Ten Top Tips: How to do a digital detox

While technology has clearly made many things much easier, the fact that we're always connected - and as a result, constantly disrupted - can wreak havoc on our attention span. Here's how to undertake a full digital detox.

by Daniele Fiandaca
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

1.       Allow a reasonable amount of time to 'detox'

Set something that you know is achievable – either during a holiday or a weekend or even a couple of hours a day. The up-side of unplugging on holiday or weekend is that few people expect you to be always on so are unlikely to need responses. This timing also means less temptation to jump online because there are other things and people to take the edge of the craving.

2.       Prepare a digital exit strategy

Make a digital to-do list that covers off all your digital commitments and then think through your options, whether that’s delegating urgent actions in your inbox to someone you trust, or lining up blog posts in advance. As well as setting an autoreply on all your e-mail accounts, update your voicemail and make a post on all your social networks that you are switching off.

3.       Tell your team that you’re doing the detox

If you’re unplugging while you’re on holiday, leave people contact numbers to reach you on in case of real emergency, so that they’re not stressed by you cutting off all digital contact, and just as importantly, so that you’re not worried that someone might not be able to reach you should they need to.

4.       Plan your pre-detox workload

Finish as many work projects as you can, compile detailed handover documents and make sure your team has access to hard copies as well as online access to anything they might need.

5.       Tell the people you’re with that you’re unplugging

Hopefully, they’ll be sensitive to the fact that you’re not tweeting or checking your work inbox, and won’t tempt you by constantly whipping out smartphones and tablets.

6.       Prepare yourself

Buy notebooks, pens, paper. Bring books and games, and plan activities. You’re switching off, not tuning out and chances are, your creative juices will be flowing with all the time that’s being freed up. So save yourself some frustration, and make sure you’re equipped with materials that will let you continue to record and express yourself – the old-fashioned way.

7.       The little bit of forward planning

Make a handy list of what you’ll be achieving by unplugging – clarity, perspective, and time to think and be creative, for starters. This should also help stave off the temptation to jump back online (yes, of course it’s displacement activity, but you’ll need it less and less).

8.       Post detox, take stock

For example, my 17 days unplugged reminded me that it was good to make important notes on paper again – I shudder to think of the number of notes on my smartphone that I’ve never gone back to, while hard copy is somehow just more permanent. I learned to enjoy the here and now, rather than trying to record it via Instagram etc.

9.       Use your new, post-detox perspective to do a digital spring clean

Achieving work/life balance takes effort in the digital world too. So create clear demarcations between work and personal inboxes by decluttering each appropriately. Unsubscribe to work-related materials from personal inboxes that you’re likely to look at in your downtime, to avoid being sucked back into work.

10.   Spread the benefits of your detox to your team, and respect their downtime

If you’re always on, you probably encourage the same mentality in your team. You’ll send an email late at night, and then maybe tell people off for not responding immediately. Make a point of leaving late-night mails in the draft box and sending them out first thing the next day. It’s one step towards ensuring we get the down time we all need to be at our most productive when we are working.


Daniele Fiandaca is head of innovation at integrated marketing network Cheil UK, and a self-confessed digital dependent.

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