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How to Do a Digital Detox the Right Way

How to Do a Digital Detox the Right Way
Image credit: Leeroy | Life of Pix

Like many others, I feel a growing sense of disquiet about the modern world’s mobile phone obsession.  I think of how I feel about myself when I realize that, in many ways, my phone rules my life. The panic I feel patting an empty pocket can’t be healthy, nor can any situation in which I’m more focused on my glowing phone screen than on my baby son.

But it’s more than that. Watching strangers in the world around me experiencing life head down, unengaged with what’s around them, glued to their screens, makes me feel guilty; after all, as the co-founder of image recognition platform and visual browser Blippar, I’m in the business of making smart devices an even more intrinsic part of people’s lives.

How can I possibly balance my concern about digital distractions with my business need to insert the mobile further into our daily lives?

After some deep thinking -- and debates with my husband –--I’ve decided that a realistic and truly effective digital detox must remove those elements that take us away from experiencing the physical world but keep the elements that enhance those experiences.

Related: 10 Habits You Should Ditch Now to Bring Productivity to an All-Time High

With that in mind, here are my personal rules to help me with this balance:

Don’t spend your whole life capturing your memories through a phone lens and then filtering them into fantasy

Do use your eyes to etch the mental snapshot deep within your memory (and then you’re allowed to take a quick snapshot to help trigger the real thing when you’re old)

Do use image-recognition and visual browsing camera technology to enhance the real world – bring a work of art to life, interact with a text book, watch a video of the touchdown off the pages of your newspaper or pull a virtual recipe out of a product package

Don’t go about life with headphones in constantly

Do absorb and listen to life happening around you: bird song, conversation and even traffic! Use audio recognition to enhance and interpret and discover more about what you hear but don't replace it. 

Don’t believe that email, text or WhatsApp is an adequate replacement to picking up the phone or meeting face to face.

Related: 7 Tips for Staying Balanced in Business and Life

Do use mobile to work faster and more efficiently and make it easier to arrange those important face-to-face meetings.

Don’t believe that there are any digital replacements for travel or truly experiencing other communities. 

Do use the opportunities technology presents to think globally and communicate on an international scale. Use mobile-translation tools, currency converters travel guides and more to learn about and deal more effectively with other cultures.

Don’t have half an eye on your phone at all times or seek to "multi-task" in meetings or whilst holding conversations.

Do give people in real world your undivided attention and listen actively.  Unless you work on the front line of the emergency services than I’m afraid you’re just not that important.  Learn to be present in the moment.

Don’t let your mobile rule you by jumping at each notification or nugget of approbation that your inbox, Facebook or Twitter sends you. 

Do turn your notifications off and check at scheduled times only.  Learn where your "do not disturb" button is on your phone.

Don’t get sucked into multi-level gaming apps that spam your friends on social media, or waste time on Kim Kardashian obsessed websites.

Do use your mobile during dead time to expand your mind. Read your trade press, research competitors, socially connect with influencers and stay informed. 

As new technologies reshape the way we live and work, everyone must find their own balance of the powerful experiences we now have access to and the memories and sensory inputs thousands of years of evolution have given humans. My do’s and don’ts of detoxing may not all be the perfect fit for you, but I challenge everyone to find their own balance.

Related: Work-Life Compatibility: Why and How Leaders Should Promote It