Is it time for a digital detox?

When is the last time you stepped away from your phone?

Better yet, how did you feel the last time you inadvertently left your phone behind? Be honest.

If you are like most of us, at best you are highly attached to and distracted by technology, and at worst you are addicted to it.

What’s really going on?

It is not an exaggeration to say that we are a tech addicted nation:


Source: CQ Press – Technology Addiction

Many of us are suffering the costs of digital addiction personally and professionally. This suffering comes at a cost on both fronts. In fact, according to Travis Murdoch in his Business Insider article on the cost of digital addiction“in terms of dollars and cents, all of this digital disarray costs the U.S. almost $1 trillion annually.”

Last month I co-facilitated a weekend of workshops on The Art of Unplugging at Canyon Ranch. I knew that the subject would be universally embraced, but I was still surprised at just how much we are all suffering from an overload of technology in one form or another. While most of our conversations focused on our tech overindulgence, it was the misuse of our time that emerged as one of the most significant costs of it. When our focus and attention on technology is overextended, it inevitably eats up valuable time that can be spent not only our highest priorities professionally, but on activities and experiences that align to what matters most to us.

Time is not the only cost.

Tech addiction affects our:

  • Health – emotionally, psychologically and physically
  • Focus, concentration and stress levels
  • Productivity
  • Creativity, innovation and imagination
  • Confidence
  • Energy

Murdoch found that “once work has been interrupted by an email notification, people take 24 minutes on average to return to the suspended task.” He also shares another study indicating that ringing phones and email alerts lower our IQs by 10 points.

So, why are we so resistant to stepping away and giving ourselves a digital detox?

There are many reasons why we aren’t able to step away from technology; a few of the most common:

  • FOMO (fear of missing out) – anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere or that you may miss an opportunity
  • Fear that our performance and job may be at risk if we aren’t present 24/7
  • An attempt to avoid other things in our lives and work that are complicated or uncomfortable.
  • True addiction – there is a difference between a bad, over-connected tech habit and a true addiction (according to the International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine, as many as one in eight Americans suffers from some type of technology addiction.)

In January, I had the opportunity to experience first hand what a true digital detox is and how much one can benefit from it. I participated in a two-week retreat that required me to digitally detox for two weeks. Two weeks!

Truth be told, this requirement almost prevented me from participating in the retreat at all- that’s how uncomfortable the notion of stepping away from my phone and computer was. However, I learned a long time ago that the more I resist something, the more I know I need it. So, I surrendered.

Guess what happened?

Well, the good news is that I am still here! I’m delighted to share that amazing things happened when all of the noise of texts, emails, Facebook, news feeds- the relentless interruption of my phone– were removed.

  • My mind got clear and my breathing slowed down – I could feel myself relax.
  • My stress, tension and anxiety dropped significantly.
  • My ability to think bigger and bolder increased – I began to see things in new ways.
  • My imagination and creativity opened – I began to imagine what might be possible.
  • My energy soared.
  • I found myself more open – I could feel my hope and optimism grow.
  • My courage and confidence came into focus – I could see how much more I could contribute and produce, personally and professionally.
  • I had fun and felt joy in ways that I haven’t experienced in a long time.

Yes, all of this. And it began happening after just one day, although the full effects didn’t come until the end of the first week.

It isn’t necessary to do a full, two-week detox. These benefits can be felt from even small breaks.

How can you begin?

There are many ways to begin taking steps to integrate digital detoxing into your life and organization.
For you:
  1. Select an hour a day that you can step away from all technology and instead add an activity or experience that gives you joy.
  2. Make mealtime technology free.
  3. Use social media blocking apps to help set boundaries during times when you need to be focused.
  4. Remove your phone and computer from your bedroom.

Checkout this list from MindBodyGreen for more suggestions and wonderful tips for unplugging.

For your organization:
  1. Lead by example – share your strategy for disconnecting with your team and encourage them to join you.
  2. Set boundaries around employee time off, and honor them.
  3. Create clear after hours communication expectations.
  4. Leave phones out of meetings.

Here is a wonderful article on how to introduce a digital detox to your employees.

The data and research speaks for itself, not only will you and your employees see significant results from a new practice of unplugging, but the bottom line will reflect it as well.