The Ericksons

Category Archives: Digital Minimalism


Read Books

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is R is for, Read Books, Be More Creative.

You gain knowledge when you read books

People seem to be moving from reading books to reading short pieces on the internet such as this blog. I am by no means advocating unfollowing this blog (heaven forbid that!) but it’s important that you don’t replace reading books with reading blogs. They each serve a different function. Books are built to last. They will give you knowledge on a deeper level. As you will read in this post, when you read a book, you change your mind—really.

Reading increases your vocabulary.

This is particularly true for fiction readers, likely because fiction tends to use a larger variety of words than non-fiction. In fact, in people who already read somewhat, and then increase their level of reading, their vocabulary by 2,000 words. However, when they go from reading “somewhat,” to reading lots and lots of fiction, their vocabulary will jump a whopping 8,000 words! And once you start reading it stays with you. You can find out more about these findings HERE. And you can take the vocabulary survey that has contributed to these finding to see how your vocabulary rates.

Readers sleep better than people who don’t read.

Most people know that reading books is a wonderful escape.  You can be transported to another place and/or time. This has more than entertainment value. It can help you sleep better.  After 6 minutes of reading your heart rate slows and your muscles relax. Fiction, in particular, is a great way to top off the night before going to bed. It pulls your focus away from the stressors of your day and engages your mind in an imagined place.

When you read books, you are able to see the world in a whole new light

Your mind is opened to new ideas and ways of doing things. You can think beyond your normal routine and patterns. Lisa Bu, shares in this short TED talk, how reading books changed who she was by opening her mind, especially when she left China and was able to read books banned in China. Books helped connect her to people from the past and the present.

You gain empathy.

The brain networks that are used for understanding stories are the same ones that are used when interacting with other people.  That same study showed that the more television a child was exposed to the worse they performed on theory of mind tests. There is a lot of speculation as to why this is. Suffice it to say, it’s better to read a book. (1)

Mar states, “Experiences that we have in our life shape our understanding of the world…and imagined experiences through narrative fiction stories are also likely to shape or change us. But with a caveat–it’s not a magic bullet–it’s an opportunity for change and growth.”

Immersive reading can really boost your imagination.

This ability helps us in our daily social interactions, much the way an airline pilot is aided by using a flight simulator. We are able to think of how we would react to various situations. In fact, neural changes that are associated with physical sensations suggest that when you read a novel, you truly are transported into the body of the protagonist. For example, just thinking about basketball activates the same neurons that are associated with actually playing basketball. (2)

For writers and artists in any creative field, is essential to read books in order to enlarge your world, enabling you to reflect it more brilliantly in your creative work.

Unfortunately, too many people don’t read books

Check out these reading statistics from the website, Static Brain. One shocking example: “42% of college graduates never read another book after college.” Why are literacy statistics so dismal? There is a lot of evidence to point to the fact that we are trying to prepare our children to become digitally proficient at the expense of traditional reading skills. We have started putting tablets in their hands instead of books. One study observed more than 300 kindergarteners across the Midwest that had iPads in the classroom. It found that the group of kids who had to share iPads in class scored 28 percent higher in literacy testing than children who had their own iPads or no iPads. (3)

The problem of the internet and other media such as TV

Television during childhood is considered detrimental to intellectual development.(4) It has been associated with lower IQ and higher levels of aggression.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting all screen time for kids aged two and under, to use for human interaction such as video chatting in moderation. But, what about Sesame Street? Yes, there is a Sesame Street exception for kids ages 2-5, and their parents. At this age, up to an hour of this type of educational programming is okay. Parents should be interacting with their child while they watch, however. Programs should have a Mister Rogers pace.

So, what are we to do?

I’m not saying that you should cancel your Netflix subscription or throw out your IPad. Limiting your use of digital media and increasing your fiction reading will help you to think more deeply and help increase your creativity. I personally know this to be true. I did a month-long digital detox in January and experienced a huge change in my creative and personal life.

We have the ability to learn as much as we want to through books. You aren’t limited to a high school or college education. And books are free at your local library! Read one today.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Footnotes:

  1. Raymond A. Mar, Exposure to media and theory-of-mind development in preschoolers. Science Direct, Cognitive Development Volume 25, Issue 1, January-March 2010, Pgs. 69-78
  2. Christopher Bergland. January 4, 2014. Psychology Today: Reading Fiction Improves Brain Connectivity and Function
  3. Chandra M Johnson Published: October 19, 2016. Desert News In Depth, How the digital age changes literacy education;
  4. Ridley-Johnson R Cooper H Chance J. 1983. The relation of children’s television viewing to school achievement and IQ. J Educ Res. 294–297.

Bullet Journal

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is B is for Bullet Journal.

Welcome my first video edition of

Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker. 

You can also read more details in the traditional post, below the video.

 

The Bullet Journal (BuJo for short) is an analog system for the digital age it was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY.

Uses

Most people who love the Bullet Journal system use it as a combination planner and journal. It’s the perfect way to keep track of your life and your goals in one place. I’ve found the Bullet Journal to be indispensable is in planning my content. I have 2 websites with different posting schedules—plus an email list. On top of that, I have my writing schedule. Finding the time to do these things isn’t half as difficult as finding the ideas to keep the content flowing. For me, this is where the Bullet Journal comes in.  I’ll show you exactly what I mean in just a minute. First I want to talk about…

Which Journal to Use

The bullet journal system is used on a dotted (bulletted) journal. You can use any dotted journal that works with your style and needs. When I first decided to try the Bullet Journal System, I bought one of the least expensive journals I could find. It was from Minimalism Art and it was sold on Amazon for a very reasonable price. It was good enough to figure out that I love the system.

The Leuchtrurm 1917

Then I got a hold of a Leuchtturm Bullet Journal.  I can tell you that quality really does make a difference. Let me point out some of the things that the Leuchtturm Bullet Journal has going for it. The Leuchtrurm 1917 has 240 numbered pages. Most off-brand journals have fewer pages, so it’s important to pay attention to page count when you’re making your journal purchase. This Leuchtturm journal is 145×210 mm. The comparable journal is a bit smaller, meaning there’s less room to get creative. Speaking of getting creative, lets look at how to use the Bullet Journal System to plan out your content.

How to use the Bullet Journal for planning your content

The Bullet Journal system has 4 core modules that you’ll use.  Once you put them all together, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing it for years.

Future Log

The future log is a big picture overview of your monthly goals and projects. Some people also like to put birthdays here along with other big life events to plan for. Because I have 2 websites to plan for, I’ve given each month a page and divided it into 2 (half for each site). This is where I put the focus of my blogs for the month. For example, I know that April is going to be the month of the A to Z Blogging challenge, so I write that down there.

I’ve also included some big projects/goals.  In January, I did a digital detox. So, I got a lot of writing done, including completing my next book, Facing Cancer as a Parent. I wrote a lot of future posts, as well.

The Monthly Log

The Monthly Log is where you organize your month. You’ll take the things from the future log that corresponds to that month, as well as other goals and events that come up and organize it all right here. Notice the date, as well as the day.  I also have a sort of personal code to keep track of which website I’ll post to that day.

I had been putting some big daily goals here, but soon decided that the better place to deal with daily goals is in the Daily Log. SO let’s turn there…

Daily Log

The Daily log can be a place to write down what you plan to do. I like to do this the night before. It’s a great way to get everything laid out so you don’t lie awake thinking about it. This is something you do as you go. The flexibility of the Bullet Journal system means your planner can reflect your needs, as busy or as relaxed as your day is.

Notes

Some people need space to take a lot of notes. Examples for me are the pages I’ve dedicated to Guest Post Ideas and Videos. I’ve done a little guest posting in the past and I’m completely new to creating videos for my websites. So, I’ve written some ideas here. Another example of notes (and probably a better one since they are true notes rather than tasks) is a note I began on e-book formatting.

What about these symbols in the planner? Let’s look at them.

Key

The key is on the inside of the journal cover. This is another way the Leuchtturm Journal stands out. In my Minimalism Art journal, I had to create my own key. These are symbols that let you know where each item in your journal stands.

. Task

X Completed

>  Migrated (to next Monthly Log),

At the beginning of the 2nd  month, look back at the previous month for any undone tasks. Either strike thought irrelevant tasks with a line or migrate them.

<  Scheduled (to Future Log)

These are the things you want to get done but haven’t yet scheduled.You are saying, “This can wait until October.” Then you schedule it in the future log that’s designated for October.

–Note

O Event or Appointment

*Priority (That’s a tiny asterisk)

Index

The first few pages in your Bullet Journal will be dedicated to the index. Each page will be numbered. In my red, Minimalism Art journal, I needed to number them myself. The Leuchtturm journal came pre-numbered, and also has a beautiful set of lined index pages.

One last note on Style

You can use pen or pencil, one color or as many as you can find. Your style is your style. There are stencils available to use if you’re the kind of person who wants his or her artistic flair to shine. I’ve decided in my next Bullet Journal, I’m going to use 1 or 2 colors. What you choose to do is up to you. That’s the beauty of the bullet journal.

Where to find out more

BulletJournal.com

Before you leave, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.


Things I've learned from my digital detox

This is the last post in my series of posts on digital minimalism. I will share the key things I’ve learned from my digital detox. One of the things I’ve learned from my digital detox is that…

Multitasking doesn’t work

When you multitask, you are actually rapidly interrupting one task with another. Your brain then has to recall what you are trying to do and how to do it. In the example of watching an adventure film, baking cookies and working on your novel, you aren’t actually doing these things at the same time (no matter how coordinated you are). Your brain has to stop one activity and then reset itself to begin the next one.

Everyone has had the experience of talking to a friend while doing something. Then you stop and say, “What was I doing” your conversation interfered with your task. Now your brain needs to reset itself to the task at hand. Many a turn has been missed by my husband while he was talking to me in the car. Often, we think that we’re saving time, or being more efficient. The truth is that even if we do save time, it’s at the cost of quality. Multitasking is one of the things I gave up during my digital detox.

Although I haven’t mentioned it, it was also one of the toughest things to let go of. One of the most surprising things I’ve learned from my digital detox is how great it feels to focus. Multitasking is the exact opposite of focus. I used to love doing several things at the same time. No more! Now, when I do something, I will give it the attention it deserves, or not do it at all.

Chunking

 

What’s Chunking?

Chunking is the concept of human memory utilization. Instead of multitasking, you group tasks together and focus on doing one specific thing. You stop Multitasking. When you have a higher level project to work on, close the door and do it without interruptions. Don’t check your email or answer the phone. In fact, turn the ringer off. Don’t check social media accounts or have YouTube playing in the background. You will be more effective at what you want to accomplish.

But, what about email and phone calls? How do you deal with those? Chunk those tasks, too! Check all of your emails in the same block of time. Schedule this time like any other appointment. Someone like me might only need a half hour to handle a day’s worth of emails. A high-level executive might need to spend an hour and a half, twice a day to handle all of his emails. Phone calls can be handled the same way. Turn your ringer off when you are dealing with another project. Then return any calls during a planned period of time.

Use your tools to Chunk

One of the other things I learned from my digital detox is to choose when you do things carefully. For example, I sit down and begin to write before all of the other distractions of the day arrive in my inbox. I’m able to use my rested, focused mind to take care of my priority. Then, I help my kids with their school work. THEN I check my email. I “stack” my chunks of time according to priority. A schedule can be used as well.

Things I’ve learned from my digital detox: Tools

These tools you used to prepare for your digital detox can help you manage technology day to day rather than letting it use you. Things like blog post schedulers, can help you to manage your time (and what you need to get done in that time) more efficiently through “chunking.” One of the things I’ve learned from my digital detox is how to use filters and sorters to prioritize certain emails and automatically delete or archive others. One helpful tool Here’s a tutorial from Mashable on how to use filters like a boss.

Chunking your Email

Rather than compulsively checking your email, schedule when you’ll read and respond to emails. Limit this to once or twice a day. Avoid checking it before going to bed, since email can add to things you think about, disrupting your sleep patterns.

Managing Expectations

One of the things I’ve learned from my digital detox is to manage the expectations of others, People get “trained” by your actions. If they are accustomed to you responding immediately to every text or email, they get upset if you don’t do that every time. Yet, we all know someone who takes their time to get back to you. You know this, so you feel secure that even if you don’t hear from them immediately, you know you will sooner or later.

I’m now that person. I always respond, it just might take me a few hours. I sent out an autoresponder that people would receive when they sent me an email. It let them know not to expect an immediate response from me, but that I would be checking my email daily and would get back to them within 24 hours. I’m no longer sending out an autoresponder but I have added a note to my signature telling people not to expect an immediate response, but that I always respond within 12 hours.

Things Ive learned from my digital detox

Phone

Like email, the phone can be a source of interruption and distraction while trying to get something done. Sometimes you’re waiting for an important call, but other times the calls can wait and be returned when it’s more convenient for you. Only you know what sort of calls you typically get. Many writers block out the world by turning off their ringers and letting calls go to voice messaging while they write.

If it makes you feel better, you can leave office hours on your voicemail, letting callers know when you accept and return calls. People will ultimately respect you for having control over your schedule. You’ll be better at your job. Your creativity and efficiency will likely increase. Hopefully, once you’ve gotten into the groove of this new way of life, you’ll feel a lot of peace about it.

To retreat or not to retreat

One of the things I have written about in this series is taking a retreat. I’m a big believer in retreats. I take an annual retreat to the woods without electricity or running water. I also take family vacations and can forget about the internet for days while traveling. In order to get some control over your day to day technology use, there is nothing better than living your ordinary day to day life. It’s easy to take a vacation from technology. Limiting it is much harder.

The Future as a Digital Minimalist

I’ve enjoyed sharing with you, my experience and the things I’ve learned from my digital detox. I will likely write future blog posts that touch on the subject of digital minimalism. I would love to hear from you. Have you ever done a digital detox? What were your experiences with it? Do you have plans to do one in the future? Even if you don’t, I hope some of the things I’ve learned from my digital detox have been helpful to you.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Day by day Journal of my Digital Detox

Last month I took a break from a lot of the technology that I use every day as a writer and as someone who loves technology as much as the next guy or gal. During that time I kept a journal of how things were going. I thought you might find some of my observations interesting. I’ve kept this very brief and as you read it you’ll get an idea of what a 30-day digital detox can feel like. Again, this is a very personal experience, you someone else’s might be completely different.

Day 1

I’ve enjoyed my first technology free day. I haven’t missed anything other than my favorite computer game, which, for some reason, I have wanted to play several times today. I’ve noticed I’m more talkative with my family. I did have to send one text canceling an appointment tomorrow.

Day 2

I finished the book, A River in the Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea. It only took me 3 days of reading it aloud to my husband during “downtime.” Reading aloud has taken the place of Netflix before bed. He has remarked that he is really enjoying me reading to him. He always has, but he’s surprised that it’s taken the sting out of missing our nightly Netflix routine. I’m also reading, The Girl with the Pearl Earring on my own.

Day 3

As originally planned, we’ve been watching one show/night on Netflix. Dan, of course, chose NCIS (his favorite). This morning, we were rehashing a major plot twist/cliffhanger that happened in last night’s episode. It was a lot of fun to consider different possibilities. We don’t normally do that. I think not jumping to the next show right away has allowed what we’ve seen to rattle around in our brains a while longer.

Day 4

Last night, my husband wasn’t feeling very well. He cashed in a coupon for a “Netflix Marathon” (3 shows). I woke up a little early so we could drop the van off at the mechanic. I’m exhausted! I cheated once today and did an internet search to see how long it should take for Dan’s antibiotic to work. I got my answer without having to go to more than one site. Then I searched for information on lung masses and again found what I needed on one site. I’ve been very productive during the past few days. I’m concerned about tomorrow’s scan results.

Day 5

After getting news that my husband’s cancer was progressing, again, I broke the rules and looked up the new chemotherapy online. I only looked at 2 sites, one for each drug. I think that was great restraint, though I would have liked to look up more information, I know the site I checked is the best and any further investigation is unnecessary. He wasn’t feeling well. He felt bad about missing his prayer meeting. We watched our Netflix shows again, much to his glee. I’ve been having a hard time concentrating with all of this going on. Still, I got a lot done today, considering.

Day 10

I decided that a daily journal for this wasn’t necessary. Instead, I’ll check in every few days with my observations. Until this morning, I have been doing a lot of deep work. I have the book Facing Cancer as a Parent ready to be formatted and then, read by a few select readers. I think part of my problem this morning is the depression I feel at the moment due to Dan’s worsening health. It didn’t help that I just finished editing the section about dealing with death in the book.

Speaking of books, I finished reading Red Chips of Paint to Dan and we are now starting a new series.

Day 22

By far, the thing I have missed most during this time is my video game. This is especially true when I am having a difficult day with my kids or with my husband’s cancer and I just want to escape. My video game is the best escape I can think of. I know that escapism isn’t necessarily a healthy way to deal with your problems, but the fact remains, I miss my video game. Yet I have not succumbed to the temptation.

I have however given in to my husband and we have been watching 2 shows each night rather than the originally agreed upon one show. I think two is where I’ll keep it after the experiment is done, too. We completed reading another book together and I’ve read two more on my own. I am also ready to send my book on parenting with cancer to my beta readers.

Day 26

I’ve noticed that I have gotten a little sloppy in some of my digital “guidelines.” A couple of times, I have looked something up and have found myself quickly distracted. I have also checked my email today more than I wanted—maybe 5 times rather than the 2 I had vowed to stick to. The email thing was work-related, so it is legitimate (but it was also unnecessary).

I will be glad when the month is done and I can play my video game. Out of everything I have minimized or given up completely, that is the one thing I miss to the core. I think I will continue to check my email as little as possible. I will minimize social media as well. I feel far more peaceful since giving that up. Though I’m certain my blog stats have taken a hit. It’s especially bad for my new site, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Day 31

I gave up a day early. I got an email telling me that Dan is featured in a Facebook ad for the drug he’s been on for 2 years. We’ve been waiting for quite some time to see the fruits of our trip to Virginia, so I had to take a peek. Once I did, it was all downhill. All, except for my video game. How’s that for irony? The thing I missed the most is the one thing I didn’t fudge on. Even with some blurring of the lines, I feel very good about how this month went. I’ve learned many ways to manage technology better than I had been, previously. I’ve read a ton of books! I should tally them up. I have become more engaged in eliminating multi-tasking. It’s been a great learning process.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Prepare for your digital detox

We’ve been looking digital minimalism and how taking some time away from your gadgets can improve your life. Ironically, using technology such as email auto-responders, blog post schedulers, email sorters, voicemails, and bill-pay, can actually help you prepare for your digital detox and make it more successful. Let’s take a look at a few simple ways to make your time away from technology easier.

If you are taking a retreat

Give an emergency contact a way to reach you for emergencies. It’s a good idea to specify what those emergencies are since different people consider different things urgent. You might not think that deciding what shade your best friend should color her hair qualifies as an emergency, but she may think it is. It’s important that someone knows how to get ahold of you if a member of your family becomes ill or gets locked out of the house.

If you aren’t going on retreat, this shouldn’t be a problem, since you can be found where you usually live and work, and will likely have access to your phone.

Put your toe over the starting line

  • Prepare for your digital detox by easing into, it a week early. This way you can work out the kinks.
  • Turn off your computer notifications,
  • Start sorting your email as you prepare for your digital detox.
  • Remove all social media apps and any other unnecessary apps/games from your phone. Don’t panic, you can always reinstall them after your detox if you want to.

How to Find Time to Write

Speaking of Panic

Even though I have taken breaks from technology in the past with no problems, I felt some anxiety while preparing for my month-long detox. After all, a month is a pretty big commitment. I found that it helped to journal through some of those feelings. By journaling, as you prepare for your digital detox, you can examine the feelings you have. Later you will look at your journal and see how far you’ve come!

Create “technology-free zones”

These are places where you don’t bring your devices. You’ll soon see how much you use and depend on technology. The bedroom is a great place to start since this technology is proven to negatively impact your sleep and your love life. From the notifications on your phone, habitually checking it (aka “checking out”), and blue lights that interfere with your sleep, devices can have a big-time effect on your nightlife.

The dinner table is another place that devices should be banned. Prepare for your digital detox by learning to spend more quality time together. Everyone can take a half an hour to converse with one another rather than look at their phones.

Prepare for your digital detox by disconnecting

I have a fitness tracker that’s hooked up to my phone. It lets me know whenever I get an email, a phone call or social media message. Do I really need to be that available? No. I turned off all of the notifications except for my morning alarm.

Replace social media time with real socialization. Write an actual letter and drop it in the mail each day. Call a friend rather than sending a text. Then, think about how it feels different than the quicker, more superficial alternatives.

How far will you go?

When I initially thought about this project, I planned to just quit social media. Soon the other modes of technology went down like dominoes. There were times when I thought, a month isn’t that long, but there are other times when a month seems impossible. One thing is for sure, A month will make a far greater impact on my habits than a weekend, or even a week without digital connections.

You will need to decide the parameters of your detox.

What will be off limits? What will you replace each item with? For example, every night my husband and I cap off the day with our latest binge-worthy Netflix series. Even when we’ve gone on trips without internet, we’ve brought along a DVD. So it was tough on my husband to have me draw the line there. But, I will be reading a novel to him. So, we’re replacing our viewing time with reading time.

Make sure you have everything you need, ahead of time.

If you are completely cutting off technology (no emergency searches) make any online purchases and print out recipes in advance. Think outside of the box as you prepare for your digital detox and during the detox. Call a friend who cooks, or pull out your Granny’s cookbook for that recipe you forgot to print out. Problem-solving will be part of the fun.

Journal

Keep track of how you’re feeling about your as you prepare for your digital detox, during your detox, and after. Watch for patterns and changes. You may feel on edge without your phone in your hand. You also might begin to feel very relaxed due to the lack of notifications on your phone and computer. You’ll get out of your digital detox what you put into it.

Journal

Don’t try to “evangelize” while you do your detox

What do I mean by that? Don’t be the guy who tries to convince everyone that they have a problem—even if they do. This is something you are doing for yourself. Sure, it’s a good idea for most people to give something like this a try. It can’t hurt, but that’s for them to decide on their own. Your friendships will fare far better if you make this about you. Feel free to share this series, though. And of course, let people know why it might seem like you dropped off the planet for a while.

One last thing, unless you are doing your detox on a weekend or during a vacation, you do still need to do your job, using technology as required. You can still gain a lot of benefit from doing only mandatory technology use. In fact, it’s often harder than just chucking it all and going to the woods for a few days.

Next Time…

I’ll share some of my observations from my digital detox.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Guidelines for your digital detox

This post is the second in a series I am writing about digital minimalism. You can check out my post on why doing a digital detox is something you should consider, HERE. To get started, you will need to set some guidelines for your digital detox, digital declutter, technology fast, or any other term you want to use to describe it. These are the parameters you will use to reign in your use of gadgets and digital technology. There are some questions you need to answer to determine your own guidelines for your digital detox. I’ve included my own answers, but they are only one example of how to approach this.

What do I hope to achieve/What is my goal?

This is a very personal question. There is no right answer to it. It’s essential that you think about this at a deep level, though, in order to be able to hang in there when it gets tough. Your reason for reducing your technology use has to be bigger and more meaningful than the benefit you get from the technology use.

My answer: Initially I volunteered to be part of an experiment in digital minimalism. But I also wanted to increase my creativity, “reset” my thinking, and better use technology rather than letting the constant interruptions of my gadgets and disjointed thinking use me.

How long will you limit your technology use?

This could range from 24 hours onward. Some people do this while on vacation or retreat. That way they can do a complete elimination of technology for a period of time when their professional life won’t be adversely affected. You may want to choose a short period of time like 24 hours as one of the guidelines for your digital detox, and then make it part of your regular routine, doing a weekly or monthly time-out from technology.

My answer: I will restrict my technology use for one month (January).

Schedule your Posts

What, specifically will you limit, and how much?

Some people need to use technology as part of their jobs. There aren’t any ways around that unless you take a retreat, or only do this on for a weekend or during vacation. Even in our personal lives, it can get a little sticky because of how much we’ve come to depend on things like cell phones. So let’s start there as we take a look at the individual technologies we use how they will fit into the guidelines for your digital detox.

Phones

Regular old, run-of-the-mill telephones are fine. They only ring when someone wants to talk to you. Cell phones are different. Their constant banners and beeps distract you and steal your time and attention. Some recent findings from the CDC1 show that over half the homes in the U.S. have wireless service only. And the vast majority of the remaining homes have both land-line and wireless service. As one of those homes, I can tell you that while we have a land-line, we rarely answer it.

Cell Phones

In terms of our experiment, cell phones can be complex. You still need some connection to the world. A true phone call from a friend or loved one can be a beautiful thing.  Turn off all notifications. Remove any apps from your phone that you can. You can always add them back, later (if you still want them).

Social Media

No matter what, social media should be completely off limits. Remove shortcuts to social media accounts from your computer and their apps from your phone. Let your friends on any accounts that you are very active on know, that you will be MIA for a while and, why (if you wish). This will prevent anyone from worrying about you.

The only exception to this is if you are an employee of someone else and they require you to use social media. I usually post updates and share blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. When I let my online friends/followers know that I would be taking a 30-day break, they were very supportive.

Guidelines for your digital detox

Blogs and other Online Presence

If you have a blog, how strictly you set the guidelines for your digital detox will depend on how committed you are to maintaining your blogging schedule. The good news is that most blog platforms let you write blogs in advance and schedule them for whatever date and time you want them to post online. I have 2 WordPress blogs and was able to set up all of my January posts in advance.

Email and Texting

This is something that you really want to maintain control over because if you don’t, it can really get away from you. The best way to do this is to set a schedule and a time limit. How much time do you estimate you will need each day to do a basic check of your email and respond to any pressing needs? Add an extra 15 minutes for any emergency online activities such as buying tickets to an event or paying a bill.

I am allowing myself 30 minutes a day  I can also check my phone for any missed calls and texts. This should only take 5 minutes, though, and should be done intentionally.

Gaming

No video games. No video games. No video games.

Other devices

Wearable technology has become very popular in recent years. Wristbands, watches, and other wearable technology have made us more connected than ever. I have a wristband that keeps track of my activity. It also vibrates whenever I get a text, email, phone call, or instant message. It even vibrates when it’s time for me to wake up in the morning. This can all be a bit much. Thankfully, I am able to turn off all of these notifications within the corresponding app. The only thing I will be keeping on is my morning alarm and the fitness tracker (with no notifications).

Wearable technology

Television, Streaming Video, and DVD/Blue Ray

This is an area of debate when it comes setting guidelines for your digital detox. The scattered activities of online browsing and apps on your phone keep you distracted and aimless. YouTube videos are also short interrupted bursts of video that affect your brain in a similar way. Watching a show on streaming accounts like Netflix involves more focus. Your brain works in a different way for this activity. So in terms of the digital minimalism experiment I signed up for, I’ve been given the green light specifically for streaming video. Still, it’s certainly better to reduce, if not altogether take a break from your viewing habit. How you choose to handle it will depend on several factors:

How long are you taking a break from technology?

If it’s only for a weekend, get the most out of your efforts and eliminate screen time entirely. If you’re taking a month-long break like I am, that might not be practical. For one thing, you may want to go to the movies or rent a Redbox for a Friday night date. Go for it. A date is something that nurtures your relationship with your significant other, so that’s a positive thing. On the other hand, life shouldn’t go on as usual when it comes to streaming video,

How will these guidelines for your digital detox affect your loved ones?

My husband and I have 2-3 shows that we watch before going to bed. We began this habit when he started treatment for stage IV lung cancer. Sometimes he was so sick and fatigued that all he could do was lay in bed and watch TV. It became something we did together. We’d hold hands and snuggle and get some good laughs. Because my actions during this detox are going to affect my husband, I had to take his feelings into consideration. So, we came up with a good compromise. We are allowed to watch one Netflix show of his choice each night. With the extra time, I’ll read a novel to him. He especially loves it when I change up the voices for the various characters, adding accents when it’s called for.

Next time…

Next week, I will share how a little preparation along with these guidelines for your digital detox can make your time away from technology much easier.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Footnotes:

1 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/wireless201705.pdf


Doing a Digital Detox

During the month of January, I participated in an experiment for a fellow author who is looking at digital minimalism. I had done a lot of research on the subject, myself. As someone who spends countless hours on my laptop, I have often wondered how productive that time has been. Is there a better way to do what I do? And, most importantly, is all of that connectedness actually doing me more harm than good? After doing my research, I came to the conclusion that doing a digital detox might be the perfect way to start out the year.

The thought of doing a digital detox for an entire month wasn’t easy to swallow, considering I’m a writer and blogger. I will be writing a series of posts explaining why I chose to go on a technology fast, how I did it, and my thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of embarking on such an extreme digital diet of sorts. I will also be offering you some ideas of how you can explore your digital life in a healthy way. Let’s begin by taking a look at why doing a digital detox is worth considering.

Too much of a good thing

In the past 30 years, technology has advanced at breakneck speed. Nearly every American has a cell phone and a personal computer or laptop. These tools give us a constant connectedness that has its benefits, but also its downsides.

Technology addiction

The brain responds to what is known as “reward stimulus.” This natural reward that kicks in when stimulated (often by things like food, sex, and drugs). For an addict, just remembering or looking at these things is enough to kick in the reward stimulus effect, triggering the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that alerts the brain that something exciting is about to happen. This causes the brain to crave that reward. This craving increases the pleasure the person experiences when he receives the “reward.” It also increases the level of disappointment the person experiences when the expectation is unfulfilled. Over time the brain requires more and more of the stimuli just to feel “okay”. This is known as tolerance. In order to get the reward stimuli at the desired level, the person will make poor decisions and take greater risks.

Information overload

“Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.” (Gross1)

Every minute2:Digital Overload

571 new websites are created

287,000 Tweets are sent out on Twitter

Amazon sells $83,000 in product

17,000 Walmart transactions happen

People click the “like” button 1.8 million times on Facebook.

41,000 posts are posted on Facebook every SECOND!

And, information overload isn’t limited to the internet. Go to any ice cream parlor or coffee shop and you will likely get what is known as “choice paralysis.” This inability to choose between too many options is the reason the guy in front of you suddenly draws a blank when the server asks for his order (That never happens to you, right?). If it’s far simpler to choose between chocolate and vanilla than to choose from 36 different flavors, imagine the effect information overload had on us as we surf the web.

Using our time

We only have 24 hours in any given day. Yet, Americans are now spending an average of 10 hours a day3 on TV, computer, smartphones, etc. Often by the end of a day, we wonder where the time went. We owe it to ourselves to make the best use of the time we are given so that later, we don’t look back and regret the hours we frittered away staring at our screens. Perhaps doing a digital detox is a good way to begin.

Relationships

By evaluating your technology use and putting it in a healthy perspective, you can even improve your relationships. How often have you seen people out to dinner, more engaged with their smartphone than with their spouse or kids? 82% of adults and 29% of 18-29 year-olds according to Common Sense Media4 said they felt that cell phone use had harmed conversations with family and friends while socializing. Acceptable social norms have changed significantly in the past decade. Interruptions and distractions have become normalized in the current generation of young adults. Even though Social Media can be helpful in connecting you to friends and family who you don’t get to see on a regular basis, it can also clog up your life with some negative byproducts.

“Friends” who aren’t really friends.

There’s an inherent danger with sharing personal details about your life with people who are essentially, strangers. Young people have picked up on this behavior and no longer have their antennae up, alert for potential predators, while online. This isn’t just about sexual predators. Cyber-bullying is an all too common occurrence. Young people take their cues from parents and other adults. Set an example of responsibility and caution with technology.

Our Sleep Cycle and Overall Health

According to the National Sleep Foundation5, there are 3 ways electronics negatively affect your sleep:

  • They Suppress Melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep/wake rhythms. The blue light from your phone and other electronics reduces melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends making your bedroom gadget-free.

  • They Keep your Brain Awake

Even though watching TV or reading on your tablet might seem like a good way to unwind, gadgets actually makes it harder.

  • They Wake You Up

The late-night chimes, dings, of your phone (and buzzes of a vibrating phone on silent), wake up people who sleep with a cell in their bedrooms.

Creativity and Critical Thinking

An article from the Guardian6 sums up what has is happening in our society. Emojis and predetermined functions such as likes and shares make interaction “efficient” so we can get on with the business of consuming more content.

“Although user-generated content has been growing exponentially in the past decade, much of it is noise and the result is that valuable and trustworthy information is now harder to find.”

My Personal Reasons for Doing a Digital Detox

As a writer, I find this especially concerning. I want to have opinions and thoughts that are my own, to feel creative—truly creative. What if my relationships with my family and friends could be more meaningful? Maybe by doing a digital detox, I could sleep better at night and make clearer decisions every day.

I feel anxiety about what life will look like without being “plugged in.” This makes me think I have a measure of technology addiction in my life. It will be interesting to see what problems I encounter, being unable to search the internet on a whim. I guess this means I won’t be able to shop on Amazon for a month, either.

I’m also looking forward to some anticipated benefits of doing a digital detox. I will get more reading and writing done, distraction-free. By the way, for this experiment, I will be using my word processing software on my laptop. After all, let’s not get crazy here.

Next time…

Next time I will be sharing some things to consider as you set your own personal guidelines for your technology use.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family
The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

Footnotes

1 The Managing of Organizations, Bertram Gross,  Professor of Political Science at Hunter College

2 Daily Maile.com July 30, 2013, Victoria Wollaston, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2381188/Revealed-happens-just-ONE-minute-internet-216-000-photos-posted-278-000-Tweets-1-8m-Facebook-likes.html

3 CNN: Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing; July 29, 2016; Jacqueline Howard; http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/index.html

4 Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance; Common Sense Media P. 27

5 https://sleep.org/articles/ways-technology-affects-sleep/

6 The Guardian, June 18, 2015; Is technology making us more creative? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/jun/18/technology-creative-creativity-web-content

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