You know that one cousin who spends the entire Christmas dinner scrolling Instagram? Or the aunt that can’t quit playing Candy Crush while her kids are opening their gifts?
Don’t be that person. This is the perfect time of year to foster a more balanced relationship with your devices and start using them intentionally. Here’s how to digital detox this holiday season.
What is a digital detox?
Essentially, a digital detox works just like any other: you take time away from a negative thing in order to cleanse your system and adjust to life without it.
A digital detox is the answer to our work-obsessed, screen-focused world. During a digital detox, you take intentional time away from your devices and re-adjust to life without constant, unchecked phone use.
You might need a digital detox if you…
- Spend more time than you’d like scrolling on your phone.
- Don’t have clear boundaries between your work and personal time.
- Feel like you don’t engage with any non-digital hobbies anymore.
- Have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting out of bed in the morning.
- Desire a more intentional, balanced relationship with your devices.
If you’re eager to do your own digital detox, there’s no better time than now: during the holidays!
Why the holidays are the perfect time for a digital detox
The holidays are a natural time to do your own digital detox. The season usually comes with a break from work, and most people have more social obligations (parties, family dinners, etc.) to keep them busy. Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend more intentional, phone-free time with their loved ones over the holiday season?
How to Digital Detox
Want to learn how to digital detox this holiday season? Here are the five steps!
STEP 1: Define your why.
In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains that progress comes from a combination of passion and structure. Before you create a plan for your digital detox, you need to figure out why you’re so passionate about doing it in the first place.
Personally, I did my very first digital detox because I felt I was wasting too much of my valuable time scrolling memes and watching Youtube videos. I’ve worked with coaching clients who want to use their phone less so they improve their sleep, reduce headaches, and focus better during the workday. You might also find that your phone habit has taken the place of more productive or peaceful hobbies, like reading. Whatever your why, define it early on. That way, you’ll be able to remind yourself of it whenever the detox gets difficult.
STEP 2: Make a plan.
Before you cut the metaphorical cord (Do they even make corded phones anymore?), create a plan for what your digital detox will look like. Set specific goals for…
- How long your detox will last. Some scientists believe that a digital detox should last at least three days. That being said, I don’t think you can go wrong with planning a longer detox.
- How much time you’ll spend on your phone. Want to cut your screen time down by a few hours? Set a limit for how long you’ll spend on your phone each day. If you can, set time limits for distracting and time-consuming apps.
- Which apps and devices you’ll limit. If you’re particularly drawn to doom-scrolling Instagram or wasting hours on TikTok, make a goal to avoid those specific apps.
- When you’ll be entirely phone-free. I’m a big fan of scheduling phone-free days, especially during the holiday season. Pick a few days and block them out on your calendar.
- Which activities you’ll turn to when you’re tempted. Chances are, you’ll still feel the urge to pick up your phone. Pick a few activities–like reading, knitting, or going for a walk–that you’ll turn to when you’re tempted to scroll.
Clear, measurable goals will make sticking to your detox easier and you’ll feel even more accomplished once you complete it.
STEP 3: Communicate your boundaries.
For entrepreneurs especially, it can feel impossible to go “off the grid” for even a few days. The easiest way to avoid that late-night, must-check-my-email panic is to communicate your boundaries with your team and clients.
If you’re planning to spend part of your usual work week away from social media or your email inbox, let your team know. On days you’re only limiting your device use a bit, set specific times you’ll check your email (once in the morning, once at the end of your workday), and communicate that with your team.
Over the holidays, though, you’ll probably find that your team and clients are also eager for some time away from their devices. So don’t sweat it too much!
STEP 4: Make your devices less enticing.
Our devices, phones especially, are designed to keep us addicted to them. Your phone puts you into a dopamine loop: you check your phone, you get a rush of dopamine, you feel good, your dopamine starts to dip, you pick up your phone again. It’s a vicious cycle designed to keep us checking, scrolling, and consuming.
The best way to break this loop is to make your phone less enticing. The less fun your phone is, the less likely you’ll be to get that dopamine rush when you check it. Start by…
- Turning off all non-essential notifications. I keep my call notifications on in case of emergencies, but everything else stays off.
- Making your wallpaper boring. Yep, you read that right. Make your phone wallpaper a single, boring color, not a photo of something you love.
- Turn your display to greyscale. All the major phone brands have this feature for accessibility reasons, but it’s also a great way to take some of the ‘wow’ factor out of scrolling.
- Delete super tempting apps. This is the big one, folks. If you just can’t stay away from Instagram or Youtube, delete it.
For the first few days, you’ll probably notice that you check for notifications out of habit. But as time goes on, you’ll eventually break the dopamine loop and lose the urge to constantly grab your phone.
STEP 5: Keep going in the new year!
A digital detox doesn’t do much good if you go right back to your old habits when it’s over. At the end of your detox, spend some time reflecting on the experience. How much more were you able to accomplish? Were your stress levels lower? Did you engage with more of your old hobbies or talk to friends in person more? If you see a positive change during the detox, keep at it! It could be the start of a healthier, more balanced relationship with your devices.
Ready to commit to your digital detox and finally break up with your phone?
There’s no better time than the holidays! Download my Break Up With Your Phone Guide, a 25-page digital guide on how to digital detox and create more balance with your devices.