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I walked into a lounge where my team was waiting to go into a meeting and noticed all the people in the room had their faces buried in a ‘device’. My arrival went unnoticed. Remember the old days of striking up a conversation with a stranger or vacantly watching people interact or, even better, slipping into a boredom-induced daydream. Amazing…and no longer.

Smart phones have changed our lives significantly. The leap in mobile phone technology has taken us from a brick with an aerial to a full-service life tool, not only providing us with efficient ways of keeping in touch but also filling the role of personal assistant, entertainment manager and a handy something to do while you wait for a friend. But – and it’s a big but – most of us have become easily influenced by the big-tech puppeteers and fallen into a digital abyss of head-in-the-phone-while-life-passes-you-buy syndrome. Hours are wasted scrolling through insignificant information, early morning healthy lifestyle routines and evening snuggles are replaced by blue light hypnosis. Have you ever found yourself checking your WhatsApp messages or notifications at each red traffic light or 3 times in the queue at the grocery store? Are we addicts?

Nomophobia is the official term for smartphone addiction and a recent article on disturbmenot.com cited some very scary statistics and I’ll highlight a few:

  • People tap, swipe, and click an average of 2,617 times per day.
  • iPhone users unlock their phones an average of 80 times per day.
  • Studies show that the average US consumer spends a whopping 5 hours and up to 11hours a day on various mobile devices.
  • Cell phone addiction statistics found that 71% of smartphone users usually sleep with their device within immediate reach.

It is time to take back control

Taking a hiatus from your phone to improve your quality of life isn’t that difficult and some small clever changes in your own habits can kickstart you off into a more master and less servant relationship. Here’s how:

  1. Install a digital detox app

    I’m not saying cut out tech altogether, there are some nifty apps available to help you control your phone usage and not the other way around. Take a look at Moment, Flipd or Forest. Iphone comes with Screen Time, which gives you information about how you (and your family members) spend time on your devices—which apps and websites you use, how often you pick up your device, and more. This information might jolt you into making better decisions about managing the time you spend on devices. You can also schedule time away from your screen, set time limits for app use, and more.

  2. Make clever use of your  ‘out of office message’

    No cut and pasting here please. Take a little time and write an honest or clever message to your contacts. ‘I’m on holiday and if you leave me alone I will be back in January refreshed and ready for a great year’ or ‘I’ve been abducted by aliens and will be spending time getting to know them until 10 January, you can contact me on my mobile phone if it can’t wait’. Add a personal touch or a bit of fun, but definitely send a clear message that you are not available unless it’s an absolute necessity.

  3. Don’t charge your phone next to your bed

    Easier said than done. Anyone who has made this change will tell you that it’s made a big impact on their sleep patterns, morning routine and overall get up and go ability. Eliminating the access to reaching for your phone is one of the most effective ways to break the bad habit of waking up and bombarding your brain. Charge your phone in a place that makes you get up and fetch it. Make your bedroom a no-phone zone.

  4. Leave your phone at home

    A big step, I know, but a liberating one once accomplished. If you’re not ready to go totally phoneless, buy yourself an old cheapie mobile (not smart) phone that can only take calls and texts and take that one with you when you go out, or to the beach or a family gathering. You’ll soon realise that people don’t need you so much.

  5. Put a book where the phone used to go

    So now that you’ve found a new resting place for your phone, you’ll have an empty space next to your bed. Fill it! With books, or magazines, crosswords, Sudoku, recipe books, a journal and pen for those great ideas you get while daydreaming (yes! daydream, think, conjure plans). You could even leave your old cheapie mobile if you must. You might even surprise yourself and phone your mother for a chat more often.

  6. Delete unnecessary apps

    Do you really need 4 news apps and 3 sports news apps and 2 market watchers – all probably with push notifications that you can’t figure out how to delete? Spend some time working through your applications and delete any that duplicate a purpose. Try selecting ‘uninstall’ on the ones that continually send you notifications. Set up your phone to provide information on a need-to-know basis.

  7. Unsubscribe

    So much of our information is provided to us via very cleverly designed bait. Gamification, click here’s and ‘you might like this’. Advertisers and publishers want to keep you there so if you can’t resist – delete! This time of the year, while business slows down, your inbox is invariably only filled with the newsletters, websites and digital channels that you have subscribed to. Now is the time to strike, be ruthless and spring-clean your inbox.

Many detoxers report plenty of benefits of a device detox; better quality of sleep, lower stress levels, improved productivity and reconnecting with people are amongst the top paybacks.  As holiday season hits us and the pressure eases for many of us, be it at work, school, or home, we’re presented with a great opportunity to evaluate our digital health and wean ourselves off the screen and back into the moment. Do yourself a favour.

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