I’m not surprised that so many Silicon Valley technologists have become advocates of the digital detox. The developers behind the likes of Facebook and Google have seen the impact that gamifying apps has had on the average phone user. We are all addicted to our phones and we use them for everything, from email to photos to social media.
There’s even a new organisation, which was founded by ex-techies, called the Centre for Humane Technology, which is calling for the software giants to stop competing for our attention, and instead devote themselves to helping consumers achieve “Time Well Spent”.
I’m not going to wait for the tech giants to design an app to help me enjoy life. I’ve decided to take control.
I recently went on holiday to Cyprus. As readers of this blog will know, I usually struggle to switch off – even when I’m away with the family. So this time I started locking my phone away in the hotel safe. At 10am, it was gone, and I wouldn’t allow myself another look until 6pm. It stays in the room when we have dinner too.
As digital detoxes go, this was pretty ‘lite’ but I noticed it had a profound impact. I have been fully focused on my family. The conversation has been flowing. My wife and I have had a chance to properly unwind (although she’s still been using her phone, despite my best efforts).
When we went out for dinner in the evening, I noticed just how many people were absorbed in their phones. They would sit in silence, or speak in short sentences. That could have been us this holiday.
I realise it’s not easy to attempt a digital detox, especially as a entrepreneur with a growing company. But there are a few things you can do to make the process easier.
1.) Do it during the summer holidays
Have you noticed the volume of email dropping right down? That’s because a lot of people are taking time off to be with their children. Take advantage of a quieter August and plan your detox to coincide with school holidays.
2.) Get a PA
There is no way I would be able to detox without my PA. She handles everything urgent on my behalf. You need to be able to put down your phone, knowing that someone you trust can field emails and calls.
3.) Build digital detoxing into your company culture
You need to show your team that they are not expected to check their emails on holiday. Start by cutting communications in the evenings and on weekends. Lead by example, and don’t send emails out of hours. If you can delegate, other people will too. When someone goes on holiday, make sure there are processes in place that mean they don’t need to check in. When anyone is out of the office, there should be another person who can pick up the slack.
4.) Enjoy the detox
There’s no point locking away your phone if you’re going to hate every minute. Prepare yourself for the experience, and enjoy unplugging from technology. Take the time to have conversations with real people, and to notice the world around you.
I’ve become a digital detox evangelist on this holiday. When I see people round the pool on their phones, I’ve been telling them to put them down. They have had their revenge: when someone saw me writing this blog on my phone, they told me off.
Steve Jobs famously wouldn’t let his kids near the iPad. Bill Gates says his family has strict rules on screen time. If the world’s most famous technologists feared the impact of too much screen time, we should too.