Digital Detox 1

A series of posts where I document my ‘digital detox’ – reducing the clutter and streamlining my digital life.

I am lucky enough to work for a Global company, with head offices in New Zealand.  The 24-hour cycle of stakeholders and communication make it tempting to be ‘always-on’.  However, responsiveness quickly eats into work-life balance, and with a small organisation, it’s not always easy to delegate.

In addition, personal projects and a general love of news & reading mean that my various devices can ‘pull me in’ quite a lot.

So, as part of a household spring clean, I’ve decided to look at some measures to declutter my digital life and be more deliberate about my tech usage.

I have five main devices that call my attention constantly:

  • iPhone 7
  • iPad Air
  • Apple Watch
  • Windows Laptop – my work device
  • Windows Desktop – mainly used as file storage for the house

Clearing down my iPhone

Whilst thinking about my digital detox, it occurred that I should start with the device that seems to cause the most issues – the smallest, but possibly most used. Home and Work, Commute and Leisure – my phone is never really far away from me.

I started with the iPhone and took a ruthless approach to removing apps that are no longer used or are better used deliberately on a desktop machine.   Checking flight prices whilst mobile? Very rarely done.  Old games? Time to go. Apps that got used once? Gone.

I pared down my phone home screen to the things I use every day:

Then I turned off nearly all the notifications and badges. I already set my phone to silent most of the time, but the dopamine hit from many notifications is pretty pointless and distracting when you are trying to focus.  I’ve left on work email alerts and WhatsApp – but set a do not disturb for between 2200 and 0600.

I removed myself from a number of old WhatsApp groups – and archived all my conversations to give me space back.

I archived all my photographs up to Google Photo – and cleared down my photo roll.

Clearing Down my iPad

I use my iPad mainly for personal things, around the house and whilst travelling for pleasure.  I read the news every day, read various RSS feeds, browse the web and look up information. I often control Spotify or Sonos with my iPad and sometimes look at social networks.

Despite that leisure focus,  I found I had installed Outlook to review work emails, and many of the tools I use at work.   So it was easy to find myself looking at work items, whilst I was in my leisure time.

This was an easy fix, I spent an evening turning my iPad into a device that I would purely use for leisure and personal time – removing work-related apps, and being as ruthless on the remaining apps as I was on my phone.

After removing Outlook, I installed my personal Gmail on my iPad – allowing only personal mail to come into my personal time, more on that in a follow-up post.

I followed the same process with notifications, reducing things down to an essential few – sports scores, news headlines from my trusted source, banking alerts and very little else.

So, now my iPad is 100% focused on leisure time:

Building a new habit

The final part of my digital detox for my iOS devices is to implement a new habit.  No phones, no tablets in the bedroom.   We all know the blue light is harmful for your sleep, and it cannot be healthy to keep these things on your nightstand, even with the night-shift or flux function to change the light.

My previous habit was to keep my iPad by my bed, reading in the evening but then creating the temptation to pick it up when the alarm goes off and start reading work email.  I’ve recently found myself scanning mail at 5.30 in the morning when what I really want is a slow wake-up and some exercise without the thoughts of work questions.

With work email gone, I now have no way to read it on my iPad, and less reason to keep it in the bedroom – so now, before bedtime I put it on charge in my home office. With no alerts of notifications, it stays silent.

This gives me one hour in the morning without a screen, to exercise and get ready for work – the first time I look at my mail is during my morning commute, to see if there is anything urgent for the day.

The next steps – my laptop and desktop, and then a focus on email and news feeds.

Have you undergone a digital detox – how did you do it? Share your ideas and wisdom in the comments, I’d love to learn from you. 

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