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Realizing You Need a Digital Detox
A while ago I noticed that my anxiety levels felt through the roof for no particular reason. My neck and shoulders were in a constant state of stiff or sore. I felt foggy brained and tight in the chest. Several times a day, I had to consciously tell myself to soften my jaw or remove my shoulders from my ears. I would sit down innocently enough to check something on Twitter or Facebook and lose an hour without realizing how or why. My motivation began to deplete. I wasn’t getting anything of value done and still managed to feel like I’d run a marathon at the end of the day. My digital world was controlling me. I needed a detox.
I realized that I was filling my day with things that were not serving me. I am a podcast junkie. I think podcasts are the greatest things since sliced bread and there are so many smart, creative people providing incredible content. But what was I spending all my time listening to? I needed to do an honest digital inventory to try to get at what I was doing to hold myself back.
As it turns out subscribing to (and mostly keeping up with) fifteen different political podcasts is not good for one’s mental health and serves very little purpose for someone who does not work in politics or live in their home country where they could actually volunteer or get involved in things they cares about. I was well-informed, but I was also outraged 40% of my day. Do I want to work in politics? No, and even if I did, I can’t because I don’t live in the United States right now. Do I want to write about politics? Again, no. So why I am devoting so much of my life to listening to others pontificate on the issues of the day while simultaneously getting myself worked up?
In addition to political podcasts, I liked to hop on Twitter where I followed all the journalists and political pundits. I knew everything that was going on. I could (and have) spent hours a day just watching news, dramas, protests, and rallies unfold in real time. I would catch myself getting swallowed by the vortex and delete Twitter from my phone, only to add it back a couple of days later. To an outside observer, I probably looked like someone who was simply “on their phone” too much, but in my mind, I was engaged in serious issues, formulating my own (super important!) opinions, arguing with morons on Twitter, and actually living an entire experience (albeit in my own head/online). It wasn’t useful.
Tips for Unplugging
I needed to clean house and reconfigure my digital library and habits. I sat down with myself and answered a few questions:
- What are my goals?
- What do I want to do professionally?
- What is going to add the most value to my life right now?
My focus was supposed to be on getting in shape and starting a consistent fitness routine, devoting time to writing, and making a career switch towards digital marketing and content creation. How much of my media consumption and use was geared towards any of those things? Maybe 10%. I needed a digital makeover.
Here are four things I did to get myself on a better track.
Step 1: Update Podcast Subscriptions
I eliminated all but two political podcasts from my library, which was way more difficult than I had thought because there are so many good ones. Any podcasts I did not consistently listen to were also deleted. After a little bit of Googling and vetting, I replaced these shows with podcasts that were directly aligned with my goals and would help me improve either personally or professionally. The difference between driving for an hour while political pundits shout about the state of the country and driving for an hour while listening to someone tell a motivating story with actionable tips was night and day.
Step 2: If You Can’t Beat It, Delete It
I was mindlessly scrolling through my personal Twitter account several times a day and finding myself caught in a negative feedback loop. It was hard to not believe the world was a horrible place every single day after spending more than fifteen minutes on my Twitter feed. I knew this, and yet I would still check. It had to go. I check my professional Twitter account from my computer, but don’t follow any political stuff on there and thus have a tremendously different relationship with that account.
Step 3: Peruse with Purpose
I don’t get on my computer unless there is a good reason, which nowadays is to either take a class, write, or find a recipe for something I want to make. No more mindless scrolling. No more aimlessly researching for hours in lieu of actually doing things. I have a one-year-old daughter who needs my attention, so I don’t really have time to devote hours to figuring out which workout regimen or meal planning technique is best. There aren’t enough hours in the day to sift through all the conflicting information out there. Choose one, do it, and move forward.
Step 4: Take a Course
There are plenty of online course offerings available to help fill those gaps in knowledge that might be holding you back. I have a Master’s in Communications – from 2006. A LOT has changed since then, so I’ve signed up for a variety of courses on Udemy to get myself caught up to speed. When I looked at my goals, I made note of all the skills I would need to be competitive in this job market. I’ve blocked out at least ten hours in my week to learning. If you don’t want to (or can’t) pay for coursework from sites like Udemy or The Great Courses, find a free one like this one for Excel that I will be starting soon.
And that’s it! Shifting my mindset and reorganizing my life around my goals has made a tremendous impact on my day-to-day. I feel more productive, like I’m actually using my time in a purpose-driven way. I’m not cringe reading political Twitter for hours on end and subjecting my brain to the daily disaster porn of cable news. I stay informed of the major events of the day, and then I keep it moving. I have to.
The same way we are taught to be mindful of what we put into our bodies in terms of nutrition, we must be just as intentional with what we’re feeding our minds. If you’re spending all your time fighting with strangers on the internet or scrolling Instagram to see who’s living their best life, comparing them to yourself, or just wasting time indulging in celebrity gossip or cat memes (pick your poison), you’re limiting yourself and what you can do, and I firmly believe we can all do a little better.
If you are a podcast aficionado, here are some links to shows that I have found personally helpful that I hope you will find useful as well.
- The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson
- The Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher
- The Chalene Show by Chalene Johnson
- ProBlogger Podcast with Darren Rowse
- How I Built This by NPR
- Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod
Please feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments below. I’m always looking for new resources!