I have been hearing quite a bit about not using technology and I want to share my experience with trying to wean myself off of technology. I’ll be honest, I believe I do have an addiction with technology though I hope it’s not as bad as I think it is.

First, where have I heard about this? Ryan Holiday talked about not watching the news or essentially to stop consuming things that really do not benefit you in a measurable way. Cal Newport wrote a book on digital minimalism and advocates no screen days. One thing that I am very conscious of is how much I am using my devices. I use a laptop at work, a tablet at home, a smartphone anywhere I go and sometimes I am using all three at once which is crazy.

Second, why disconnect? You have the power of the world’s knowledge all at your fingertips at times – why not take advantage of it? Yes, you’re right – you can learn almost anything through your smartphone but are you dependent on your smartphone for a lot of things? Before I got a cellphone, I memorized phone numbers of my friends and family – nowadays, I may be remember my own number and one other number and that’s it. Or my friends and I would have a heated debate about who the best hockey player is and then wonder about it for weeks – now, we can look it up instantly and find out (though this may not mean no heated arguments). There are lots of studies and articles talking about the benefits of disconnecting, however, here is my take on the benefits you get:

  • Increased focus and concentration (you’re not continually distracted or looking for that next dopamine hit)
  • More time with loved ones (how many times have you ‘listened’ to your partner speak while on your smartphone – I’ve done it and it’s a message saying that you aren’t 100% paying attention)
  • Better nights and mornings (your devices are emitting blue light which wreaks havoc on your natural sleep cycle. Your mornings are much better off if you don’t use any devices for the first few hours – you’re not a slave to notifications and other items that are pulling your attention and energy away from you)

Convinced? Here is how I tried to cut down my device usage:

Track your device usage

The first thing to do is to figure out how much you are using your devices. You may not feel like you are using your smartphone very much for instance but all these little notifications and picking up your phone when you are bored or in the washroom add up. I use an app to basically tell me how much I’ve used my device and what applications I spend the most time on. On Apple devices, it’s automatically in the OS and it tells you whether your usage over the week is more or less than the previous week.

Turn off notifications

Smartphones can be great – you can immediately reach someone from halfway across the world. At the same time, we’ve been taught that any time there’s a notification or buzz that it is important. I’m an Android user so I am not completely sure if the notifications work the same way on Apple and other phones or not but any time I see a notification that I’m not interested in (such as from games or apps that I rarely use), I press and hold the notification and there’s an option to mute all notifications from that particular app. If I go a week and regularly mute notifications, my phone only notifies me for what is truly important. I also mute notifications from whats app, e-mail and others though this may not be amenable to you. What you might want to try is to mute notifications from a specific time, say 6 PM until 8 AM (that is, outside the hours of work), so that you’re disconnecting from work and other things that can wait until the morning.

Uninstall apps

Every month, I look at the apps on my phone (which are in the hundreds) and I make sure I am regularly uninstalling apps. What apps do I uninstall?

  • Apps that are one-offs
  • Apps that I haven’t used in the last month
  • Apps where I feel like I’m spending an inordinate amount of time (this is mostly games)

A lot of the times, I install apps as a one-off – say a shopping app or travel app that I don’t use on a regular basis but I know that I can always install it again later so I uninstall it. I know the convenience of having the right app for the right occasion – but the benefit of having fewer apps on your phone (which in a way, represents your mind) means your mind is less bogged down by apps that you may not use.

Have an analog day

My partner and I have started to do ‘no technology on Saturday mornings’ – we eat breakfast, drink some tea and then sit and read for a couple hours in the morning on Saturday mornings. Starting at 1 PM, we then are able to use our devices if we want to. I know there are people that cut technology completely on one day of the week – say Saturday or Sunday but I’m not quite there yet. It’s a slow but steady progress but really, what is there on your phone or tablet that you need to do on the weekend?

What about you? Do you feel like you are addicted to your devices? How much time do you spend on them? Do you have a day (or morning or hour) of no technology?