Daniel Sieberg is the author of ‘The Digital Diet: The 4-Step Plan To Break Your Tech Addiction and Regain Balance in Your Life.’ He explains how to limit the time you spend on social networks, email, smartphones and tablets.
Don’t charge your smartphone in the bedroom. Charge it anywhere else in the house. Not only do we know that light from the screen can interfere with the circadian rhythm and sleep, not having the phone near the bed gives you at least two natural breaks a day from checking it. Think of it this way: if you’re in bed and reaching for your phone before you reach for your partner there’s something wrong!
Calculate your “Virtual Weight Index” (VWI). Just as a high body mass index weighs on your body, a high VWI weighs on your mind. Knowing how heavy yours is helps you spot where you can “lose weight”. To calculate yours, allocate points for every digital interaction. The number of points per item is in brackets – tot up how many you have. Over 36 is a high VWI. Smartphones (3 for each), social networks (4 each), laptops/desktops/e-readers/digital camera (1 each), device used for texting (5 each), tablets (2 each), email accounts (2 each), online games (7 each), blogs you write or on which you regularly comment (2 each).
Define your e-day. Work towards a finite beginning and end to your connectedness. Decide when and under which circumstances you’ll check gadgets – eg, never on holiday. And don’t break them. A new idea is “email bankruptcy”: workers add messages to their “out-of-office” responses that say that not only will emails not be dealt with while they are away, anything sent while someone is away will be deleted on their return. They suggest that people resend urgent messages when they get back. It’s extreme but…
Never put your phone between you and a friend. A phone interrupts conversation and interactions in ways you simply don’t realise. I call it a “tech turd”. Leave it in a bag or pocket unless it’s critical to have it out. If you must have it out for a specific reason, acknowledge its presence and inform your companions that you’ll only check it in an emergency. Or try phone stacking – you all pile your phones in the middle of the table. The first one to check theirs for no good reason pays the bill.
Employ an electronic helper. If you can’t do it alone, ironically, there’s a growing amount of technology to help you control your use of technology by not allowing you to access certain sites at certain times. I like SelfControl (selfcontrolapp.com) and RescueTime (rescuetime.com).