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 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.
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.
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?
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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.