7 Tips to Succeed with Digital Detox

Why did I start to care about digital detox?

I spent far too much time on looking at unnecessary stuff online – I am sure you might recognize yourself in some examples:

  • Watching football videos or political debates on YouTube
  • Browsing by my Twitter feed
  • Playing chess on my phone: opening the Chess.Com/Lichess app every 20 minutes to have a look at whether my opponent had made a move.
  • My full-time job as a digital marketing manager demands me to look into a screen from 09:00-17:00 every day.

These are just some examples of why I felt the need for digital detox. This article is written to help you if you are in the same situation as me. I have succeeded quite well. I do not spend (too much) time watching my phone on the bus or metro anymore. Before I go to bed, I have at least one full hour without looking into any electronic device.

And in this article, I will tell you exactly how I did it.

7 Ways to Succeed with Digital Detox

Table of Contents

7 ways to succeed with Digital Detox

If you are in a hurry, I quickly present all the tips for you. Later in the article, I will go deep into each of the points to elaborate on some important factors.

1. Measure the amount of time spent on your phone by using an app.
2. Acknowledge that you have a problem.
3. Be realistic when you set targets.
4. Be open about your digital detox to other people.
5. Go on a “digital detox holiday”.
6. Get your information through books.
7. Start to play board games.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into each bullet point:

1. Download an app called StayFree

StayFree is an app that tracks how much time you spend on your phone and various apps.

I would use the app for about a week until you check the results. In the meantime, I can serve you some fun facts about how phone addicted most of us are:

  • Americans check their phone once every 12 minutes when it’s lying around.
  • That will make you check your phone up to 80 times per day. In a week, that multiplies to 560. (Source: New York Post)
  • In a study conducted in the US, 1 out of 10 check their phones every 4th minute.

Are you convinced that limiting your screen time would be a good idea? Great! That’s a good start.

StayFree is only available for Android and Desktop, but you will find an app for iPhone doing the same for you. Download StayFree here.

2. Say it out loud: “Screens are addictive!”

Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have all started to use advanced AI. This artificial intelligence has one goal in mind: to make you spend as much time as possible online on their services. With the gigantic budgets and great software engineers that can be found in these companies, they do succeed.

And that’s something you have to acknowledge. Most of us ARE addicted to some type of online service. It could be a blog, a newspaper, a mobile game, Twitter or Instagram. They are all equally dangerous.

When I told my roommate that I wanted to stay more away from the screen, he replied: “Why? Everything is happening online these days!”.

He is right. And I guess that’s what scares me.

Hot tip: check your StayFree stats after a week. I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised.

3. Don’t set goals that are unrealistic

No – you will not be the whole weekend without checking your phone, laptop, or TV. That will not happen (unless you book a cabin in the woods on AirBNB).

Be realistic.

My goal was to always stay awake one hour before I slept without looking at any screens. Set the alarm on your phone, plug it into the charger and leave it there. The only ways you can entertain yourself are by reading a physical newspaper, listen to the radio, pick up a book or play some board games with friends or family members.

If you want to gradually improve and become more ambitious with your digital detox, I would recommend a schedule like this (which I am following myself):

Week 1-3At least 1 hour digital detox before bedtime.
Week 4-6Avoid bringing your phone to certain social events like football practice, when you meet someone in a bar (just say your phone died and you need to charge) or when you go shopping.
Week 6-9Do not use your phone when you commute to work. You are allowed to put on some podcast, but not allowed to look at the screen.
Week 10-12Keep everything you learned so far, but try to keep every single Sunday or Saturday without opening your e-mail.

4. Tell other people what you are doing

This might be a thing that you wouldn’t believe would have any effect. Guess what? It’s crucial to succeed.

Unless you tell people that you have a fixed digital detox period, you will be included in things that you can’t do. Your friends want a late-night Skype conversation. There’s a late-night movie on TV that your wife wants to see with you. Or the annoying friend calls you and asks if you can “like” his picture on Instagram at 22:30.

Be straight-forward with people. It might be uncomfortable to say no to such things, but being in a “digital detox mode” is not awkward at all.

5. Go on a digital-free holiday (fully or partly)

University of East Anglia conducted a very interesting study about how tourists feel about using technology. It turns out that most people feel stressed if they feel that their phone is an important asset while being on holiday. They conducted the study in a simple way. To join the observation group, you had to stay away from your mobile phone and laptop throughout the whole trip.

Just writing that premises gives me the chills… 🙂

What did we learn from this study?

However, some intriguing results came out of that study. Eurekalert wrote an article about this study. They mapped out several interesting findings, such as:

Tourists in urban areas became anxious about not having access to Google Maps while being in urban areas.

There were also clear signs of “initial anxiety, frustration, and withdrawal symptoms among many of the travelers”.

“Our participants reported that they not only engaged more with other travelers and locals during their disconnected travels, but that they also spent more time with their travel companions.”

The next one is probably my biggest argument for why you should try a digital-detox holiday, quote: “By talking to other travelers, especially locals, many reported that they were given excellent advice and learned more about sights, places, and beaches that were not on any tourism websites or guidebooks, but were a highlight of their trips.”

I am not saying that you should spend your next weekend in Paris without your cell phone. That would be too difficult for most people. What I say is that you could try to spend a day or two by leaving your cell phone yon the hotel room – and see if you feel that you explore things in a better way. I think you will.

6. Do not underestimate the value of books!

Our generation is used to only reading 100% fresh content. Twitter, Instagram, and online newspapers are filled with pictures, tweets, and articles that have been published no longer than an hour ago.

That’s quite damaging.

Books can be used for so many things. But more than anything: a well-written book can keep your eyes off the screen for a long time.

Another thing is that there’s always a book regardless of your interests. I, for example, do read a lot of documentary books about crime and climate change.

Why do I believe that books are better for your body compared to phone/tablet/laptop?

You learn to focus on one thing. On a phone, you have a wide range of apps to distract you. In a book, all you can do to be a “rebel” is to skip a chapter or a paragraph. 🙂

Even though you should follow the 20-20-20 rule regardless of what you are looking at, reading on a screen will make your eyes work harder.

A study among British students showed that students learned much more from textbooks compared to screens. This is true for me as well. If you want to read more about that study, feel free to read this article on BusinessInsider.

7. Play board games instead of video games

I used to play a lot of Chess online. After learning strategies, techniques and slowly becoming better, I found out that chess over the board was a lot funnier.

Instead of spending time playing random people online, I try to meet up with a couple of friends at least three times per month to play at the local chess pub. Beer, chess and a good chat – nothing beats that.

Picture of my friends before some of our chess games on the local pub:

PS! I quit games like Counter-Strike and Football Manager. When I saw how much time I spent on these games per month, I had no choice but to quit.

5 thoughts on “7 Tips to Succeed with Digital Detox”

  1. The fact that you found chess is alfa & omega.

    What I figured out is that you need to have proper fun outside the screen. And unless you have something like chess or football, you are unable to do a proper digital detox. I see my son and his friends play Counter Strike all day…that’s their way of being competitive. In order to “break free” from the screen, they need to find a hobby or a game that doesn’t include sitting at their mobile phones or the computer all day

  2. Great tips! Thanks a lot!

    What I figured out is that I became quite dizzy from looking into the screen too much. Being an author/copywriter, I didnt have the choice of NOT looking into a screen. Therefore, digital detox when I am not working was the solution to live a better life. You might not be aware of it, but we check our phones more than 100 times per day – and this adds up a lot.

    1. Hi Maria, thanks for your comment.

      Yes, I experience that dizziness once in a while as well. It comes from focusing too much on the screen. After all, I need to build this website – and that takes at least six hours per week. 🙂 If I can make people become more interesting in environmental topics, I would say it’s still a quite decent investment.

      Anyway: Good to hear that you got some new ideas to become better at digital detox!

  3. Superb article. I have been struggling quite a lot holding back from my phone, but I sincerely try new methods all the time. My wife is super stressed because she feels that I am a phone addict (and I cant deny it).

    However, I will use your tip about putting away the phone before going to bed. I believe that in hte normal life, my phone isnt a big problem, but when I go to bed its always there

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for checking out my articles. Super glad to hear that some of my tips can be helpful to cure your “phone addiction”.

      I know the struggle. Our phones have become so attached to our lives now that it feels scary to leave it for an hour or so. Imagine that…we are not human anymore. We need our electronic device to function properly in our everyday lives. 😮

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