blog, which you will undoubtedly read on some kind of digital device.)
It’s a fact of modern life that we spend most of our days looking at digital screens. From checking tweets on your mobile, to doing email on your laptop, to reading digital magazines on your tablet, we go from device to device living our lives online.
All that staring into digital screens like your eyes are trying to burn a hole in the screen in front of you is not healthy. When you finally shut down and turn away from the screen, your eyes begin to sting from actually looking out into the brightness of the real world.
Eye drops will help with the stinging, but you need more than this to revitalise and re-energize for another day in front of screens.
You need a digital diet, a way to take a break from our intense digital live.
Inspired by Stef Lewandowski’s post on “Ignore the News”, I’ve been thinking about my own ways of developing a healthier relationship with technology and pulling myself away from the online world for a while.
Here are my top ways to cut down on your screen time with a digital diet:
1. Turn app notifications off
When you first download an app, especially to an iPhone or Android device, you often get asked if you’ll accept push notifications. Do not accept. It might seem a good idea at the time (“I’d love to be notified every time I get an email or a tweet!”) but in the long run it’s a headache and an unwanted distraction, drawing you back in to whatever app it is.
I recently turned on phone notifications for Twitter, as part of setting up the two-step authentication process. Although it’s great to have an extra secure account, it wasn’t great to be getting a text every time my username was mentioned. I’ve since turned off these notifications (but left Twitter’s two-step process on) and feel much better and less distracted for it.
Here’s a simple guide from Pocket Gamer to turn off app notifications if you don’t know how.
2. Turn internet off after 10pm
Often when you’re at home and relaxing, this is a good time to catch up on the happenings in the world (in real life and online), as well as browse what your friends have been up to on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Path (the list goes on…).
But often I find myself lost in the online world and don’t realise where the time has gone, meaning I spend much longer online than I planned and often late into the night. This leaves my brain feeling too overactive when I finally drag myself to bed, so it takes longer to get to sleep and often my night’s rest is of a worse quality.
I’ve given myself a rule of downing devices after 10pm (if possible) and giving myself at least half an hour to unwind before hitting the sack.
It can be tempting to do that last “internet scrape” before switching off the bedside lamp, but you can always catch up with what you’ve missed in the morning and, more often than not, you won’t have missed a thing.
3. Leave your phone off for the weekend
For most people, the weekend is when you’re meant to not check any work related email or social networks. It’s understandable that for a lot of people, the lines between online use for work and personal reasons is becoming blurred, so you may be tempted to keep your device with you as you are out and about for the weekend.
I find it works to leave my phone at home or turn it off for at least one afternoon or morning at the weekend. Sunday afternoons are a favourite, when I’m often out for a walk or with family.
You dont miss anything and you’ll appreciate the time offline – plus you’ll be able to concentrate fully on the time spent with family and friends.
4. Take a walk during your lunch hour
Forcing yourself away from email and project work can be extremely beneficial during the working day, even if you think you just don’t have time to take a proper lunch break.
Taking a walk at lunch allows you to recollect your thoughts and come back to the office refreshed. You’ll have a more productive afternoon ahead of you if you take a walk at lunch.
5. No devices in the bedroom
This one is a bit stricter and so harder to stick to, but I’ve found it can help banning phones, laptops and even kindles in the bedroom altogether.
Having a space in your home which is digital device free creates an aura of relaxation. In an space where it’s not possible to be online, you’re not worried about connecting.
This is beneficial for sleep, general wellbeing and your love life (if you happen to share a bedroom with a partner…).
When trying this rule, I find I often break it after a few weeks and lapse into taking my phone wherever I go again. This is ok, and I reinstate the rule when I find myself checking the phone too much in the bedroom or working on the laptop in bed (never a good sign anyway).
These are my top suggestions for a digital diet, but what else would you add? Let me know in the comments.