The Ericksons

Setting Guidelines for your Digital Detox


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

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2 comments on “Setting Guidelines for your Digital Detox

Thanks for getting the wheels turning in my brain. We were on vacation last week and I took a day fast from electronics as a result of thinking about your month-long fast. It was freeing, I felt calmer and had more time to read. I am not sure how I’m going to incorporate this idea into my life but I know I need to!

I’m glad it was a good experience, Nancy. My daughter in college told me tonight about a professor she has who only uses a blackboard and paper. She said it’s the most peaceful part of her day. Little changes can make a big difference! Bless you, Nancy.

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