The truth is that there is such thing as too much phone time. Studies have shown that we are bored easier, less happy, and less productive when we spend all our time on electronic devices. This digital detox guide will provide a few ways to think about breaks from your electronics!
Why take a break?
It has been hypothesized that being bored is a symptom of overstimulation. We enjoy our electronics when we use them to send messages, play games, or read news, but we tend to actually lose valuable daydreaming time when we “surf” the internet, looking at things briefly but not really engaging. Just like channel surfing on a television is unfulfilling but can occupy us for hours, internet surfing takes up our time without really letting us take a break. When people spend their time in this overstimulated state, anything less stimulating seems boring – that’s no good! We need breaks.
Strangely, we get more done when we take breaks from our electronics. Why? Screen fatigue! Too much screen time eventually harms our eyes, so taking breaks is a great way to make sure that you have time to think between tasks and let your eyes adjust to looking at something else.
Adam Alter talked at TED about screen addictions and proposed that never-ending access to our phones makes us less happy. It makes us feel dependent and involved, and every time there is no new message or call, we experience a little let-down. When we take conscious breaks from our screens, we get back into a more normal cycle of expectations, which often lets us enjoy our lives more.
How to take a break?
Schedule “off hours” for yourself
Most of us who experience screen addiction cannot envision abandoning our phones for a long time. A good baby step is to set a few hours for a date, a conversation with a friend, or a family game night. Put phones in another part of the house, and accept that anything urgent that happens with the phone will be able to wait a couple of hours. For anyone who is truly “on call,” this can work the same if you just say that you’ll ignore all notifications except an actual phone call. During these hours, you have something interesting to do that can start to pull your attention away from your phone or screen. You’ll realize that soon you start to crave these times on your own. Try to put more and more into your schedule each week, until you find yourself less compulsively focused on screens in your free time.
Practice with anti-distraction applications
When you are at work, especially if you have some non-computer work, practice by setting browsers and phones to ‘lock you out’ for a certain amount of time. Many productivity experts like the “pomodoro method,” where you work solidly for 25 minutes and get a 5 minute “screen time” break afterwards. Forest, an app that motivates you to leave your phone alone, gives you different kinds of digital trees and plants for each amount of time you avoid looking at your phone – a 1 hour tree is prettier than a 15 minute bush, so it treats avoiding distraction like a game.
Send your electronics for repairs!
Have you been putting off getting a screen or button repaired because you don’t want to spend an hour without your screen? Now is the time to give yourself a much needed break and take it in for repairs. Plan a whole day around not needing your phone: take a walk, enjoy some ice cream, or even get some work done the old fashioned way, with pen and paper and your brain. If you feel like you cannot live without an email refresh button, remind yourself that you’ll be less easily bored, more happy, and more productive and creative because of this break. The email can wait until your phone is shiny and fixed.