3 Day Digital Detox
For someone who runs a digital agency and literally relies on technology to put food on my families table however walking into the Easter break, I like many of of us, was feeling the pressure of ever growing emails, texts, phone calls, Whatsapp, Facebook messages and slack notifications. I needed a break, so here is what happened when I decided to unplug for three days.
The Point of Change
Within the last 72 hours I had slept only 8 hours, been in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney for work, had numerous back-to-back client meetings, all topped off with a mad dash to the airport as yet again I had confused what time zone I was in. Thank god daylight savings is over for another year!
It was a Thursday evening and arriving home after a brutal week I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Here I was, looking down the barrel of a long weekend which could have been used to catch up on overdue tasks but I needed to rest and felt that extreme measures were needed.
The idea of a digital detox dropped into my head from overhearing an online interview recently and I thought this would be a great way to get some quality time with my family and some much needed down time, without any distractions. To commit to the challenge, I pitched the idea to my wife who was; surprised, excited then concerned all in that order however she was on-board and ready to support. After a frantic flurry of texts and emails to ensure the office would be manned by one of my seniors, we both switched our phones off and put them in the cupboard. Instant relief is what I felt. A wave of calmness splashed over me. As the analogy goes, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders instantly.
I never knew how much we relied on technology
Waking up, I noticed myself instinctively reaching for my phone, as if on auto pilot. Ok..right… no early morning memes or a quick news check to bring on the day, I just woke staring at the ceiling, what now? I must admit, I felt somewhat lost, what do I do now? My 1 year old son and wife were still asleep, so off I went to wake up the dogs and get breakfast started.
Throughout the day I found myself truely present in the moment. I started to realise how fun it was to play with the dogs rather than me trying to ignore their constant attempts of attention while I just answer one more email. I started to have time for the little things as micro moments were filled by me showing attention to my surroundings rather than being a slave to my incoming emails. I even started reading a book during my “bathroom” time 😉
I never thought I was so dependent on technology until several scenarios presented which usually call for that powerful hand held device. For instance, my wife and I decided to have a cook off and make a cheese cake and traditional Italian lasagne but without our trusty online recipes we resorted to flipping through old recipe books to find inspiration….. with no luck. Alas, I found a cheesecake recipe on the back of the cream cheese packet – thank you Philadelphia! It felt like such a win, I did my little celebration dance right there in the kitchen, whilst my wife giggled like a little school girl, still trying to remember which layers to do her lasagne in. Amidst making my cheesecake, at one point, I even hurried back to the packet ready to nudge it before the lock screen came back on as is usually the case when following a recipe on my phone. Again, my wife and I shared a moment where we just laughed out loud at how robotic we had become with our phones dictating such cues.
Even the simplest things like going for a walk, were met with the dilemma of, “I wonder if the shops are open today, what if we walk all the way into town for a coffee and they’re closed”. There’s no google to the rescue to check opening hours. So what, we walked anyway, threw caution to the wind! The walk was awesome, as the only people I had access to was my wife and son which is where I placed my focus. As such our time was of the highest quality, as we oogled all the houses along the way, neighbours gardens, we noticed all the “For Sale Signs” and renovations happening around the area, which in turn sparked conversation and speculation on why that may be…is it because interest rates are low and people are upgrading perhaps, my wife asked. The weather was beautiful, the sun shining, a brief sun shower on the way and I breathed it all in, totally consumed with the walk as if we were exploring some exotic European city.
The night time soon came, which got us thinking, what does one do these days with no phone, TV or internet to entertain you? Simple, we talked. And we laughed. It was great! In fact, it’s pretty crazy how you can live so closely with someone and yet feel so apart sometimes with life relentlessly charging ahead. Talking with my wife, with zero distraction was simply the best. It was such great bonding time. The only thing which we really missed were some tunes, but with all our music on the cloud these days and Spotify and Youtube being regulars in our household, that certainly wasn’t going to happen…. unless we stepped back in time. So our mission the next day became; “Operation – Source an Old School CD player”.
You don’t miss what you don’t have
By the second day, we had zero desire to check our emails, text messages or check for missed calls. It was like we were on an exotic holiday and it was awesome. To quench our musical appetite, we decided to head to the shops in search for a CD player, but who still sells them, we thought? We can’t check google and we can’t use Siri for any shops we aren’t already familiar with so we decided to go to our trusty local Kmart with fingers and toes crossed! And we scored! Not only did we secure an awesome “Boom box, it was on sale for the bargain price of $17 – little did they know, in our state we would have paid 10 times that
The third day was much like the first and second, only by now we were getting used to researching alternative ways of doing things or just using the good old trial and error to solve problems opposed to using Google as our saviour. The house seemed calmer, the dogs happier and I had been spending genuine quality time with my family, which I would have happily paid thousands to achieve (as we typically do when we go on a traditional holiday) only this time, I achieved this simply by switching off my phone
On Monday we decided to turn our phones on together to see what we had missed, we weren’t too sure what to expect…would there be hundreds of emails, phone calls from family having reported us MIA and the search squad out? In short – None of these. There were 7 missed calls from my mum wanting to brag about her weekend and literally over 100 promotional emails, but nothing earth shattering.
What I learnt
While I agree that technology and being connected has infinitely increased the speed of which we do things and is definitely useful (in moderation). I do feel it can be dangerous and has the tendency to consume us and overshadow the real important things in life, causing us to lose sight of the journey and miss the point completely.
Arriving to work today I felt truely rested, for the first time in a long while. I felt recharged and ready to face the week head on. Whist turning off the phone initially was quite daunting, without the distraction of technology, I felt the connections made and the enjoyment of the simple pleasures by far surmounted any inconvenience caused by not having my phone at my finger tip. I challenge you, when the time is right try turning your phone off one Friday afternoon and spend the weekend truely connecting to the people in your life who matter. You and everyone will be better for it, and guess what – your emails and texts won’t mind that they will still be there to greet you on Monday!