How 11 Leading Technologists Detox from Technology
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Citrix. The opinions and text are all my own.
"Don't it always seem to go … that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"
In addition to being a Joni Mitchell fan, it turns out, I'm also a huge fan of Wi-Fi. And PCs. And using my phone past 7 p.m.
As a social media consultant for more than a decade (and as a new mom), I've been more tethered to my tech than ever this past year – from lovingly taking photos of my kid to creepily staring at his baby monitor to emailing myself a reminder (OK, eight reminders) to do that one thing that I can’t seem to get crossed off my list.
But I only realized just how precious technology is (was?) to me when last week, over the span of three nights, I was challenged by my friends at Citrix to put it all away at 7 p.m. to build digital boundaries and create more work/life separation. Sounds harmless, right?
About 40 minutes into night one, I panicked. A digital detox is harder than I thought.
In a recent poll I published on (where else?) Twitter, a couple hundred respondents weighed in to let me know I wasn’t alone.
60% of respondents said they don’t have a dedicated time to unplug.
75% of respondents said that at some point in the past year while working from home, they’ve experienced digital burnout.
48% of respondents said their work is “hybrid” – aka they split their time between working from home and working in an office.
83% said it’s very important to them that their employer considers their well-being.
Learning this, coupled with the fact that – while preferred by many – our new hybrid workforce is creating all kinds of new types of digital fatigue, I called in reinforcements.
After all, Quartz research says 81 percent of workers believe decreasing burnout should be a top priority for employers, suggesting your employees know burnout is a significant threat that demands your attention. Are you ready to act?
Here are tips from 11 technology influencers about how to detox from technology, working to take time back and focus on their well-being.
1. Bette Ann Fialkov, Director of Influencer Marketing, Lyft
In the morning before I start my day, I have at least one hour of no cell phone time. I walk my dog, exercise, or meditate. I find that this really helps me mentally prepare for the day before I dive into the craziness of work and emails.
2. Frank Azor, Chief Architect of Gaming Solutions and Marketing, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)
I often use the Calm app to help disconnect from what are usually fast-paced, information-filled days that I’m still processing before going to bed at night. The music and bedtime stories in the app help me slow down and distract my mind from that post-processing.
3. Carolina Milanese, President and Principal Analyst, Creative Strategies
Anyone who knows me, knows how much my life revolves around tech. So it might not surprise you that my digital detox relies on tech. On holiday and weekends, my Apple Watch helps me keep an eye on things without getting sucked into work. I have email and social media set up for certain people – so when my wrist buzzes, I pay attention. Whatever you do, the key is to feel comfortable. There is no point in switching off a device if it increases your stress level.
4. Sherlen Archibald, Global Influencer Lead, Google Arts & Culture; Co-Founder, We The Roses
My #1 detox tip is to do puzzle board games. Finding a way to get lost in putting the pieces together always gets my brain creatively going.
5. Jessica Naziri, Technology Content Creator; Founder, TechSesh.Co
Make breaks part of your schedule. We live in an attention economy where every social media platform is competing for our attention. Scheduling time in your Google Calendar for tech-detoxes is MUST: Treat it like an actual event or meeting. I focus on setting boundaries that may seem small but actually go a long way for me. For example, when I wake up in the morning this week, I'm not checking Instagram or responding to emails until XYZ time. I place blocks of device-free time in my schedule to prioritize self-care and live in the moment. I go device-free for two hours before and after bedtime and design my weekends to go for a walk with family without our phones to deepen our connections. When I am on a detox, I also keep my phone in the living room when I go to bed so I don't reach for it first thing in the morning.
6. Jorrit DeVries, Global Category Development Officer Tech & Telco, Spotify
Plan for screenless productivity.
I got intentional about planning my day so I have a mix of video- and audio-only calls. I replaced a lot of reading with podcast and audio books. My day now either starts or ends with a couple hours of audio-only calls and podcasts while walking up the hill behind my house in Laguna Beach, CA. Not only did it solve for some serious screen fatigue, I now spend more time outside, get my 10,000 steps in, and engage more with my product – Spotify.
7. Evan Kirstel, Chief Digital Officer, EViRaHealth
I started avoiding looking at my phone or any news for the first hour upon waking up. Apparently your mind is most alert, open, creative and suggestible in that first hour of waking, so instead I listen to motivational talks, music, and mediation.
8. Shauna Sweeney, Global Director of Industry and Community Marketing, Facebook
Not all digital detoxes are created equal. Be intentional about what you want to get out of the time; then make your tools work for you. For example, on maternity leave, I knew I didn’t want to be completely dependent on my email – I was very specific in my out-of-office message about when to reach out to me again – but I still wanted to keep my social relationships strong, and I was comfortable staying on social platforms with one big exception. Sleep is the most elusive thing for a new parent, and it’s been well documented that screens can wake you up. Therefore, I do my best to avoid my phone all together for any midnight baby sessions.
9. David Cogen, Content Creator
What I recommend to help with digital overload is going in and turning off notifications for all the apps – other than those that you want to be able to reply to immediately. So leaving texting on but turning off social media and even email, for example. Most people check those out of habit during the day anyway, so turning those notifications off so you don't see them constantly helps you minimize distractions and instead only check when you actively want to do so.
Also, I definitely turn on “Do Not Disturb” a lot during the day to block all notifications during moments when I'm with people and want to be more present.
10. Alesia Hendley, Sales Engineer, Multimedia Journalist, Content Creator
I am constantly attached to my cellphone. It's one of my favorite pieces of technology like almost everyone else I know. But in my switch to iPhone, my biggest goal was to manage my time online better. Part of that required me to not be on my cell all day. So the best detox tip I can give is to optimize your screen time settings! You can even narrow this down to specific apps, as I do. Check your Twitter two or three times a day, for 10 to 15 mins each, and set your screen time to restrict an app (or apps) the rest of the day. This is also extremely helpful for me at night, so for an hour and a half before I go to sleep, I can't access my social apps or my Gmail. We all need time to rest and detox from digital in short and long-time spurts. Time is the one thing we can't get back… Try to use it wisely.
11. Joseph Steinberg, CyberSecurity Expert
Under normal circumstances, I do not check my non-emergency phone (or any other computer or messaging device) during family meals, family movies, or other family events, regardless of whether we are at home or at a restaurant, theater, or other venue…
I also generally take Saturdays off as family days, on which I do not write articles or post on social media.
After reading these tips about digital detoxing and going through my own device-free journey, it occurred to me: There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to healthy technology habits.
Some experts suggest avoiding your phone altogether during certain hours of the day, while others literally suggest using apps and technology to help you detox from apps and technology.
“So many worthwhile tips and practices highlighted to explore a meaningful digital detox," notes Ian Gertler from Citrix.
"Aside from those mentioned and the comment about avoiding the phone altogether–perhaps the phone itself is the answer we sometimes need."
“I do find it increasingly beneficial to take a break from platforms, video meetings and messaging applications—simply picking up the phone for an actual one-to-one call to chat. The interaction without the associated technological elements makes an old-school discussion a good break from the overwhelming always-on mentality for me, driving motivation, creativity and productivity,” Ian says.
Perhaps for others, going cold turkey from technology would make them even more stressed out. In that scenario, one may opt not to detox at all.
What I can say is: In this hybrid world (that’s not going away any time soon), it’s crucial we figure out what works for each of us and prioritize our digital wellness. Our careers, productivity and mental health are on the line.
And gone are the days of – well – phoning it in.